What fight could be more relevant to our national security but to protect the waters that run through the heartland of this north American continent? You can contact Governor Walz to voice your concerns.
Not all of us can stand in protest at the many locations where this pipeline will cross rivers, streams, parks and trails throughout these northern watersheds and tribal lands, small towns and communities. Many have been led to believe in desperate times that these are the kind of jobs that are needed. All but a few jobs will be temporary and about half of the temporary jobs will be for out of state workers.
I have included a few links below concerning the history of this struggle and links to groups advocating for justice and to stop the construction of this new pipeline. A cause with good reason for all who depend on clean water.
Black eruptions steep
From strangled steel of deep
In sea green depths of turquoise blue
The oil man’s secrets keep
Until the day the dolphin dies
And whales merge on the beach
The turtle’s eggs no longer hatch
The starfish barely creep
Greed and glut, the oil man’s creed
As black eruptions steep
In sea green depths of turquoise blue
From strangled steel of deep
- How much water will be drawn from Lake Colby to meet Polymets needs and to control levels of the St Louis River?
- SDEIS admits candidly presumptions were made to inform the model and therefore, as a consequence, outcomes cannot be truly assessed adequately … ongoing assessments and studies will be needed even after the permit has been granted and since models are only as good as the data provided, what of the unknowns?
- What of the decision made to halt discharge of waste rock into Lake Superior by Reserve Mining in the 1970’s? What of the drainage ponds that continue to leak to this day?
- How many wolves remain in the St Louis River watershed? How do we know that these will not run the threat of extinction by mining in the area, noise and pollution affect den habits … and since the area is a stronghold for this species, why haven’t their numbers been determined for this study ? Wolves mate in late February and den in late April when sites are located for raising the young. What affect will the noise and pollution of precious waters and streams, traffic do to change these habits and lower populations?
- Wild rice has been harvested for thousands of years in this watershed. Have studies been made to determine the extent of damage of releasing untreated contact water into the St Louis River, tributaries, lakes, wetlands and aquifers … including draw down of the water table not only at the sites but beyond the mining and processing sites?
- Does the study model consider transportation corridors beyond the 7 mile link between mine and processing centers? or the related pipelines? Rail, road and air traffic will increase with mines in the area, most assuredly. Have the levels of noise been considered along with dust, light pollution and smells associated with diesel, gas, electric machinery, rigs 24/7?
- Will the ore be smelted on site? and what of that air, noise, smell and water pollution from this factor?
- Loss of wilderness in Lake, Cook and St Louis counties alone will be felt almost immediately through sights, sounds and smells of mining operations, 24/7, air pollution from these smells and dust…. Solitude and peace will be gone and the wilderness. Can we afford the cost for a relatively few short-lived jobs?
- In the long term, though, these losses will be dwarfed by loss on a greater scale than the SDEIS can model, contamination of the big stoney or the mother of waters. No study has ever been made to determine just how much water sheds from Arrowhead aquifers. Who will ultimately pay for the mistake of building mines and pipelines through the heart of Minnesota’s deep north?
- Ultimately, Polymet’s mine will be a shadow of operations in the area once the precedent is set and floodgates are open. In addition, with pipeline #3 burrowing it’s way into the aquifer, crossing the Mississippi headwaters and wetlands that support an abundance of life dependent on these waters, on its way to Duluth from Canada, who will profit? It won’t be the residents.
- If the NFS and BLM have no intention of allowing mining in the area of the BWCAW and the Rainy River Watershed, then why have exploratory permits and almost 2000 drilling holes been allowed into this area?
- What will be the final amounts discharged from leaky pipelines, mines and processing sites once the resources are spent and jobs are gone? What will be left?
- What will be left of the wetlands, forests, streams and waterfalls … the flora and fauna … the wilderness?
- Shouldn’t our relationship to the resources that support our lives be based on stewardship? What profit is there in destroying our base?
- What of the migratory foul, the wolves, the Canada Lynx … the St Louis River estuary?
- Are the chemicals used in water treatment safe? have they been tested? have all metals, contaminants, filters from mining and pipelines proved anything less than toxic to life?
- How many of the wilderness activities will be altered permanently in the area through the processes of tar sands oil delivery and mining?
- Will discharges into the St Louis River from the wetlands surrounding a tar sands oil pipeline and copper mining bring algae blooms, depleting water of oxygen and threatening already threatened aquatic plants and animals and create a dead zone at the mouth of the St Louis? Have contaminants been estimated, modeled for the mouth of this great estuary?
- Has possible contamination from brackish systems underground been considered as these structures are built?
- Has climate change been factored into the model?
- How many seasons of water data have been integrated into the models used to approve these dirty systems?
- Drought is first noticed in the highlands. Have the effects of a draw down been considered in our models? loss of pressure in the artesian wells? Do we know how much water there is to take for mining? Isn’t any water too much? How far will the spillage of one Enbridge pipeline spread through these wetlands of Northern Minnesota?
- The wellness of a society depends upon respect for the environment? What respect does any foreign corporation have for the welfare of our waters in Minnesota?
- Is any water filtration system adequate to protect these waters more than 500 years into the future … what kind of management can be expected during and after closure to manage sulfate concentrations in the effluent of a copper mine?
- How can a tailings pond hold up indefinitely under the harsh conditions of Northern Minnesota and what of global warming and ever serious climate events?
- What measures will be taken or are possible to reduce “fugitive” dust from construction and operations on site and on the road?
- How big would the final basins and pits be once copper mining has been established?
- How much can be done once pipeline #3 spills undetected or uncontrolled or mismanaged? What kind of clean up is even possible with tar sands oil?
- What of the pollutants from the hydrometallurgical process, smelting operations?
- What is PGE precipitate, compositions?
- Have possible failures been modeled? to pipeline, tailings basins, waste rock piles and pits?
- What do we have in the words: proposed, possibility, potentials, predictions, probability …. but words. Why have two of our governors approved of the Northmet Project and Pipeline #3? What were they thinking and what was behind their decisions?
- What are the 28 solutes?
- What is a P90 level exactly?
