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BWCAW Land Swap Debate Continues

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Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

DULUTH, MN (KDAL) - The standoff over a proposed land-swap involving the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Wilderness continues.

The latest strike was an editorial in the Mesabi Daily News urging Minnesota's U.S. Senators to support the swap, which would turn over to the state 86,000 acres of school trust fund land outside of the boundary waters that the Iron Range newspaper said was taken in the BWCA Act of 1978. A bill that the paper's editor, Bill Hanna, said would right that 35-year wrong has stalled in the Senate because of what he sees as inaction by Minnesota's Senate delegation.

Hanna said he worried the lawmakers would attempt to find a compromise with environmental groups, which he believes are firmly against the swap. He said the state's history of responsible logging and mining should satisfy environmental concerns and allow Minnesota to get back land that would help fund the state's primary education system.

Michelle Hesterberg of Environment Minnesota disagrees. She said her group's primary concern is that land swap legislation would represent a giveaway to the mining industry and open the door to toxic sulfide mining. But Hesterberg said environmental advocates are certainly willing to compromise, including allowing responsible iron ore mining and logging. However, sulfide mining has never been done anywhere without harming lakes, rivers or streams, Hesterberg said.

The proposed piece of land would likely be part of the Superior National Forest, in portions of St. Louis and Lake counties.

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