A nonprofit organization

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Minnesota’s most valuable resources are our freshwaters and communities. 

Lake Superior holds 10 percent of the world's unfrozen fresh surface water. And the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, along with the Superior National Forest, contains 20 percent of all the freshwater in the entire National Forest System. The mighty Mississippi River flows through the heart of the United States down to the Gulf of Mexico.

Copper-nickel sulfide ore mining threatens all of these life-giving waters. There are sulfide ore mining threats across Minnesota––in the Boundary Waters (Twin Metals/Antofagasta), in the Lake Superior Basin (PolyMet/Glencore), and in the Mississippi River and St. Croix River watersheds (Talon Metals/Rio Tinto). WaterLegacy is a lean and agile non-profit committed to defending Minnesota watersheds, wild rice, fish, human health, and the exercise of treaty-reserved rights from toxic pollution and ecological destruction.

WaterLegacy was founded in 2009 to protect Minnesota’s water resources and the communities that rely on them. We work in alliance with tribes, and make strategic decisions in consultation with tribes. WaterLegacy has secured important victories using our winning combination of respected scientific expertise, top-notch legal advocacy, and online and on-the-ground organizing to empower community voices in environmental and permitting processes.

Minnesota politicians and agencies too often protect polluters, rather than nature and communities. WaterLegacy’s work has exposed irregular procedures, defended water quality standards from repeal, and sued state agencies for issuing weak permits that would allow toxic water pollution. 

So much has changed as a result of WaterLegacy’s work in partnership with tribes and other allies. Here are a few of our successes:

  • PolyMet Water Pollution Permit reversed by the Minnesota Supreme Court as arbitrary and capricious due to improper procedures exposed by WaterLegacy. (2023). Permit also reversed by Minnesota Court of Appeals due to failure to regulate seepage through groundwater. (2021).
  • PolyMet U.S. Army Corps Wetlands Permit revoked on Fond du Lac Band’s objection to violation of Band’s water quality standards. (2023). The basis for the objection was developed by WaterLegacy’s counsel in the first law review article ever to argue for that authority. (2015)
  • PolyMet Permit to Mine reversed by the Minnesota Supreme Court due to state agency failure to set a permit term or show that PolyMet would control acid mine drainage. (2021)
  • Historic listing of Minnesota wild rice waters impaired due to sulfate pollution so they can be protected and restored under the Clean Water Act. This change was compelled by the U.S. EPA as a result of advocacy by WaterLegacy and tribes. (2021)
  • Groundwater Water Standards Upheld by Minnesota Supreme Court in U.S. Steel case and agency ordered to analyze pollution through groundwater to surface water under the Clean Water Act. (2021)
  • Sulfate Water Quality Standard that Protects Wild Rice Preserved by WaterLegacy intervening in a lawsuit (2010), defeating a new rule in administrative hearings (2011-2018), organizing to secure two vetoes of session laws by the governor (2018), and winning taconite mine permit appeal. (2020)

Your donation to WaterLegacy will be leveraged at least 5-to-1 with donated professional services. Learn more about WaterLegacy’s work here and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter/X

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P.O. Box 3276
Duluth, MN 55803

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