- What engineering controls will be used in the rivers and wetlands for the NorthMet project? and what controls for construction and operation of Enbridge’s pipeline #3? What controls are possible in such a priceless environment?
- How much untreated water will actually be released from the proposed Polymet mine, how much seepage from pits and tailings basins actually? Will we never know until it is too late to do anything about it? One reason these structures should never be built.
- How was affected wetland acreage determined, what data concerning aquifers and underground water flowage referenced? were long term studies made on the effects of drought conditions and possible draw down potentials considered?
- Has consideration been made for the open nature of the St Louis River watershed’s wetlands, the Mississippi headwaters, streams and marshes associated, and the connectivity of all these bodies to the immediate areas affected throughout Northern Minnesota in the case of the Northmet Project and Enbridge’s tar sands oil pipeline#3?
Our health and well being depends on wetlands and wildernesses, apex predators and all manner of life. We cannot survive without clean water or the flora and fauna, all living things that depend on water as we do. What will be our legacy to the 7th generation?
For love of wilderness.
Thanksgiving is upon us and, what has become one of the most celebrated holidays in America, will be spent alone in many homes. For over a quarter of a million have died in this country from a pandemic that could have been mitigated with the right leadership, and so many left without the resources to see them through the year. A time of thanks giving has become a time of grief for the great many.
The Senate, under the auspices of Mitch McConnell, has left the relief package presented to him from the people’s House of Representatives in a graveyard of legislation he has personally tabled and prevented from becoming law. No one person should have this kind of power in a democracy; and the shame of his leadership will haunt the rest of us for years to come.
While Senator McConnell is on vacation for the holidays, it will not be much of a holiday for the masses in this country who trusted in our congressional leadership to do the right thing. The senator has, after all, been employed by the electorate and should be working for the electorate. Is this what Mitch McConnell does when he holds up vital legislation single-handedly, legislation that was created to help the majority of taxpayers in these trying times? He facilitated the passing of the cares act in March of this year with tax cuts for the richest and less for the poorest, with support from the rest of congress based on a promise that another more comprehensive bill could be guaranteed later in the year. Remember your promise, Mitch? Do you think that your promise was forgotten?
So what went wrong and why are there so many willing to vote for a man who profits from his office and leaves the great majority who elected him to suffer? Words, as Senator Mitch McConnell proves, are only words. It is the action behind them that reveals much more.
McConnell Releases Revised COVID-19 Bill …March 22, 2020
Cares Act bill 3548
McConnell calls for five-year lawsuit shield for businesses as part of next coronavirus bill
Mitch McConnell pledges to scrap $600 boost in unemployment benefits
Second stimulus check updates: GOP, ….
Introduction of Senate version under Mitch McConnell on March 19, 2020 outlining some of that bill’s shortcomings (Senate Republicans Reveal New Coronavirus Relief Package)
We could speak of the beauty, the wild, the spirit of something greater than ourselves, the sustenance we all gain from the masterpieces of creation. Such is the Arrowhead of Minnesota.
What profit is there if not life itself? It is undeniable that people in the area need jobs … although, who of these long term residents came with the intent to mine this jewel? If given the opportunity to work in a sustainable activity, who would not choose to do so? What kind of opportunities could be created with a mindset that encourages positive long term results over short term gains and financial profiteering? Don’t we owe it to ourselves and life itself to make the effort?
Anita Suzanne Tillemans
To be a child
And live a life
With open mind.
To grow older, wiser
But with wonder-filled;
To regain the child.
Last winter, I lost a very dear friend to cancer. She was in her 98th year, of Norwegian ancestry, a Minnesotan by birth, a world traveler and citizen by choice, and a lover of beauty in all its forms. She was, as she called herself, an “oh-oh”, an old one.
After reading her poetry, listening to her stories and her insights, I wondered why she didn’t put her thoughts in a book. She wanted anonymity. She did not want to be responsible for the choices others might make. She would not advise. She was simply communicating and sharing her ideas on a personal level with me because we were friends. We were both open-minded, she, broad-minded, and it was our mutual love of beauty that linked us in life. It was her nonjudgmental attitude toward life, toward others, that taught me some very important lessons; and it was this acceptance of others and her smile that endeared her to the people who knew her.
She was the most stubborn person that I have ever known, bar none, if “stubborn” is the right word. Perhaps stalwart would have been better. It was with measured and fact-driven set of priorities that she made her decisions and stood by them and it was her intelligence that allowed her to frame the narrative in a way that enlightened and allowed for a new perspective.
It was through gardening we met and, in the almost 20 years we knew each other, it was in nature where we both found our joy, traveling the country roads, walking in the woods, enjoying the rivers and lakes, the wetlands of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. She was a realist, though, and often gave me pause in my efforts to preserve our wildlands. My idealistic nature was tempered many times in our discussions by her truthful kindness. She knew and would let me find out for myself.
I miss her terribly. She would not want me to mourn forever. She would not want me to write about her for all to know and felt she was only a small, miniscule part of this universe. For me, she was an example of how we might all be in a better world; and I loved her for that.
On November 01, 2018, our DNR announced through Tom Landwehr, commissioner, approval of ten crucial permits that Polymet, a Swiss-based conglomerate, needs to start a copper mine in Arrowhead of Minnesota at the extreme headwaters of the St Lawrence Seaway. This will open the door to an expanded footprint for the proposed NorthMet Project once begun, allowing for greater extraction of water resources from this water-dependent ecosystem, along with the taking of endangered species, Canada Lynx, Timber Wolf, birds and fowl, plant species etc that interfere with this project.
The permits granted on November first: six water appropriation permits, two dam safety permits, a public waters work permit and last (but not least) an endangered species takings permit. The project still needs water permits and air quality permits from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and a wetlands permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Other important points:
Since the project is now deemed less profitable as proposed, Polymet in all probability, will need to mine faster and expand the proposed footprint to make the money investors expect. This means that the proposed mine, with its assured potential of 500 + years of pollution, approved by the DNR, will dwarf the damage of the mega-mine actually needed to fullfill its promise and its bottom line. This will be in direct conflict to any environmentally sound promises.
