What would Sigurd Olson have done about copper-sulfide mining in the Arrowhead?

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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What harm could mining do in the watershed of the BWCA and headwaters of the Mississippi River?

In light of the ongoing process to permit the Polymet to mine copper in Babbitt with a processing center in Hoyt Lakes, I am reposting my article first published in November, 2012:

A view of Northern Minnesota as the battle rages for copper, sulfide mining near the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area.

 

Awaiting the vote on HF2680 to reinstate a moratorium on hunting and trapping our Minnesota Wolves

2_wolves_howling_mixed_mediaBefore doing the necessary studies to determine actual wolf populations, we have now had two wolf hunts in Minnesota.  There is no way to know whether their numbers are threatened without this survey and so the Senate has voted to re-instate a temporary moratorium on the wolf hunt until studies can be done.  There are other proposed changes as well:

http://legiscan.com/MN/text/HF2680/2013

After the 1930’s, the timber wolf was decimated in the lower 48 states leaving only Minnesota with original gray wolf populations, the only outside of Alaska in the United States.  Studies have shown also that populations of healthy wolves are controlled in great part by the diversity of the gene pool, diminishing the birth of pups and reducing the possibility of recovery in places where there is a lack of diversity as in Yellowstone and Isle Royale. The gene pool of wolves here in Minnesota is more diversified, being wild, and therefore priceless in the reestablishment of the species here and elsewhere. At last count we have almost half of the wolves extant in the lower 48.  Those numbers have been diminished greatly by two hunting seasons.

With the threat of copper mining looming if the Polymet is permitted (ROD due this fall and permit process already moving forward) the wolves will not be the only receptors of concern at risk. Protections of these apex predators would be a beginning.

Please contact your representatives and send a letter to Governor Dayton voicing your concern and support for reinstatement of a moratorium on hunting the timber wolf. Your representatives in the house need to hear from you concerning HF 2680.

I am including Senator Scott Dibble’s response on April 13th, 2012 in part, to these concerns below:

“Prior to 1974 when wolves were unprotected in Minnesota, the wolf population fell to below 400.  Since then, after they were added to the federal Endangered Species List and also classified as threatened by the State of Minnesota, their population has grown to somewhere between 2,200 and 3,500.  The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) tells us that absent a hunting and trapping season, the population has been stable since 1998.  Exact numbers are not known, hence the need for more data and better diligence.

… Owners of livestock, guard animals, and domestic animals are already allowed to shoot wolves that pose a threat to their animals.  The state also compensates farmers for livestock lost to wolves.  In 2001, the DNR’s Wolf Management Plan, created with the help of more than two dozen stakeholders, called for a five year moratorium on the taking of wolves following federal delisting from the Endangered Species List.  I will work to see that the DNR’s original plan is implemented so that careful planning will not be pre-empted by this legislative rush to open up a wolf hunt.”

Links:

http://legiscan.com/MN/bill/HF2680/2013

http://theuptake.org/2014/03/03/crying-wolf-activists-demand-end-to-minnesota-wolf-hunt/

http://www.howlingforwolves.org/

http://howlcolorado.org/2010/01/28/the-wolf-vs-deer-controversy/

Copper Mining the Arrowhead?

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I journeyed to International Falls last autumn to visit Lake of the Woods and Voyageurs National Park.  The colors could not have been more subtle and more beautiful.  As I traveled around the Kapetogama and Rainy Lake areas, it occurred to me that these were all linked to waters running from the Laurentian Divide and through the BWCAW.  As a consequence, the journey took me to Vermilion Falls on my return home in search of Crane Lake and the western end of that wilderness area.

As Minnesotans and stewards of the Arrowhead, which is at heart of three of the greatest river systems in North America (Rainy River, Mississippi River and St Louis River watersheds), we are on a precipice.  What greater security is there than keeping our water systems safe?  International interests, determined to mine copper in the big Stoney 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 at least 500 years of clean-up.  Affected areas outside of the mining and processing sites are essentially 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 ….? 

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.

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, a scenic and wild river system (already of concern), to be used as a chute for wastewater and, therefore, Lake Superior as a dump, for any amount of time.  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?

