The U.S. Forest Service was planning to allow private logging in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, northern Minnesota, in the 1970s. One million acres were at risk, along with hundreds of pristine lake areas.
In 1972, lawyers representing the newly formed Minnesota PIRG filed legal action to stop logging. PIRG alleged that the Forest Service had approved logging but not filed the required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in a federal lawsuit. Almost immediately, PIRG won a temporary order against logging. Later, PIRG prevailed in the case. PIRG filed a second lawsuit against the Forest Service, arguing that the EIS was insufficient.
Minnesotans were well-aware of the Boundary Waters by the time PIRG lost the final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. MPIRG students were still working on alternative strategies, even as the legal battle raged. Students and others copied the Boundary Waters user lists from Forest Service, and then sent out a mailing. Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness was founded with the support of other preservation groups and the funds they raised.
Bud Heinselman, a retired forester who is passionate about the preservation of the wilderness, also gave a boost to PIRG’s efforts.
Jon Motl, Minnesota PIRG director, said that he had come to MPIRG to wait for the staff to leave, then he would sit at the copy machine for hours, sending mails to the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness for hours. Everything happens because of an extraordinary human being. It was Heinselman. Students and staff loved him. He also loved MPIRG.
Bud Heinselman, PIRG student and other volunteers had made the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness a strong organization by 1978. The Friends were instrumental in the creation of federal legislation to permanently preserve the area. They also lobbied Congress to approve it. Students at PIRG gained support from their campuses, collecting over 14,000 signatures to a petition supporting the preservation of the Boundary Waters.
Congress passed the bill to protect Boundary waters in October 1978. The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness is still a watchdog and steward of the region, while the wilderness itself is what it has always been: an unspoiled natural treasure.
Environment America is part the Public Interest Network. The Public Interest Network is a network of organizations committed to a shared vision for a better world and a strategic approach toward social change. Our network includes the U.S. PIRG state Public Interest Research Groups, U.S. PIRG state environmental groups in 29 US states, Environment America and Environmental Action, Center for Public Interest Research Fund for the Public Interest Foundation, Community Action Works Green Century Capital Management, Green Corps National Environmental Law Center Frontier Group, Snowriders International.