To quote DNR commissioner, Tom Landwehr, the NorthMet project “meets Minnesota’s regulatory standards for these permits.” Wth such confidence as a foundation, and since our citizens are the ones who will suffer the consequences of a poor decision, being the ones who will more than likely “foot the bill,” why would the DNR under Landwehr reject the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy’s request for a contested case hearing, an independent judicial review, a chance to prove that this decision could stand such scrutiny? Why has it taken over 10 years to permit this mine? Why do the majority of Minnesotans reject this proposal?
Funding clean water projects, and the like, without reducing point source pollution seems a poor way to protect our resources. Is it a radical idea that the health of our freshwater trumps the profits of an international corporation?
There have been some beautiful old trees taken to make room for new construction in our neighborhoods while, at the same time, old ones are dying of natural causes. Does it make sense to take a tree before it is diseased because it might get a disease or suffer pestilence, or choose sites or routes for new construction where old growth trees are thriving? Will we ever learn to make better decisions concerning our environment and our long term welfare?
When we could choose to live humbly and sustainably but don’t, what does this say about our priorities and our long term chance of survival?
Information on comments and the process for Polymet’s NorthMet mining permits is located at the MPCA and DNR links below:
Links to four permits open to comment and deadlines for comments:
As I posted on August 20, 2017:
“A copper sulfide mine in the Arrowhead of Minnesota will change the meaning of “north woods” as we know it.”
Over a century’s toll of mining iron ore in the uplands of the Laurentian Divide:
For the sake of our waters and the northern ecology of this priceless watershed, please send your comments.
If we were to search the entire globe for a place that would result in more devastation to the natural world and to world class water systems, we might be hard pressed to find a more damaging prospect than the Arrowhead of Minnesota. This region is located:
- At a recharge area in a diverse and complex geological formation where toxins from a mine could discharge at unknown places anywhere from a mile to 100 miles from the source in any direction.
- In an aquifer that feeds one of three of the greatest river systems on the North American continent at the extreme headwaters of the St Lawrence Seaway.
- On the doorstep of the world’s most pristine wildernesses, the combined lands and waters of the BWCA and Quetico in the heart of the Rainy River Watershed.
- In a community where tourism depends on wilderness.
- Upstream from communities that depend upon wild rice, game and recreation, which are all dependent upon clean water, air and an ecosystem without precedent.
- In one of the richest and most ecologically diverse areas in the world.
- At the heart of the Arrowhead in Minnesota’s Great Lakes and Mississippi River flyways where thousands of migrating birds depend annually on the area’s wilderness waters and lands.
In spite of these attributes and many others, this is exactly where the DNR proposes to permit a copper sulfide mine, a mine, which will leave pollution for a minimum of 500 years and may reach the dimensions of the Hull Rust Mine in Hibbing if precedent follows.
The guarantees are many:
- We need water to survive in its natural state for maximum health .
- The NorthMet Project and copper mining will pollute the water and land.
- Filters used in the mining process will change the water’s composition and these filters will also need disposal.
- Tailings will be stored in an aging earthen “containment” pond, which leaks and leaches and will continue to do so.
- Waste piles will leach and leak, as well, into the unforeseeable future.
- Release of toxins into the environment is inevitable through natural processes and accidents.
- Waste piles and ponds are subject to natural disasters, which cannot be planned for and which have not been fully accounted for in the permitting process.
- Wetlands will be destroyed through mining processes directly and indirectly.
- Habitat for wildlife will be degraded.
- Transportation corridors will spread the toxic effects beyond the mine’s footprint.
- As water seeks its level, pits will fill with water continuously as long as the pits are in use, thereby mining water as well as rock.
- Since mining will occur in the Laurentian Highlands, a recharge area for three major watersheds on the North American continent, the risk of water pollution, the risk of damage to artesian wells (contained aquifers) through depressurization, and the risk to more than one watershed is possible.
- Because the area has multiple substrata at complex, varying depths with bedrock fractures and diverse materials, unknown factors will ultimately determine pathways for copper sulfide mining pollution and these could appear in unexpected places.
- Damage to these waters will reach in and out of state, and in and out of this country.
- The profits will move out of state and out of this country.
- The jobs will last a relatively short time compared to the 500 years of pollution left behind.
- As the wilderness goes, so will the wilderness tourism.
- The responsibility for clean-up will most likely remain in Minnesota as a burden to the taxpayer when the mine is closed and the company dissolved. Since no corporation can guarantee solvency for 500 years or stay in business for long on charity, what other outcome could be expected?
- In spite of any guarantees to the contrary, no amount of money will return this unique wilderness to the citizens of Minnesota.
- The meaning of North Country will be changed forever.
For all of these reasons and more, I object to the NorthMet Project and a copper mine in the Arrowhead of Minnesota.
The comment portal is open on Polymet’s permit to mine application until March 6, 2018 at:
Text links to the draft permit and outlines as well as information on how to make comments and submissions are located at:
Please make your comments or objections by March 6, 2018.
For the sake of our wilderness and our water. Anita
Sigurd F Olson believed that beauty could be destroyed by a sound or a thought. He spent his life championing protection of all wilderness, in particular the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area. He lived in Ely, Minnesota and built a cabin on Burntside Lake where he meditated and found peace. He knew that the appreciation of beauty was love at its essence, a profound appreciation of wilderness; and beauty, a necessity for our survival.
In northern Minnesota spans the wilderness he held so dear; and he lived his life in appreciation of wilderness through his writings and his advocacy. He helped spare the BWCA from an onslaught of interests that would have destroyed it through the construction of roads, permits for motor boats, planes and eventual development. Would he have failed to stand up to copper mining interests?
As Minnesotans and stewards of the Arrowhead, at heart of three of the greatest river systems in North America, we are on a precipice. What greater security is there than wilderness, clean water and air, the beauty and the silence of untouched wild areas? International interests, determined to mine copper in the big Stoney, the great Minnesota Arrowhead, seek permission to do so. Should we open this Pandora’s Box at any price?
