Discussion: Wilderness and the economy in Minnesota's 8th Congressional District

What do you think?

Incumbent Rep. Chip Cravaack (GOP) and former Rep. Rick Nolan (DFL) are in a heated contest to represent the 8th Congressional District. Cravaack accused Nolan of putting the interests of "Twin Cities environmentalists" before the economic needs of the Iron Range when he voted, in 1978, to support the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act that established the BWCA largely as it is today.

Asked whether environmentalists were hurting economic development, Nolan said not at all. Cravaack criticized Nolan for opposing logging, snowmobiling and motor-boating when he voted to create the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wildness in the late 1970s.

"Congressman Nolan sided essentially with the Twin City environmentalists and was actually in opposition of pro-growth, pro-economic reforms that we needed in the Northland to create jobs," Cravaack said.

Nolan said he remains proud of his BWCA vote which he suggested has created plenty of 8th District tourism jobs.

"It's one of the 10 best destination-oriented vacations in the entire world," Nolan said. "People fly in from all over America, all over the world to take advantage of that great experience." (MPR News)

MPR News asked members the Public Insight Network from the 8th District what they think about the BWCA and if it will shape their vote this election. Respondents also shared their views on what wilderness means to them and if they view it as an asset or an obstacle for a sustainable economy.

Please keep the discussion here civil. Personal attacks and off topic posts or replies will not be tolerated. Reply to the full Public Insight Network query.
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  • I live in northern Minnesota, and to me the BWCA is a treasure. I hope it is not ever destroyed just to make some corporation wealthy.

    Wilderness and other similar elements of our life in northern MN are critical to the quality of our life here in the 8th. My husband and I have our own little forest preserve and love it. We know people need jobs but fear the destruction that is likely to result from copper nickel (etc) mining.

    -- Merline Menart, Gilbert, Minn.
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  • The BWCA is a treasured ecological resource and preserve, that simultaneously generates untold revenues (and sustains untold numbers of households).

    Wilderness - and environmental protections - are critical assets to not only the "quality" of life, but of life itself... for those of us living anywhere on this planet - let alone the 8th Congressional District!

    -- Stephen Phillips, Two Harbors, Minn.
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  • Wilderness is any woods or fields in rural areas. It shouldn't be some over protected area that every regulation in a 200 mile radius is based on.

    Mr. Nolan has shown to be farther out of touch with the Range than our former Congressman Oberstar
    -- Steve Biondich, Auora, Minn.
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  • Tourism is important to our state's economy. I saw that dramatically when I had a small antique booth in Duluth. It is especially important to small businesses. Without the natural beauty which we have managed to preserve in many areas in Minnesota, we would have far fewer dollars in tourism. Personally, it is what I love most about Minnesota. There is nothing more satisfying to the soul than to canoe on a lake at sunset, and listen to the wail and tremolo between a pair of loons as they call to one another. Many of the most memorable times of my life have been in, summer and winter, enjoying the quiet solitude of the wilderness in northern Minnesota. I've attached a photo my husband Jerry took of me with one of my Alaskan malamutes puppies, relaxing after a run on the trails at Scenic State Park, where we saw a black wolf, crossing the frozen lake. We need the economy and the resources of the iron mines, but they are only one part of a much larger picture of what Minnesota has to offer.

    -- Rachel Scott, Duluth, Minn.

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  • I'm from Ely and I do not support the BWCA Act as it is today. I don't even like the BWCA. I think a lot of people were run out of their homes and businesses unlawfully in order to create this gov't travesty of citizens property. Why didn't the people from Minneapolis make the Brainerd area a national park and throw everyone out of that Brainerd area? Because all the bigshots have summer homes and golf courses there.

    I like forests, lakes and streams. I also think forests should be harvested. Mining is very important and should not be impeded or harassed.

    -- Tim Gilliam, Duluth, Minn.
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  • Where the Boundary Waters begins, mining intrudes - blog.friends-bwca.org
  • The BWCA should always be protected as is, and any politician who would vote to mine this pristine land does not have the interests of the majority. This chunk of land is like no other in the USA. If for no other reason, the BWCA is a recreational asset that brings many tourists dollars into that 8th district.

    -- Nancy Horn, Hackensack, Minn.
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  • We can not allow industry to indiscriminately ravage our wilderness areas without government regulation and strict guidelines that will preserve what is there. Minnesota has been there. While the former open pit mining areas are now part of our "wilderness" experience on the Cuyuna Range, during the operational years there was massive destruction of habitat and environment. Nature was able to reclaim the area but that kind of ecosystem destruction should not be a part of our consideration in the future.