Comments are being taken until March 13, 2014 on Polymet’s proposal.  You can find more information on the SDEIS and how to comment at:

http://dnr.state.mn.us/input/environmentalreview/polymet/index.html

On the precipice above Vermilion Falls
On the precipice above Vermilion Falls

A Case for writ of CERTIORARI in the case of Canis Lupus

If the wolf has grown to such a large “nuisance” population in Minnesota that it must be managed, then why does it take 6000 hunters to bag 400 pelts?
The fact is that the grey wolf’s preferred prey in this state is deer, not man, his stock, or his pets – taking only a fraction of the deer that Minnesota hunters kill each year. As a benefit, wolves contribute to healthier deer populations by taking the weaker animals, while the same cannot be said of man. Ordinarily shy as well, wolves are also territorial and so it is man’s encroachment that causes conflict.
It is crucial for our species to take a broader view concerning the wolf and see how its demise hurts us all. Do we truly believe that these takings are wise in the long term? How is it possible that we have failed to use rational thought to this extent, and allowed this killing to proceed without the necessary studies and, above all, caution? Do we honestly believe, as it would seem, that our species is the only one that has any relevance; and failed to see that access to wild land, clean air and water by other creatures, as well as man, determines a healthier life for all? The wolf’s survival and its access to wilderness, in essence, protects this resource for all.
For thousands of years Native Americans have understood that no one “owned” the land. They were stewards in the most profound sense and, like the wolf, respected nature’s cycles and maintained a balance with nature and its creatures. We could learn from their teachings, their respect and understanding of the inter-connectedness of man’s well-being with that of the wolf as well.
Is one “gullible” to protest when the wolf, without being a problem truly, is murdered, slaughtered, tortured through trapping, or hunted as vermin and for trophies? Since when did the DNR stop protecting our resources to preserve the rights of the few for this taking? The case against this hunt of our native populations of wolves should be taken up and defended for good reason.
Truth be told, the timber wolf of Minnesota is a treasure. It’s delisting off ESL and this hunt should be protested along with other hunts across the country. Canis lupus stands at a fraction of its original numbers worldwide. Fact. Minnesota has a diverse original wild gene pool that is priceless for future propagation. Fact. The size of that population is crucial. Fact. The DNR did not do the proper due diligence to determine its current numbers before allowing the 2012 hunt. Fact.
The wolf is important and beautiful because it is wild, and a prime indicator species that contributes to the health of this environment. Its populations notoriously disappear with the loss of wilderness. Through fear and historical competition with wolves for food, man had developed and has maintained an adversarial relationship. Times and conditions have changed. Shouldn’t we?
The wolf is a sentinel, a guardian of the wild, these diminishing wellsprings of life as crucial to our survival as that of the wolf. As the wolf goes, so goes the wilderness; and to understand why civilization cannot afford this, one need only review the long history of what has gone before – the facts.

Anita Suzanne Tillemans
December 4, 2012

Brother Against Brother

Thoughts on the upcoming Minnesota wolf hunt November 2012

How would we treat this planet if we saw wolf as our “brother” and earth as our “mother” ? 

Sigurd F Olson believed that the wolf was an impressive influence in the wilderness and that its removal could change a situation that has been in the making for centuries.   He saw how integrated its well-being was with the well-being of all creatures, and understood that artificial management of the wolf would change the character of the wilderness.defender of the wilderness, advocate of the BWCA and Superior-Quetico

Chief Seattle believed, like Olson, that all things are connected.  He understood, like John Donne, not to ask “for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee”… for all of us.  Whatever happens to one essentially happens to all.  How can we continue to contaminate our water, our air, murder our brothers and sisters, destroy the wild places and animals under the guise of “management”, without suffering the consequences of this disrespect?

The North American Indian understood this and respected the earth as “mother”, the wolf as “brother” ….  As we propose to slaughter this creature starting in the upcoming Minnesota deer hunting season with 6000 hunting and trapping licenses for 400 pelts, how could the purpose be any clearer?   We have made the wilderness our battleground – for what?  The wolf will be gone or “managed” into a tame shadow of its true self.  Our wilderness areas will be turned into amusement parks, game farms, and vacation areas for the wealthy or sold to corporate greed for timber and precious metals.  Our children will never know the true wealth and beauty of life-affirming and pristine wilderness.  We will have arrived at the “end of living and the beginning of survival” as Chief Seattle so wisely predicted some 157 years ago.wolf_portrait_drawing

As a friend once asked, “what has become of us when we can’t tell the difference between a national park and a battlefield?”  Battlefields, historic buildings, and monuments to men’s wars are now included as National Parks alongside our park lands.  How can this be reconciled with the original intent of the National Park System to preserve the masterpieces of creation for all time and all people?