Once copper sulfide mining has begun, the entire region, by precedent, will succumb to other like-mines in and surrounding the BWCAW, which lies on this prospect, that of the Duluth Gabbro Complex or the big Stoney. There are already over a thousand prospecting holes, which have been drilled at the boundary of the BWCAW and along Kawishiwi River and Birch Lake to date.
Estimations through computer modeling have determined that 20 years of the proposed Polymet mine would destroy at minimum 912.5 acres of irreplaceable wetlands at the mining site alone, and as a consequence flora and fauna dependent on these waters, leaving a toxic environment for hundreds of years, perhaps into perpetuity. The boundaries unknown.
Consider that the St Louis watershed consists of 3,696 square miles of mostly open wetlands and high quality habitat for plants and animals… including, as an example, the home of “100 Mile Swamp” between the two watersheds of Embarrass and Partridge rivers . St Louis River’s headwaters are located at Seven Beavers Lake near the proposed Hoyt Lakes processing plant and a few miles south of the mining site in corporate Babbitt. It’s headwaters flow for 179 miles before becoming a 12,000-acre freshwater estuary near Lake Superior, where it enters the body of the Great Lakes.
The mine site will be located in Babbitt, which hosts both the St Louis River watershed and the Rainy River watershed. Can we be assured that the water in contact with waste rock there and therefore, discharge of sulfuric acid and other contaminants will not be shed into the Rainy River Basin which contains the BWCAW, Voyageurs National Park, Vermilion Lake and River, Crane Lake and others?
The processing center, also, is located in a complicated geological area of the Laurentian Divide at Hoyt Lakes. The Embarrass River and the Partridge River on either side of this Divide will be affected. In addition, the Vermilion River watershed is adjacent to the Embarrass River watershed on the north. What long term effects will be seen here as well? This is one of many unknowns.
I feel certain that Sigurd Olson would have stood up to copper mining interests. He would have stood up to interests that threaten to destroy the wilderness of northern Minnesota. He spoke plainly and with an understanding that the battle goes on forever and that we must all have a hand in protecting wilderness.
Through blasting, transportation corridors, energy needs like the coal fired plant in Silver Bay, water pollution, air pollution, noise pollution … what will be left of this wilderness that we now know as the north woods of Minnesota? The smallest creatures, insects, fungus, flora, fauna will be poisoned by these mines and this will affect the larger creatures that depend upon them, like birds, deer, wolves, lynx, creatures great and small.
Polymet alone will be applying for over 20 permits. Included in these are “water appropriation permits”, which is a benign way of saying water mining permits, dam safety permitting, permits for taking endangered species and others needed to make this mine palatable.
For our national security, for the health of this planet, big Stoney of the “mother of waters”, Lake Superior, should be considered of far greater importance than any short term gains that may be had through mining this precious and priceless natural resource. Please let the National Forest Service, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the Bureau of Land Management know that you do not want the St Louis River watershed and the Great Lakes to serve as a conduit for wastewater from a copper sulfide mine in the Arrowhead.
There are no guarantees but this, that water will find its way to the sea through our Great Lakes from these proposed mining operations. Are we prepared for the consequences? The health of this planet may be determined by our will to continue the fight.
Timber wolves have long shared the wilderness with mankind and so it is in Northern Minnesota. If Polymet builds a copper mine in the Arrowhead of Minnesota, and sets the precedent for other companies to do the same, it becomes obvious, then, why the removal of wolves and others from the “endangered species” list has been such a persistent issue. In order to mine, the taking of endangered species becomes an added cost, since a permit must be issued for the taking.
Among the animals that have been taken from “endangered” to “threatened” are the gray wolf and the Canada lynx. I include just one link below.
Our water will be more than “threatened” by a mine in this wilderness, and so will the lives of all species in the area, whether “endangered”, “threatened” or not. A rose by any other name is still a rose.
I had long ago decided to be happy … but got distracted along the way by so many things that occurred to cloud the issue, the issue of living honestly and with integrity … finding joy as a child would, naturally.
One cannot be happy without this and there is no wealth without it either. Where do you find your joy?
To be satisfied with what one has; that is wealth. As long as one sorely needs a certain additional amount, that man isn’t rich.
One can view this house on the way to Silver Lake by bus. The tree on its east, now gone, was a reminder of the elms that stood majestically along the boulevards in Minneapolis over 45 years ago. These trees have been taken down in great numbers … because, it seems, it was more cost effective to lumber them than to save them.
Trees are money of course. Never mind that they harbor and nourish wildlife, birds of all kinds and others, including humans, that require the shelter, the food, the shade, breadth and breath of an old tree.
Heart-sick watching these giants being harvested in the city of Minneapolis … to make room for more big box houses and parking lots, water parks, roads, sidewalks, and for pulp, mulch, or table tops and doors.
When will we, as a society, learn that old growth trees are essential … that we need clean air … clean water … and earth that is growing? In this regard, trees are vital. Money will not provide this. We will continue to see species extermination until this is learned in earnest throughout the whole of human society.
Do we own our technology, or does it own us? Do we own our possessions, or do they own us? Will we be happier with bigger houses and fancier cars, trips to somewhere else when we have no true investment in the places we live? Better not to grow any investment if it means destroying our base and, with it, the living legacy of our old trees.
I miss the canopy that stood over the boulevards in Minneapolis when I arrived almost 50 years ago … replaced by saplings, which are being trimmed regularly to optimize board feet when harvested. The arbor that arched over our streets cannot be replaced in an entire lifetime. What kind of world are we making on our way to making money?
As of this past week the Forest Service of the United States has issued a decision agreeing to the land exchanges that Polymet will need to mine copper in lands that the USFS had been tasked to protect, at the headwaters of the Great Lakes and water ways on the border of the BWCAW. I am including a link below to this monumental decision, which, in effect, betrays the public trust giving public lands in the exchange for the private interests of a multi-national corporation.
The process will require permits allowing degradation of air and water quality and another comment period. It will also, at times, require Polymet to get a permit to take endangered species. One reason that the timber wolf may have been taken off of the “endangered species” list, among other equally expedient reasons.
I include links to the status of some of these required permits:
How did this prospect ever get a start?
