13-Year-Old With Leukemia Lobbies Against Mining Near Boundary Waters

The most powerful anti-mining lobbyist in the nation might be a 13-year-old boy

The most powerful anti-mining lobbyist in the nation might be a 13-year-old boy

Joseph Goldstein is a 13-year-old from Springfield, Illinois who's been diagnosed with leukemia.

When he was approached by the Make-A-Wish foundation earlier this year he had no interest in "trips and swimming pools and ponies." Instead, he asked to be sent to Washington, D.C. so he could meet with legislators about the importance of protecting the Boundary Waters.

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"I guess I wanted my wish to be about more than just me," he says. Goldstein has taken a trip to the Boundary Waters at least once a year since he was 6 or 7, according to his mom, Kemia Sarraf.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation was reluctant to get involved in a politically charged issue like the proposed Twin Metals mine, but the conservation group Save the Boundary Waters was more than happy to help line up meetings for Joseph.

His mom drove him out to D.C. last Saturday and after a few days of sightseeing he began a whirlwind of congressional visits on Tuesday.

Goldstein grills Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz

Goldstein grills Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz

So far he's visited six of Minnesota's 10 members of Congress, the secretary of Interior, chief of the US Forest Service, director of the Bureau of Land Management and director of the National Parks Conservation Association.

Goldstein says his pitch is pretty straightforward.

"We just talk about the Boundary Waters, why it's a special place and why it should be protected," he says.

The family is full of outdoor fanatics. Joseph's little brothers, Jonah and Joshua, made their first trip to the Boundary Waters when they were 2, and last year Joseph went dog sledding in northwestern Greenland with his father and his other little brother, Jacob.

This week is his only week off from chemo this year, according to his mom, but he still has ambitious for future outdoors exploration.

"I've been thinking I want to go to the North Pole, so maybe that's a possibility," he says.

Send news tips to Ben Johnson.