    -- Marian Severt, Brainerd, Minn.
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  • The Boundry Waters is a Minnesota gem. This wilderness area is a national treasure. Protecting it from development and mining is critical.

    -- Nancy Gabres, Duluth, Minn.
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  • Wilderness is important, but right now the much more important priority is to work on how do we get out of this financial mess created by every politician that voted for or supported spending money we did not have since the 1960's. f the BWCA was not designated a wilderness area back then, would we have lost anything? I don't know for sure. I think it would not have changed a lot. It probably wouldn't have all the "McMansion" cabins just outside of it's borders as it does today. It probably would not have as much tourism traffic as it does today. It probably would be similar today, as it was back in the 30's and it might have a few more mining interests possibly and possibly a few more fishing and hunting resorts and less government workers and more private sector workers.

    -- Karlo Goerges, Pequot Lakes, Minn.
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  • The BWCA is a treasure that has not only been good for the environment, but has also benefitted the state in terms of tourism dollars. We cannot as a people continue to focus on short term economic and monetary goals at the expense of the planet. Certainly the people's needs on the Iron Range are as important as anyone else in the state. But economic needs must not take precedence over the reality that mankind is ravaging the planet. Other means-more earth-friendly means-must be sought to fulfill those needs.

    -- Konnie Schiller, Pine City, Minn.
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  • I live in the Lutsen area. I love the peace and solitude of the north woods of Minnesota and am thankful we are protecting the BWCA for our generation and the generations that will follow.
    -- Jan Morris, Lutsen, Minn. Photo also by Jan Morris

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  • The jewel of northern Minnesota is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Visitors travel to this unique and treasured area from all across the world....250,000 annually to find that sense of equilibrium and harmony with nature that often is missing in their hectic everyday lives. The value of wilderness is immeasureable and sought after by so many that do not have it where they reside. Peace, quiet, time to think without distractions, time for family, time for oneself to reset the body clock. This is what brings visitors and residents of Minnesota to the wilderness of the BWCA each season. Tourism is a giant part of MN's economy and the Boundary Waters is a huge asset for our state. It needs continued protection from infringement, especially mining, so that the generations to follow have a special place to experience clean fresh air, clean streams, rivers, and lakes, and the natural beauty of the rocks, cliffs, majestic pine and birch tress, incredible wildlife, the loon and the bald eagle, and fish aplenty. It is one of the most special places on Mother Earth, and needs continual protection and preservation.
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  • Mining and logging are important, but the wilderness could take generations to repair damage that those industries could do in days. We cannot take a short-sighted view of the issues surrounding the BWCAW.

    -- Anne Nelson Fisher, Brainerd, Minn. Photo courtesy of Anne Nelson.

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  • Wild places are disappearing at a rapid rate. Children are losing touch with the great outdoors. Politicians must be advocates for what the majority of people who appreciate our natural resources.

    -- Anne Moore, Saginaw, Minn. Photo courtesy of Anne Moore

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  • What most people love about northern Minnesota and the Boundary Waters area is the beauty of the lakes, regardless of how one feels about the BWCAW Act. It is the same thing that I loved about my great uncle's resort on the Whitefish Chain of Lakes. In less than my lifetime the overwhelming natural beauty of Whitefish is gone, just as his resort is gone. It was lost to overdevelopment. Some may say it is still lovely, because they did not know it as it was; most will not remember how people’s homes and cabins blended in and were secondary to their surroundings. When what you saw first were the lakes and trees and sandy beaches. No more.

    Overdevelopment would have been the same fate of the Boundary Waters, and those of us who live near it today are fortunate that we can enjoy it instead, generation after generation. It would have become the Minnetonka of the north if not protected. I doubt that the independent people who live here would want that and unlike what they might believe, there would have been no stopping it. In Ely, all one has to do is look at the lot across the street from the Dairy Queen and remember what it used to look like, to recognize that it only takes one person who does not care about the impact he makes.

    The BWCAW is also a sustainable source of income for many people who have chosen to look to the future. This already world renowned area will only continue to draw people, because of its beauty and its water, in a future that technology will have made increasingly mobile. The new entrepreneurs will be looking for places of beauty to live and work, healthy places to raise a family, to establish a business. The BWCAW is the greatest asset we have, as long as we continue to protect it for the future.
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  • The day the restrictions took effect my trips to the area came to an end. My physical restrictions prevented any further trips.