Mixed Media Photos: This snowy was taken at the Minnesota Zoo and photoshop’d into other backgrounds taken earlier. It’s easy to see the rough outline in flight of the first. Took more time on the second. Fun.
Many years back, in winter, I had seen one land on a streetlight during my break. From the distance, he looked like a huge white gull; and it wasn’t until I had driven closer that I knew better. Not a sight one sees very often around Minneapolis … and so I hadn’t been prepared.
The size at perch and in flight, so different. Same for the bald eagle, which seems quite a bit smaller until it spreads those magnificent wings.
It was believed by the Native Americans that eagles served as messengers between humans and the Creator, a spiritual messenger and symbol of courage and truth and, to some, the embodiment of the Great Spirit. To almost every Indian Nation, the eagle is sacred.
As one Indian legend tells it, a thundercloud appeared on the horizon when the Earth was created, descending upon the tree tops in thunder and lightning; and as the mists cleared , an eagle sat perched upon the highest branch. Gliding slowly from his perch, extending his talons to the ground, he became a man … and so the spiritual representation of eagles as messengers.
As Indian summer arrived this month in beautiful color along the Mississippi River bluffs, we spotted this bald eagle in a solitary old tree over the site of “wakon-teebe”, observing him for quite a while, well aware of our presence, until his descent to the ground out of our view.
The pictured overlook stands on the bluffs above a cave that the Indians named wakon-teebe, known by various names as Dwelling of the Great Spirit or Mystery, House of Spirits and the Spirit House. It contains a crystal pool fed by spring water that had reported flows of 25 gallons per minute and held ancient Indian hieroglyphs, until they were destroyed by railroad construction. A shadow of the original visited by Jonathan Carver in 1766, this cave stands on the banks of the Mississippi in the bed of what was once the great river, Warren, which discharged glacial waters from the largest lake ever known, Lake Agassiz.
What stood thousands of years took relatively little time to desecrate. St. Paul & Chicago Railroad condemned the strip of land along its river bank, dug it down and nearly destroyed it. Most of what was carved away held the cave’s petroglyphs. The entrance is now sealed by a steel door following habitation during the Great Depression, curiosity seekers and landscaping for public and private use, all of which could not help to change the essence of what it was for thousands of years to the Native Americans. The Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary is now home to this “spirit cave” and there have been improvements in the surrounding park.
The bluffs above wakon-teebe, designated Indian Mounds Park, hold sacred burial mounds many of which have been destroyed for expediency. Only six were spared of at least 37 known in the area, to be registered as historic preservation sites.
At the overlook above the cave, garbage was strewn everywhere, the only two garbage cans, overflowing … plastic bags, pop cans, trash in abundance down the side of this bluff. Votive candles on the stone walls below a solitary old tree testified to the still sacred nature of this place, where a vigilant bald eagle perched above the river valley.
Views from the bluffs are breathtaking and reveal the immensity of this river valley, filled now with artifacts of our “progress” — an airport, trains and tracks, barges and, among other things, Pigs Eye Waste Treatment Plant, while the Great Spirit has, evidently, been evicted and locked out, perhaps perched in the old tree above the cave.
The state of Minnesota made a mistake in the late 1800’s by permitting a mine at the Hill of Three Waters in what is now known as the Hull Rust Mine. By diverting the attention away from the actual fountainhead of the Mississippi so that mines could be established, and declaring the “official” head at Lake Itasca, a 2 mile square lake in the far west of the state, this made mining possible on the Iron Range; and has been a primary cause of pollution in the great Mississippi River and its wetlands at the source. It has also set precedent for more mining in the highlands of the Laurentian Divide, the primary recharge source for three great rivers of the world, that of the Mississippi River, Rainy River and the St Louis River (extreme headwaters of the Great Lakes and the St Lawrence Seaway). Now we stand to see another precedent set, one for copper mining.
DNR approval of the FEIS for NorthMet in March 2016, and subsequent opening for Polymet to proceed with applications for permits has opened the potential of a floodgate of pollution from copper mining in one of the most water rich and water dependent ecosystems in the North American continent, at the headwaters of three great rivers …. There is, literally, no other place like it- because of this.
If these permits are approved, allowing for a reduction in air and water quality and destruction of wetlands just south and along the border of the BWCAW, it will open the door to United States Forest Service approval of the land exchange, an exchange that Polymet cannot do without.
If the USFS approves the land exchange, this would be forfeiting its authority to mining interests over lands that were set aside for protection. The Forest Service would be trading, not only lands, but a trust that these ecosystems would be protected from exploitation for generations to come.
Polymet will be mining water resources, destroying wetlands, by their own admission; and, in effect, degrading natural resources, flora and fauna, with its lease to continuously extract metals in an open-pit mine. They will be requiring permits to do all of this, including permits to take endangered species on lands that the Forest Service was given in trust.
In addition, this would help establish precedent that could facilitate more land exchanges of this type. By trading these lands, USFS would, essentially, be demonstrating a lack of will in exercising its authority and create a barter system that conflicts with the role as steward. It would allow exploitation and cannot be reconciled with this public trust … water being their most sacred trust.
The entire state and beyond would pay the price.
May sanity prevail.
We can all agree that the advent of fossil fuel extraction and use has changed our world. What does this mean?
Benzene is found in the air from burning coal and oil, at gasoline service stations, and in motor vehicle exhaust. Some effects from short term inhalation are impaired driving from dizziness and sleepiness, and unconsciousness (at high levels). It is known to cause irritation to eye, skin, and respiratory tract as well as creating changes in the composition of red blood cells, increased incidence of leukemia, risks to the fetus in pregnancy among other toxic risks. It is known by the EPA as a known human carcinogen for all routes of exposure.
Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOX) are known to cause acid rain which affects our waterways and forests, destroying these natural environments ability to sustain life.
Petroleum Coke (Pet Coke): abundant toxins in heavy dust from bitumen: chromium, vanadium, sulfur, selenium … being used now in coal-fired power plants and emits 5-10 times more CO2 than coal. Even so, it is excluded from most assessments of climate impact because it is considered a refinery byproduct.