If you would like to speak up against the wolf hunt scheduled to begin this November, 2012 in Minnesota, please contact your representatives, the DNR and check out the links below.  Through your understanding and support perhaps we can move in a more rational direction and stop the taking of another priceless treasure, pitting brother against brother.

Anita Suzanne Tillemans

October 26, 2012

http://howlingforwolves.org/dnr-letter?utm_source=Full+List+9-10-12&utm_campaign=76a091a909-wolf-howl-sound&utm_medium=email

http://www.howlingforwolves.org/about-gray-wolf/#mankind

Office of the DNR Commissioner, 500 Lafayette Rd, St Paul, MN 55115 Tom.Landwehr@state.mn.us    651-296-6157

Office of the Governor, 130 State Capitol, 75  Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, St Paul, MN 55155  mark.dayton@state.mn.us   651-201-3400, 1-800-657-3717, Minnesota Relay:800-627-3529Fax: 651-797-1850

Why the rush to delist the wolf throughout this country?

2_wolves_howling_mixed_media

Consider that in Minnesota there have been no reliable studies to determine the numbers of wolves in the area for years.   In effect, the necessary study and a 5-year moratorium on hunting (after delisting) have been essentially bypassed to rush into a hunting season this fall before actual numbers of the timberwolf (grey wolf) have been determined.  What purpose does this serve and why? 

Consider that the designation of “endangered species” served as a roadblock to exploitation of mineral resources in Northern Minnesota and that these resources, which (among others) include vast deposits of copper, are in the cross hairs along with the wolf ….  Companies are waiting to dig for these minerals and studies have begun.

Study what copper mining, taconite mining …  have done to other wild places and weep; or better yet, save the wolf at the gate of our northern wilderness in Minnesota by protesting the wrong-headed decision to issue 6000 licenses in 2012 to hunt and trap 400 wolves before we even know how many actually remain.  Will only 400 wolves be taken by 6000 hunters?  How will the DNR ensure this?  How do we know that there are 400 wolves to take … wolves that by the taking will not endanger the entire Minnesota stock?  This is a taking for trophy pelts which will most likely affect the strongest, most beautiful animals, the alpha males who protect and defend the pack.  What does common sense tell us about this kind of hunt where almost every means on the ground will be used to take this creature down?

There is entirely too little time in the rush to hunt the wolf to determine the health of our wolf population, the numbers and the viability of a wolf hunting season this year.

In turn, to discuss the survival of the wolf exclusively without understanding the dynamics at play is shortsighted and does not address the problem … the wolf is not only an apex predator serving to maintain a balance in the wild, it is essentially an important key in the protection of our natural resources and maintenance of a healthy environment.

As it has been said so many times before: Where the wolf goes, so goes the wilderness….

Anita S Tillemans

August 13, 2012

Ecological Studies of Wolves on Isle Royale

Once again, experience proves  that our direction concerning wild life management needs careful assessment, not only for the health of all wild species of animals, but for those like ourselves that rely upon diversity like the wolf.  As Native American legend tells it: where our brother the wolf goes, man will soon follow.  Consideration of this possibility, not from fear, but from sound observation and experience is essential.

The annual report from 2011-12 on  Isle Royale wolves and moose has found the lowest documented population of wolves since 1950 when numbers were first assessed, raising concerns about the future of wolves on the island.  Please look for the paper “Managing wolves on Isle Royale: What should be done if an icon of wilderness culture dies out?” written by researchers Rolf Peterson, John Vucetich and Michael P. Nelson to be published in The George Wright Forum this month.

I am including links below for information on the referenced article among others that may be of interest.

http://www.wolf.org/wolves/news/live_news_detail.asp?id=7609
http://www.isleroyalewolf.org/
http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gray_wolf