Our Story

WaterLegacy is an award-winning grassroots non-profit 501(c)(3) organization formed in 2009 to counter the threat of sulfide mining proposed for Northern Minnesota. Our founders were concerned that sulfide mining would destroy wetlands, wildlife, habitats and wild rice, contaminate water with toxic metals, increase mercury levels in fish, and impair tribal rights.

Much of our work has focused on preventing pollution and destruction from the PolyMet mine, Minnesota’s first proposed copper-nickel sulfide mine.

WaterLegacy founder Diadra Decker (second from right), staff, and advisors at Headwaters Allies for Justice event, 2013.

Click image to download fact sheet: Overview of WaterLegacy

Our Vision, Mission & Values

Our Vision: Protecting Minnesota’s waters and the communities that rely on them.

Our Mission: We work with allies and partners to prevent the greatest threats to Minnesota’s waters and communities, including sulfide mining and regulatory capture by industry.

We value: human health, environmental health, and justice; respect for tribal rights; rulings guided by science and law, not politics; and a sustainable world seven generations into the future.

Our Approach

WaterLegacy addresses these threats to our environment and communities through advocacy at the state and federal level, education, and citizen engagement. We provide detailed legal and technical advocacy to prevent sulfide mining pollution and destruction. Our strategy deliberately prevents the mining industry from undermining rules and enforcement that should protect clean water.

We collaborate with the Fond du Lac and Grand Portage Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa who live, hunt, fish, and gather plants downstream of the proposed sulfide mine. Though we maintain a close working relationship with the Bands, we respect that they are independent sovereign governments.

We engage existing community leaders, citizen scientists, and local doctors, who are experts in their fields. We work with other environmental groups in the Minnesota Environmental Partnership (MEP) and share our work product to increase the capacity of other groups. We utilize news outlets and social media channels to educate citizens across Minnesota about the dangers of sulfide mine pollution. And we incorporate artists and musicians into our outreach program to help inspire, connect, and strengthen community voices.

WaterLegacy and allies after Minnesota Court of Appeals oral argument on PolyMet permit to mine. Photo from MCEA.

Notable Accomplishments

  • WaterLegacy exposed evidence of procedural irregularities regarding PolyMet’s water pollution permit (NPDES permit), resulting in Court of Appeals orders to grant a stay of the permit and order a district court investigation of Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s permitting procedures.
  • WaterLegacy intervened in the lawsuit filed by the mining industry to block enforcement of the sulfate pollution standard that protects natural wild rice. We won our case and preserved the wild rice sulfate standard in district court and at the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
  • WaterLegacy worked with tribal allies to successfully uphold the wild rice sulfate standard in rulemaking and organized citizens who secured two vetoes by Governor Dayton of bills proposing to repeal the wild rice sulfate standard.
  • During environmental review of the PolyMet mine plan, WaterLegacy and allies broke all records for citizen engagement: 58,000 public comments were submitted on the draft mine plan and another 30,000 comments on the final mine plan.
  • WaterLegacy’s work in alliance with tribes resulted in a new federal rule giving tribes authority to clean up reservation waters impaired by upstream pollution.
  • To date, WaterLegacy supporters have taken more than 68,000 actions – writing comments, signing petitions, making calls, and testifying at hearings – to protect Minnesota waters and communities.

Recognition & Awards

Minnesota’s #1 Environmental Non-Profit Start-up from Philanthropedia

Environmental Stewardship Award from the Lake Superior Binational Forum

Allies for Justice Award from the Headwaters Foundation

Freshwater Hero Award from Freshwater Future