Formaldehyde (from natural gas) a carcinogen with known links to leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancers, a potent allergen and DNA alterative, also contributes to ground-level ozone. It is commonly used in fracking for which the industry does not report details of its use.
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) an entire class of toxic chemicals which are known as carcinogens and genetic mutagens are endemic in the production of oil and gas. We can already see the effects on wildlife after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Mercury, largest single source of airborne mercury emissions in the U.S is from coal-fired plants from and is known as a dangerous neurotoxin. It will affect the brain development of a child, delaying walking and conversation, attention span … high doses in the womb and in infants can cause mental retardation, cerebral palsy, deafness and blindness. In adults it is known to affect a person’s ability to reproduce, can cause memory loss, numbness in the extremities ….
Silica Dust or crystalline silica (frac sand) is a carcinogen and breathing silica dust can lead to silicosis, which is a form of lung disease with no cure. Commonly used during fracking operations, each stage of the process requires hundreds of thousands of pounds of silica quartz–containing sand. Millions of pounds may be used for a single well.
Radon used is a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas which though it comes from a variety of natural sources, the fracking industry represents a significant new and increased source of radon exposure to millions of citizens. Radon is released into local groundwater and air during fracking operations. It also travels through pipelines to the point of use—be it a power plant or a home.
Hydrofluoric Acid (HF) / Hydrogen Fluoride from oil and gas production is one of the most dangerous acids known and can damage lungs, moving into deep tissue, including bone, where it causes cellular damage. It can be fatal if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
These are only 10 of the toxins attributed to the fossil fuel industry but there are other far reaching effects of oil, gas and coal production.
Greenhouse gas-induced climate change
Massive highway systems and traffic jams
War and increased Military, being one of the biggest consumers of fossil fuels
Loss of Wilderness
Pollution of the aquifers and air
Earthquakes from fracking
Mining of water reserves
Species extinctions …
The automobile: Could Henry Ford have imagined the long term results of widespread personal automobile use, the massive highway systems, the infrastructure to supply oil, pipelines through aquifers, offshore drilling and spills in marine ecosystems to supply an insatiable thirst for energy and wealth from its production, the danger to our air, water, foods and our health … the health of not only our species, but all others on Earth at stake?
Ford was a pacifist and believed that mass production of inexpensive goods coupled with high wages for workers would make life better for all. He believed that consumerism was a key to peace. Has it been the answer? Is money and access to all manner of disposable goods the panacea for what ails the human race? Are we all richer for having this kind of access? The more money we have the more is spent … better yet to provide a life worth living to all in a fair and equitable world where money does not rule. Has material accumulation made us richer and created a peaceful world? The results are obvious.
There is no end to this kind of consumption, because it never truly satisfies. While the renegade fossil fuel industry destroys sacred lands in North Dakota, the news media turns a blind eye and consumers head to the gas station to fill their tanks.
It was beautiful today. Monarch butterflies were gathering around the blooms on my walk, and particularly in the gardens surrounding the fountains at Lake Harriet Rose Gardens (a shame I didn’t have my camera).
There was a mild breeze in the sunshine that blanketed us all. It was a day of sailing and soaring. One made in heaven.
In forest ecology, a canopy defined by the upper layer of all forests is a habitat zone formed by mature crowns of trees and containing a diverse system of organisms in a healthy ecosystem. It is a cover, and an environment so different than one without.
In terms of many urban areas, this canopy is quickly being destroyed in the name of “healthy forest” initiatives and for urban development, while saplings are given the impossible task of “replacing” what they cannot replace.
- Faced with higher temperatures annually, middle-aged trees, as well as saplings are dying from drought. With less tree cover and more concrete, more heat, a vicious cycle of deforestation ensues and escalates. Our canopy in Minneapolis, at less than 32 percent, continues to diminish.
- Much wood is being used for energy purposes and for other commercial interests; so, through short-sighted practices and views, these mature trees become worth more dead than alive.
- Rather than divert a road, create a sustainable alternative, short term development projects, new over-sized homes and housing developments apply expediency over sanity. It takes time to treat a pattern, to water a tree and keep it free from disease and pests. It costs money too, sometimes.
- Suffice to say, with less water and higher temperatures, a tree has no stamina to fight disease and infestations. It certainly cannot survive a chain saw aimed at its destruction. Witness the wholesale destruction of mature ash trees along one boulevard after another in Minneapolis.
- Public policies that prioritize cutting down healthy trees from fear of infestation or disease, rather than watering and wise tree care, replace our canopy with saplings that have even less prospect of survival.
A canopy of mature trees, some that have stood for one hundred or more years cannot be replaced by saplings, no matter how many we plant. Management practices need to change to a holistic approach, understanding that all things, even emerald ash borer, has its place in this system. Insecticides and removal should be emergency management options only. Wouldn’t it be better to maintain a healthy forest, one that is managed long term to retain its canopy, with an urban forest management system that has teeth?
Indigenous cultures understood that man was part of nature. How far we have wandered from that understanding … to evolve into a creature that deems, or dreams, himself outside the constructs of the natural world, in effect, defining himself as somehow superior to all other creatures and capable of framing his world in any terms he chooses. The problem lies in man’s failure to understand and accept that he is inextricably linked to nature and he too, like all things, is subject to its laws. Like the elements, all life and man, Nature is a process and God lies in the wisdom of this process. Man has yet to fully accept the process.
All creatures survive by procreation and predation. In life’s quest for itself, we are often pawns of biological rhythms and instincts; and so, mankind envisions himself capable of rising above this all too ‘sordid’ affair. In this effort, he fails to acknowledge and accept essential qualities of life and, as a consequence, loses sight of vital solutions.
Chance and change, movement, the nature of life. There is no life without death or night without day. We rush foolishly to our own destruction when we deny the very truths of existence. In fear of our own mortality and searching for eternity, man has wandered from the natural world and lost himself.
I am. In these two words, a world, a universe. Acceptance is everything, and life is born of this first step. Judgments tend to separate us, categorize and catalog us, negate qualities in some and elevate those in others, in the end doing us all injustice. In our unreasonable search for perfection, we often fail to see the beauty before our eyes, in our fellow man and miss countless opportunities.
