Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota


Freemans recount their year in the BW

Keith Vandervort
Posted 3/15/17

ELY – An overflow crowd was on hand at a recent Tuesday Group to reconnect with David and Amy Freeman who reminisced about their year spent in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to advocate …

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Freemans recount their year in the BW


ELY – An overflow crowd was on hand at a recent Tuesday Group to reconnect with David and Amy Freeman who reminisced about their year spent in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to advocate for the environment.

Anybody who followed their adventure in the BWCAW that began on the autumnal equinox in 2015 and ended one year later, didn’t hear anything new about their time spent in the wilderness and why they were there.

A handful of members in the audience, sporting “We Support Mining” stickers, filtered in after the beginning of the presentation and listened respectfully. Some had just attended an open house at the Twin Metals Minnesota facility located on the south side of Miner’s Lake.

Much of the hour-long presentation centered on a recap of the Freemans’ experience of spending a year in the wilderness. “It is safe to say that we live in a pretty amazing place,” Dave Freeman said. “Spending a year in the wilderness gave us a new appreciation for what we have right here in our back yard.”

A video presentation followed the four seasons they spent under the stars. The both agreed that fall is their favorite time of year.

David Freeman noted that the Superior National Forest at about 3 million acres in size, is only about two percent of the entire National Forest system, but it contains about 20 percent of all the fresh water in the entire National Forest system.

One questioner contended that no one knows where a water pollution source might be, or if there would be any pollution at all. “Are you aware that every single one of the lakes you mentioned (Knife, Vera, Kawishiwi River, Alice, Insula, Lakes One, Two, Three, Four,) would not be affected because it is all upstream?”

The Freemans visited more than 500 bodies of water during their year in the BWCA. “We visited many lakes and some of them were downstream from where the Kawishiwi River flows into Fall Lake and Basswood, Crooked and Iron lakes,” David Freeman said. “You are right that there are lakes within the Boundary Waters where the water falls in the wilderness and most likely would not be affected by pollution. I never made it seem like every lake in the Boundary Waters could be polluted.”

Another questioner asked how he could get a permit to be in the BWCA for 365 days.

“We contacted the U.S. Forest Service quite a ways in advance,” David Freeman said. “They were very concerned that we tried our best to follow all the rules. They weren’t really sure because they hadn’t been approached about that before.”

It took the USFS several months to work out the details. “It was determined that as long as we didn’t leave the wilderness, one permit was all that was needed. We were in there continuously.”

The couple was periodically resupplied through the coordinated efforts of Levi Lexvold and the Sustainable Ely office. The Freemans were visited by some 300 people during the year. They stayed connected through social media, a satellite phone system, and used solar chargers to keep batteries at full strength.

Another questioner queried the Freemans on whether the USFS would allow Twin Metals “to obtain a similar permit to go into the Boundary Waters for 365 days with a dog sled and canoe to put a video together for their own purpose.”

David Freeman responded that the video production required a separate commercial film permit that included additional fees and process. “They just have to apply,” he said.

Amy Freeman noted that they attempted to adhere to all the USFS rules while in the wilderness. “We knew we would be under a microscope while we were out there, and we thought it was very important to not damage the wilderness. We didn’t leave any lasting effect on it.”

Like many people who choose to make Ely their home, one job is often not enough to make ends meet. “We work a bunch of different jobs as well,” David Freeman said. “At any given time we are working at two or three different locations.”

While they were in the wilderness, the couple received a stipend from Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness to pay their student loans, health insurance and other expenses, he said.

The last questioner wondered if the Freemans packed out all of the waste from the three sled dogs they had with them on a portion of their year in the wilderness. “If they (did their business) while running across a lake, we just left it,” David Freeman said. “At our campsites, we would pick it up and take and bury it back in the woods.”

What is their next step? “We were actually more apprehensive about leaving the wilderness than going in,” David Freeman said. “We have focused on writing a book and we doing a lot of speaking and sharing our story in the five months that we have been out.”


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