    -- Clyde Nelson, Duluth, Minn.

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  • I agree with Chip Cravaack. Rick Nolan was a co-sponsor of the '78 BWCA Wilderness Act along with Phil Burton and Bruce Vento. Nolan sided with the Friends of the Boundary Waters and went against Jim Oberstar. The promises of Hubert Humphrey of continued motorboats, snowmobiles and logging in the area were broken without an EIS. Boundaries were draw specifically to irritate the local people buy having the line run through the middle of lakes rather than to the first portage.

    -- Nancy McReady, Ely, Minn.
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  • Wilderness is an area that is biologically in tact with sparse human occupation. Federal control of northern CD8 lands has ended up being a net negative factor for the economic welfare of the district. Management policy has evolved to a preservationist paradigm.

    All counties of the northern 8th CD now have household incomes of from $10,000 to $17,000 below state Average and population stagnation or loss.

    -- Terry Stone, International Falls, Minn.
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  • Wilderness, to me, means absence of noisy, high powered motorboats, such as those required to waterski, etc., and noisy small individual watercraft. There is nothing wrong with a quiet little boat putt-putting across a lake. To completely eliminate all motors is to prevent the less able-bodied to enjoy the area. In this respect, "wilderness" is an obstacle to a good portion of the populace, who are prevented from using the area because of age and/or disability. Such discrimination would not be tolerated in any other aspect of our lives.

    -- Bonnie Stasiuk, Duluth, Minn.
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  • The BWCAis why I love living in the 8th District so much. Cravaack does not live in what most people would consider "The Arrowhead" and so how could he possibly have a viable opinion.

    -- Greg Benson, Duluth, Minn.

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  • Chipper is pandering to the folks up here and using their general distrust of the "citiots" as they are known. Things are fine just the way they are. That fight was over a long time ago.

    -- Jim Sweeney, Hermantown, Minn.
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  • What most people love about northern Minnesota and the Boundary Waters area is the beauty of the lakes, regardless of how one feels about the BWCAW Act. It is the same thing that I loved about my great uncle's resort on the Whitefish Chain of Lakes. In my lifetime the overwhelming natural beauty of Whitefish is gone, just as his resort is gone. It was lost to overdevelopment. Some may say it is still lovely, because they did not know it as it was; most will not remember how people's homes and cabins blended in and were secondary to their surroundings. When what you saw first were the lakes and trees and sandy beaches. No more.

    -- Carla Arneson, Ely, Minn.
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  • Wilderness is where I can experience Nature, without mechanical sounds or sights.

    Sulfide mining is an unknown - it has never, ever, anywhere (lest I repeat myself) been done in wetlands without polluting. And the recent increase in holdings by Glencore of Polymet does not bode well for workers rights nor protection of the environment - Glencore has a terrible reputation internationally. Need I say more?

    -- Jan Karon, Duluth, Minn.

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  • The BWCAW has been designated a National Wilderness due to the efforts of the likes of Sigurd Olson and others who devoted large portions of their lives to protecting the area for future generations. Because of their foresight, the BWCAW is not surrounded by cabins, strip malls, and unplanned development. Instead it is a destination of value, both nationally and internationally.
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  • I believe that the BWCAW is a unique wilderness area that supports a robust guiding and outfitting economy. In retrospect, perhaps some of the restrictions are a bit arcane and how to deal with fires needs to be addressed. Perhaps selective logging of rotating areas of the wilderness would work. Having it motor-less is an absolute must. Cravaak comments about "Twin Cities Environmentalists" shows how out of touch he is with the true reality of his district. People who live here, raise their families here and have businesses in northeastern Minnesota (like myself) care about our natural resources too. It's convenient how our politicians have obfuscated the absolute environmental failures of the precious metals mining industry worldwide. It's not that they're naive; they are simply cowards and looking for easy solutions for our problems generating jobs and state revenue.
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  • This is one issue that shows one of the big changes with Rep. Cravaack in office. Because Oberstar had to maintain the DFL coalition, which included both environmentalists and miners, loggers and developers, the debate was always nuanced in a way that presumed both jobs AND the environment were important. Because Cravaack is under no such restricting, he's flung open the release valve on decades-old resentments and pitted neighbors against one another -- trying to win over some of them and crush the rest. It might be effective politics, but it does little to improve the discourse over what needs to happened in the BWCA (improved fire prevention policies and reasonable logging allowance for downed trees).
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