Nature seeks balance and evolves perpetually based on outcomes. Watch an otter whose catch has been taken by a coyote. He complains and fights, as long as there is a chance he might prevail. In the end, he accepts the outcome and begins another hunt, no wailing that life is unfair or questioning his very existence. He is simply accepting the facts and the flow of life. Man is the only creature that perpetually refuses to accept natural outcomes, including himself. He builds dams in an effort to control the river and succeeds in destroying its essence.
Mankind’s egoism and lack of understanding perpetuate greed and destruction, like an allergic reaction attacking the body as if it were the enemy instead of a wellspring. He searches for the ideal beyond existence while the real prize unfolds before him every day, every moment. In this quest driven by fear, he misses the only perfection that life holds. Is he afraid that in a moment of clarity he may discover his true self, that he, after all, is no better or worse than any other animal, a wave on the shore, or the moon in its perpetual cycle?
A friend once asked, rhetorically: “Why was anything forbidden in Eden if God had created a perfect world?’ A world in utter completeness and balance, the “perfect” world does not exist. As soon as any balance has been achieved, life requires its undoing and in the end, we are unable to appreciate, in essence, the rose. We remain fixed on an idea of beauty as if it were a finite definable everlasting thing. Melancholy sits beside us while we contemplate how fleeting beauty and impossible the dream. In our sorrow and our unwillingness to accept Nature, we miss the symphony.
Man falls into a trap on this path. He cannot accept failure in his search for Eden, and cannot accept that this search is based on a false premise. Seeking balance is a natural phenomenon but it becomes a problem when the search focuses on perfection as a static, narrowly defined commodity. Man cannot own the dream and so he becomes contemptuous of himself for this perceived failure. Where he might instill love and promote cooperation, acceptance, he fosters doubt, hate and fear, continuing a cycle of violence with dismal futures for the planet. Mankind spirals down a path of destruction and self-hate, missing true potentials in his brothers and sisters since he is loath to see these same potentials in himself.
How do we define success in life? Is it based on some narrow precept, or has it been fitted with tolerance and love, with the knowledge that not all is perfect, least of all Mankind? Does it come with acceptance that the dance is a product of imbalance and imperfection, an understanding that at any moment, to be aware, to be alive is success itself? In our search for something outside of reality, we miss all that truly matters!
In our determination to make distinctions, we judge ourselves superior to the natural world and surmise that “improvements” to all things can be made through man’s inventions. We can never create anything outside of nature; and since no positive change is possible without truth, self-awareness is crucial. The belief that our species trumps all others and rises above the forces of nature, that we can circumvent these forces defies all logic. Simply observe. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Within this framework, life is movement from one state of being to another; and man’s machinations are subject to no less. If we fail to respect our true selves, the natural instincts that created man and the imperfections implicit in all life, the world created from our ignorance will not be fit for life.
Man alters natural codes that took millennia to evolve. He splits atoms and leaves the waste to pollute the earth. He destroys mountaintops and calls the product “clean coal”, pollutes our seas with oil, our air and earth with its derivatives and calls it necessary. In a rush to glean the resources of this planet, he makes choices based on profit rather than sanity and sustainability. Man, in his renegade actions, refuses to practice common sense and beats a path of environmental ruin. He is a hurricane with the potential to change course through self-awareness and respect, perhaps; but, we may never know, without the recognition that we are all part and parcel of this natural world.
Our life’s safari involves a hunt for more than food and shelter. Like all living things, we reach for light and that light is in us all. All Nature moves beyond the mundane in this dimension. Birds sing at dawn. Squirrels collect articles that have no practical use – like items in a child’s pocket. All creatures appreciate beauty, and, like the otter, recognize truth. For what is truth but a natural outcome, and beauty the same? Our fate may very well be determined by our relationship to this process and our respect for truth.
In our quest to define a world in defiance of natural laws, mankind is racing down an incline blindfolded, without brakes and fully loaded. Venturing into abstraction, we stretch the bounds of reality by searching for meaning beyond existence and perverting a basic instinct for beauty into a dogged search for perfection and for immortality, without understanding or respect for the nature of all things. While we strive to realize our dreams, it would be wise to keep a watchful eye on the road, do proper maintenance, and obey the laws of physics, at least.
Inseparable from the natural world, man finds his dawn in beauty, but beauty is not a static ideal. It is the well from which all life drinks, ever-changing, dynamic, boundless and perfect in its imperfection, an essential quality of life. Acceptance, born of tolerance and truth, synchronizes with immutable forces that create and sustain life, in essence, the only Eden possible.
As Minnesotans we stand as stewards at the source of one of the world’s greatest resources for fresh water. What precious metal or mineral can trump the importance of protecting these waters or maintaining the balance developed over millions of years upon a foundation created billions of years ago in the Pre-Cambrian rock below? Mining operations will eventually cease, subject to supply and fickleness of markets. What will Minnesota and the world have in return for a few years of jobs and cash if we fail to act as responsible stewards? There are no reassurances or supplemental short term bills that can sustain a failing industry or cover the devastation wrought by mining. Wilderness tourism will be one of the victims.
Simply because man can do something, does not necessarily mean that he should. Because nature has no boundaries, man does have a responsibility to consider the consequences of his actions. We need to take into account the over-reaching consequences of our actions in this land, a geological and biological ecosystem that is Northern Minnesota, the source of three of the greatest river systems in the North America, essentially sourced along the Mesabi Range. The fate of lands, air, and water in and around the Mesabi Range is linked by a unique geography that has no precedent, and for this reason, is impossible to map or predict with certainty. What can be seen through experience is enough to forbid the already known hazards of mining in an area of priceless, vital water resources.
Downstream from the proposed Northmet project, where all mining water, sediment and dissolved particulates from this plant will eventually go, Jay Cook State park is home to 181 species of nesting and feeding fowl. There are bear, deer, wolves, and coyote among 46 animal species in the park. Sax-Zim Bog in the St Louis River estuary is world famous wintering grounds for great gray, boreal, hawk owls and other boreal forest birds. Over 60,000 raptors migrate over Hawks Ridge National Preserve in the St Louis River estuary each year.
