A legal action has been filed against Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) challenging their authority to prevent new mineral leases, test drilling or exploration in the Rainey River Watershed near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA).

Filed Dec. 14 by Gerald M. Tyler and Up North Jobs Inc., it contends Dayton acted improperly by directing the DNR to halt access to the affected state-owned lands. Companies including Twin Metals Minnesota suffered as a result of the defendants’ actions, the lawsuit says, and residents suffered because the School Trust Fund was deprived of lease revenue.

U.S. government officials had imposed similar restrictions on federal land during the final days of the Obama Administration. That decision was reversed Dec. 23 by the Department of Interior, but the federal government has no jurisdiction over the affected state lands.

In the lawsuit complaint, plaintiffs argue Twin Metals and its predecessors have invested more than $400 million in exploration and development on the affected state lands with the hope of mining copper and nickel worth more than $40 billion. They say prospecting permits have been granted and renewed in Superior National Forest since 1950.

Further, they state Dayton did not follow Minnesota statutes in making the decision, acting unilaterally rather than taking the matter to his senior staff for review.

“The governor’s directive did not go through the Executive Council, nor was it a recommendation of the Legislative Permanent School Fund Commission,” the lawsuit says.

Plantiffs, who include Tyler and 1,250 members of Up North Jobs, along with various taxing districts, will suffer from revenues paid on mineral extraction, they contend. They seek an injunction against the governor’s directive plus litigation costs and other expenses.