Friday, June 22, 2018

Juhannus 2018 to feature folk music, dance, workshops, farmers' markets, more June 23-24

Members of the Finnish folk band Jepokryddona, "The Spice Girls of Finland," will participate in the Juhannus 2018 Festival weekend, offering folk music and dance workshops on Saturday, June 23, in Hancock, and a concert June 24 in Jacobsville. (Photo courtesy Finlandia University)

HANCOCK -- Juhannus 2018 is underway! Finnish American Folk School is hosting a Juhannus weekend festival that is celebrating Finnish heritage and the communities in Hancock, Toivola and Jacobsville. The Finnish folk band Jepokryddona, "The Spice Girls of Finland," will headline the area’s Juhannus celebration.

The Juhannus festival includes several folk workshops, a Midsummer pole ceremony, and folk dancing and folk music workshops. And of course, traditional lighting of the Juhannus kokko (bonfire) will take place at Agate beach in Toivola Saturday, June 23.

On Sunday, June 24, as a grand finale of the celebrations, Jepokryddona will hold a concert in Jacobsville Chapel. As their name suggests, their music is spicy, lively and full of temperament.

Here is the schedule for Saturday and Sunday, June 23-24:

Saturday, June 23:

 9 a.m. -- Jouhikko building class continued; completion of this class entitles students to seat in the jouhikko playing workshop later today.

10 a.m. - 2 p.m. -- Tori+, Quincy Green, Hancock. Tori+ brings Farmer’s Market/Arts and Crafts fair to Quincy Green in festival atmosphere. Sponsored by Copper Country Community Arts Center. The regular weekly Tori will also be open at this time in their regular location on Quincy Green.

11 a.m. -- Midsummer pole ceremony, Quincy Green, Hancock. Program includes demonstration by Jepokryddona.

11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. -- Minuet dance workshop by Jepokryddona, Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock. Participants to process in to FAHC following demonstration on Quincy Green. $10 per person/$15 per couple.

4 p.m.-5:30 p.m. -- Folk music workshop with Jepokryddona, at Misery Bay School, Toivola. $10 per person.

5:30-6:30 p.m. -- Jouhikko playing workshop with Clare Zuraw, at Misery Bay School, Toivola. $10 per person, unless enrolled in jouhikko building workshop.

7 p.m.-9 p.m. -- Evening dance with music by Jepokryddona, Agate Beach, Toivola.

9 p.m. -- Lighting of the Juhannus kokko, Agate Beach, Toivola.

Sunday, June 24:

2 p.m. -- Concert by Jepokryddona, Jacobsville Chapel, Jacobsville. Come as you are, pay as you can.

To register for workshops, call (906) 487-7549. All events subject to change.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Father's Day storm impacts roads, neighborhoods, beaches; officials assess damage, warn of health and safety hazards

By Michele Bourdieu

This map of road closures and wash outs provided by the Houghton County Sheriff's office, was published on June 18 on Click here for a larger version. (Reprinted here with permission.)

[Editor's Note: Since our June 17 announcements of road closings, storm damage, etc. (see right-hand column) we have gathered some more UPDATES from various sources in the local area. We are providing links to the sources for detailed information.]

HOUGHTON -- In order to help law enforcement and emergency workers, the public is asked to avoid -- both on foot and in a vehicle -- roads that are closed and washed out as well as other damaged areas.

This morning, on WOLV radio, an announcement from the Houghton Police Department requested that people avoid sightseeing and taking photos of the damage out of curiosity. The public is especially asked not to cross the yellow tape police barricades because it hinders the job of law enforcement and is also dangerous. People should also avoid the waterfront in damaged areas.

This aerial photo shows the Pilgrim River flooding US-41 between Houghton and Chassell. US-41 was closed here Sunday, June 17, but it has been opened for one-lane traffic today. (Photo courtesy State Rep. Scott Dianda. Reprinted with permission.)

As of today, Monday, June 18, the following road closings are listed as follows in the Keweenaw Report:
-- US-41 is open between Chassell and Houghton, but traffic is reduced to one lane at the Pilgrim River, and at Goodwin Motors.
-- M-26 is closed between Ripley and Lake Linden because of numerous washouts.
-- Canal Road is open to emergency traffic only.

The following roads remain closed: Sharon Avenue just east of Memorial Drive, Old Mill Road, Coles Creek Road, Liminga Road, Paradise Road, Boudary Road, 2nd Street in Ripley, Pewabic Street in Ripley, Military Street in Ripley, Upper Forsman Road, Brooks Road, North Royce Road, Beacon Hill/Toivola Road, Red Barn Road, Airport Park Road, Goat Hill Road, Woodside Lane, Hendrickson Road, Salo Road.

In addition the Keweenaw Report also posted a handwritten list of roads with problems from Rob Tarvis at the Houghton County Road Commission. "Roads with an asterisk are impassable; others are damaged, but can be navigated with care. Add to his list North Cloverland Road, which is impassable," the report notes.

Health Department updates

The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department has lifted their June 17 Boil Water Advisories for local municipal water systems, but has issued a precautionary boil water alert for about 50 municipal water system customers in the Torch Lake area because of a water main break.

The Health Department and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality have confirmed that residents in Houghton, Hancock, Portage Township, Chassell, Adams Township, South Range, Calumet, Laurium, Lake Linden, Hubbell, Dollar Bay, and Ripley can continue to use their municipal drinking water supply on a normal basis.

Well-water users who believe their wells may have been flooded from effects of the storm should consult this Keweenaw Report article on well water safety.