There are other points of interest. The Laurentian Divide is home to 155 nesting birds and 40 wildlife species. In Embarrass, just north of the LTV site, there are birding and nature trails, river canoeing and fishing opportunities. At Babbitt, lies beautiful Birch Lake south of the BWCAW, both part of the Rainy River Watershed. The Superior National Forest Scenic Byway tour begins in Two Harbors and goes through Silver Bay to Aurora through Hoyt Lakes over 145 miles of untouched wilderness with relatively few roads. There are wolves here and Canadian Lynx, only a few of the animals that are attracted to this area. Wolves are of concern in particular now with one breeding pair on Isle Royal after three years of hunting in the Arrowhead. Natural ice bridges have occurred in the past and so they have these past few years to the island. Could it be that the gene pool has already been depleted by hunting in the area, possibly in preparation for the proposed mine? The Canadian Lynx is also very sensitive to changes in the environment.
The Laurentian uplands, where mining is proposed, rise to 1700 feet above sea level in the transportation corridor, over Partridge River waterways like 100 Mile Swamp, and Stubble Creek. Trains with mining supplies and byproducts traverse open wetland networks in Northern Minnesota linked to Dunka River, North River, Ridgepole Creek , Seven Beaver Lake (the source of the St Louis River and therefore the extreme source of the St Lawrence River and seaway), Swamp Lake, Big Lake, and Yelp Creek, among a only a few.
There are 318 species of birds, 200 regular in the Superior National Forest of which 36 are uncommon, 30 rare and 61 very rare, among these the Pie billed Grebe and the Red breasted Merganser. With 155 nesting species, the SNF has the greatest number of breeding birds in any national forest. The BWCAW is of incalculable value biologically, ecologically and a popular wilderness area with over 200,000 visitors annually, with 1500 miles of canoe routes and 2200 campsites.
Do we truly believe that mining so close to the entry points of the BWCA Wilderness do not have significant effects on these resources and the essence of this kind of experience? Do we think that a few hundred jobs can pay for the loss of an ecosystem of this value? Some things cannot be measured and this is one.
The Arrowhead region is one of the crowning ecological jewels of this world and people will pay to enjoy wilderness. The health of our communities all over this planet depends upon respect for vital resources. In northern Minnesota, renowned for its beauty and natural resources, especially water, what will we have gained in the balance if we lose an area like this, due to environmental degradation?
The mining industry in Minnesota is failing due to global trade agreements that are detrimental to home interests. As we lose jobs and markets to these policies and others, would it serve us better to accept the decline of mining, countering with infrastructure jobs, businesses in the tourist industry and begin to advertise, in earnest, the natural amenities and treasures … to build on real assets and long term, life affirming choices?
There is no interest on any level that could trump water where taconite and copper, among other ores, are best left in the ground. There is no question that mining is a bad idea at the source of three of the greatest rivers in the North American Continent and the extreme headwaters of the Great Lakes and St Lawrence River and Seaway.
Entrusted to us, will we fail to shield this wilderness from exploitation, or will we protect our base by preserving this planet’s most vital resource, starting with “the mother of waters” in the Lake Superior Basin, the Mississippi River (“father of waters”) and the Rainy River which leads to Hudson Bay … not just for the sake of Minnesotans, but the interests of all who love beauty and understand that water, above all, is our most precious resource.
April 25, 2015
Dear President Obama,
Concerning the offshore oil leases and the leasing of public lands to the fossil fuel industry, my father was an engineer, a (geophysics) engineer, who was asked to comment on an earlier oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico over 40 years ago. He noted, at that time, that the smallest of organisms were affected by that particular spill in the 70’s. He was a sincere and intelligent man who gave his best, and logical sense about what was going on.
Many years earlier when I was living in Louisiana with my parents, in New Orleans, we visited Lake Pontchartrain for a meal. Even as a child I couldn’t help but notice the effects that drilling for oil in the Gulf was having on the waters of that area, as a wave sprayed us on the dock of the restaurant with bits of tar in the mix. BP found a dangerous alternative to this, by adding dispersant to the spill from Deepwater Horizon, so that much of these “bits of evidence” were hidden from view and now lie well under the surface of the Gulf, where they will most definitely affect the ecosystem from there, sight unseen.
How much more damage is being done out of sight by the fossil fuel industry as we lease our priceless public lands and waters to voracious and destructive corporations who dispose of toxic waste, fracking and drilling vital substructures and formations, very likely causing an increase in earthquakes, poisoning our waters and air, and literally stealing the most precious resource we have, our water, in a time of history when water is quickly becoming a commodity that we cannot afford to waste.
When I voted for you, it was on the promise that you were devoted to alternative sources of energy. By a great many estimates, we have no time to lose. I see the many things your administration has done to contribute to this kind of clean energy, but your support of fossil fuel and consequent increase in oil production has served to offset these positive contributions greatly.
You have such a great opportunity to change our direction, President Obama. Please say no to the use of public lands and substructures by the fossil fuel industry, in effect, trading our most valuable resources to the greed and profit of a few who have lost the foresight to see that they, too, will eventually lose by doing so.
According to figures established by the International Wolf Center in Ely, Mn with data provided by USDA – Wildlife Services, the wolf population in Minnesota was estimated at 2921 in 2008. After one hunting season, this figure was 2211 in 2013 the latest count.
Minnesota wolves that were taken in the hunting and trapping seasons of 2012, 2013, and 2014 (reported to the DNR) were 413, 237, and 148 respectively. In addition, the tentative numbers taken through depredation in those same years were 275, 127, and unknown; while numbers taken through illegal hunting, natural causes, auto accidents … is also unknown. The 1200 that we know were taken, then, is a fraction of those acutally lost since 2012.
Since high concentrations of wolves surround the Babbitt and Ely area where copper mining has been proposed, we have only just begun to understand potential impacts of the proposed mining on lands, waters and wildlife of the Minnesota Arrowhead, how hunting of the wolf is intertwined and what actions we can take to prevent further loss of a priceless wilderness and the apex predator that stands at the forefront of it all.