Robins Kaplan LLP Files Lawsuit to Protect Iconic Minnesota Wilderness Area

Minneapolis, MN—June 25, 2018—National trial firm Robins Kaplan LLP® today filed a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s resurrection of two expired copper-nickel mining leases on lands nearby or adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), a world-renowned, 1.1 million-acre wilderness area in northern Minnesota. The lawsuit, filed pro bono on behalf of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that revival of these mining leases will allow further exploration and development of a sulfide-ore copper-nickel mine that is incompatible with the wilderness character of the area.

Protected by federal law for more than 100 years and now by federal statute, the BWCAW is the largest wilderness area east of the Rocky Mountains. It is renowned for its high water quality and provides an abundant habitat for thousands of species of wildlife, including three threatened or endangered species, and offers opportunities for ecological studies and exceptional wilderness experiences. The National Geographic Society recognized BWCAW as one of the planet’s “50 Places of a Lifetime.”

According to the complaint, the threat of sulfide‑ore copper-nickel mining on lands nearby or adjacent to the BWCAW poses serious risk to the unique wilderness area. The lawsuit claims the Bureau of Land Management’s decision in May to reinstate the expired leases is arbitrary, capricious, contrary to law, and exceeds the government agency’s power to correct ministerial errors, and also ignores a decision by the U.S. Forest Service to not consent to the lease renewal due to the inherent risk of damage from the proposed mine.

“We are determined to preserve and protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which has been a national ecological treasure and an icon in Minnesota for generations,” said Ari Lukoff, associate at Robins Kaplan and counsel to the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. “We are proud to partner with Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness on this important environmental matter, where the stakes couldn’t be higher.”

“A commitment to pro bono work has been a fundamental core value of Robins Kaplan since its origin,” added partner Stephen Safranski, who is also representing the plaintiff. In 2017 alone, Robins Kaplan attorneys devoted more than 25,000 hours to pro bono representation. 

Robins Kaplan partner Richard Allyn is also representing the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness in this case.

The case is Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness v. Bureau of Land Management; Mitch Leverett, Bureau of Land Management Eastern States Acting State Director; Joseph R. Balash, Assistant Secretary, Land and Mineral Management, U.S. Department of the Interior; Daniel H. Jorjani, Principal Deputy Solicitor, U.S. Department of the Interior; U.S. Department of The Interior; Ryan Zinke, Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior; and United States of America.