Dave and Amy Freeman have traveled more than 30,000 miles by kayak, canoe and dogsled through some of the world's wildest places, from the Amazon to the Arctic. They are 2014 National Geographic Adventurers of the Year. Their images, videos and articles have been published by a wide range of media sources from NBC, FOX and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to the Chicago Tribune, National Geographic, Outside, Backpacker, Canoe & Kayak and Minnesota Public Radio. Dave and Amy run the Wilderness Classroom, an educational nonprofit geared towards inspiring kids to get outside and explore their world. Wilderness Classroom's current reach is 100,000 elementary and middle school students, and 3,200 teachers around the world.
Amy and Dave Freeman are spending 365 days in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to call attention to the threats that a series of proposed sulfide-ore copper mines pose to our nation's most popular wilderness. They are sharing their Wilderness Adventures through regular blog posts throughout their Year in the Wilderness on the Beyond the Edge blog.
Five Things To Know - From Savetheboundarywaters.org
1. The Boundary Waters is one of the most spectacular places in America and a key driver of northeastern Minnesota's economy.
The Boundary Waters Wilderness is a wild landscape of lakes, streams, woods and wildlife covering 1.1 million acres along the Canadian border. It is the most heavily visited wilderness area in the United States, attracting more than 250,000 visitors from all over the world and helps drive more than $850 million in economic activity every year which supports over 18,000 jobs.
2. Sulfide-ore mining is risky.
The EPA calls sulfide-ore metal mining "the most toxic industry in America," and a peer-reviewed study of the track record of water quality impacts from copper sulfide mines found that 100% of those studied (which produced 84% of the US's copper supply) experienced pipeline spills or other accidental releases. In August 2014, the Mount Polley copper and gold mine in British Columbia had a tailings dam breach that released 4.5 million cubic meters of toxic slurry into a lake and river system that was a priceless salmon spawning area.
3. Most Minnesotans oppose sulfide-ore mining near the Boundary Waters Wilderness. Two-thirds of Minnesotans do not want a sulfide-ore mine near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Pollsters found 61% of those questioned who live in Minnesota's Eighth Congressional District -- which includes the Iron Range and Duluth -- oppose mines near the wilderness. Statewide, the poll found 83% of DFLers, 57% of independents and 54% of Republicans oppose mines near the BWCAW.
4. Rigorous scientific evaluation shows a high likelihood sulfide mining operations in the proposed location will pollute the Boundary Waters. A study published recently in the Journal of Hydrology shows that pollution from these proposed mine sites would flow into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness even under the ordinary course of mining operations. The peer-reviewed study shows that contamination from the mine sites could significantly damage the Boundary Waters and that some areas should not be mined due to the risk to downstream waters. In the words of the study's author, Dr. Tom Meyers:
"If sulfide mines are developed in the Rainy Headwaters [part of the Boundary Waters Watershed], it is not a question of whether, but when, a leak will occur that will have major impacts on the water quality of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness."
5. A locally grown, broad, national coalition opposes sulfide-ore mining in the Boundary Waters Watershed. The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is a broad coalition of more than 25 partner organizations, including sportsmen, conservationists, veteran's groups and over 100 local and national businesses. Organizations such as the National Wildlife Federation have passed resolutions opposing sulfide mining in the BWCA watershed and 53 leading scientists in ecology and natural resource-based disciplines signed a letter expressing deep concern over the proposed mine sites.
The Campaign also has the support of the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council, an official advisory group established under the Federal Advisory Committee Act to advise the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture on recreational hunting and wildlife resource issues.
What gear has made your life easier along the way?
There are so many pieces of equipment that are important. Really we have only a few items that are true luxuries that we could easily do without!
Our shelters play a really important role in keeping us happy and healthy. For the first 8 months of A Year in the Wilderness we used a SeekOutside Tipi tent and collapsible wood stove as our main shelter. It only weighs about 13 pounds, including the stove, pole, stakes, and all the bits and pieces, and made the cold weather much more enjoyable. We are still using the tipi some of the time in the summer, especially when we have visitors, but now that the weather is getting warmer we are also using a Cooke Custom Sewing Lean, which is very lightweight and helps protect us from the bugs, rain, and sun!
Our 19 foot Wenonah Itasca canoe is our vehicle of choice during the ice free season and during the winter we hauled all of our supplies on two Black River Sled toboggans that were pulled by three sled dogs that we borrowed for the winter from Frank Moe who is a musher in Hovland, MN.
A big part of A Year in the Wilderness is sharing this amazing place and encouraging folks to take action and help protect this national treasure from Twin Metals and other sulfide-ore copper mines being proposed along the edge of the Wilderness. We have a couple of small GoalZero solar panels and battery packs that help us keep our camera and communication equipment charged.
Top 3 things
you wouldn't want go without? Why?
One of the luxury items we have that we would not want to give up are our Helinox camp chairs. We have never taken chairs on a wilderness camping trip, but they are so comfortable we would be hard-pressed to give them up.
Now that the bugs are out we would not want to go without our Piragis bug shirts. They make life in a buggy environment much more pleasant!
Our lightweight and sturdy Mitchell Leader paddles are like old friends. One has already crossed North and South America with us and when you are doing millions of paddle strokes, a good paddle makes a big difference.
Who have been your biggest supporters through your journey and expedition?
There have been so many individuals, organizations and businesses that are helping us, it is really hard to pick a few. Paul and Sue Schurke who own Wintergreen Northern Wear and Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge have provided a bunch of amazing winter clothing that is made in Ely and helped many groups of volunteers bring in supplies by dogsled over the winter.
Levi, who runs Sustainable Ely and works for the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, is our expedition manager. He organizes all of our food and equipment and coordinates all the volunteers, media, and other folks who join us in the Wilderness for short periods of time. We couldn't do this without his help and the support we receive from all of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters staff. This really is a collaborative effort in every sense.
There are a bunch of local folks who make and dehydrate food for us. Other locals have paddled, skied and snowshoed in with groups of volunteers from across the country or just drop in to surprise us with a chocolate bar or fresh veggies. They have brought us roasted chickens with all the trimmings and more than a year's worth of delicious baked goods, which fill our hearts as much as our stomachs.
We have had folks we met out in the Wilderness start to cry as they told us how much the Wilderness means to them and how thankful they are that we are out here. These acts of kindness are powerful reminders of why we are out here and provide motivation when times are tough.
Patagonia employees from their Chicago and Saint Paul stores have volunteered many hours helping to pack and deliver several of our resupplies, Patagonia is helping to fund a film about A Year in the Wilderness, and is helping the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters in numerous ways.
From the coffee we start our day with to the Trailtopia dinners we gobble down at the end of a long day, much of our food has been donated by businesses who contacted us asking how they could help. Plus, most of our equipment has been donated by businesses who care about the Wilderness and want to support our efforts.