Also from the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department is a precautionary beach closure for all recreational bathing beaches in the Western Upper Peninsula. This is due to severe erosion and flooding caused by heavy rains. The public is encouraged to stay away from beaches until flooding has subsided and waters are determined to be safe. Heavy rains can wash bird and animal droppings into larger bodies of water, resulting in higher than normal E.Coli numbers. This precautionary beach closure advisory remains in effect until results from the sampling verify the water is safe for body contact. Health Department staff will conduct sampling of beach water to determine if the water is safe for swimming. Another notice will be issued when the swimming advisory has been lifted. If you have any questions, call the Health Department at (906) 482-7382.

From State Rep. Scott Dianda:

According to State Rep. Scott Dianda's updates on his Facebook page, Governor Snyder has issued a state of disaster declaration for both Houghton and Menominee counties.* (Click below for a link to the Governor's press release.)

Michigan's 110th District State Rep. Scott Dianda, second from right, is pictured here with Houghton County Commission Chair Al Koskela, second from left, and two Michigan State troopers with their helicopter, used on June 17 to survey the damage of the storm in Houghton County. (Photo courtesy State Rep. Scott Dianda. Reprinted with permission.)

"I spent the last two days working on the ground with our first responders, and conducting an aerial survey of the damage with the Michigan State Police," Dianda writes. "The intense storms and flash flooding show significant damage to our roads, highways, businesses and homes and remind us of how fragile Michigan’s infrastructure is. We have much to do to repair and rebuild to ensure that our roads and bridges are fixed right and that this kind of disaster does not happen again. While there are many state departments already active in our communities and offering resources, I will continue to work to ensure that they are here for as long as we need them, and that we maximize all available federal resources to help our families and communities get back on their feet again."**

Rep. Dianda also posted today an announcement from the Portage Health Foundation (PHF) stating that those who wish to contribute to disaster relief efforts can donate to PHF's recently created Houghton County Flood Relief Fund. PHF will receive, record, hold and disperse all monies contributed to this fund in a manner that is deemed appropriate by the PHF Board of Directors with input from the Houghton County Emergency Response leadership.

Contributions can made online at or mailed to Portage Health Foundation, 400 Quincy Street, Hancock, Michigan 49930. Donors are asked to follow the online instructions and put FLOOD RELIEF in the comments section of your contribution so it can be properly recorded and allocated to flood relief efforts. If sending a check, please put Flood Relief in the memo line.

UPDATED: Hancock garbage pick-up and recycling delayed, RESUMES TUESDAY

According to the City of Hancock Web site, Waste Management's curbside garbage and recycling pick-up resumes on Tuesday, June 19, after being delayed one day. See our right-hand column.***

See additional updates and announcements in our right-hand column.


* Click here to read Governor Snyder's June 18, 2018, press release, "Gov. Rick Snyder declares disaster for Houghton and Menominee counties." The article also announces a Michigan State Police Web site, Western U.P. Flooding, created for this disaster.

** Visit Rep. Dianda's Facebook page here.

*** Visit the City of Hancock Web site for updates on garbage pick-up. See additional updates and announcements in our right-hand column.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Pine Mountain Music Festival brings opera, flamenco, Bergonzi Quartet, young classical talent to U.P. June 15-30

The 2018 Pine Mountain Music Festival will present Bizet's sensuous opera, Carmen, starring Amanda Crider as Carmen. Pictured here is French flamenco dancer Karyne Arys as the Gypsy dancer in the opera. She also appears in the festival's Alma Flamenca and "A Taste of Carmen." (Photos courtesy Pine Mountain Music Festival)

HOUGHTON -- Welcome to the 28th season of the Pine Mountain Music Festival (PMMF)! The 2018 festival takes place June 15 - June 30 in Houghton, Calumet, Marquette, Iron Mountain, and Crystal Falls. This season's pièce de résistance is Bizet’s sensuous opera, Carmen, presented with full orchestra in Houghton’s Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts featuring Amanda Crider as Carmen, Isaac Hurtado as Don José, Heather Youngquist as Micaëla and Christopher Holmes as Escamillo. World-class French flamenco dancer Karyne Arys from Bordeaux, France, will dance the Gypsy dance to open Act II -- joined by guitarist "Polchu" from Paris and percussionist, Kahlil Sabbagh. The orchestra and chorus include professional musicians from the U.P. and surrounding areas.

Flamenco dancer Karyne Arys, makes her stunning debut at the Festival. Karyne brings nuanced athleticism and sensitive artistry to this ancient Spanish dance form. In addition to performing in the opera Carmen June 28 and 30, her troupe will perform in Alma Flamenca at the Crystal Theatre in Crystal Falls on June 23 and in the Calumet Theatre on June 24.

Iron Mountain and Marquette will enjoy "A Taste of Carmen," including arias from Carmen and dances from Alma Flamenca, appropriate for inclusion with the songs of Carmen.
Inset photo: French Flamenco dancer Karyne Arys.

The Bergonzi String Quartet, returning for its 24th residency at the Pine Mountain Music Festival, will perform concerts June 20 in Reynolds Hall, Marquette; June 21 at Immaculate Conception Church, Iron Mountain; and on June 23 at the Rozsa Center, Houghton. Their 2018 repertoire includes Divertimento No. 3, K. 138 (Mozart), Quartet, Op. 11 (Barber), and Quartet in C Minor (Brahms).
The Bergonzi String Quartet will perform in Marquette, Iron Mountain and Houghton.

The quartet also continues its special tradition of presenting free children's concerts throughout the U.P.*

The inspiring UPstarts concert series, now in its 6th year, features talented young musicians from the Upper Peninsula. Winning participants are selected from a peninsula-wide UPstarts Talent Contest that mines the best talent in the region. The 2018 winners are Elizabeth Grugin, Cheyenne Kaufman, Irene Ra, and Isabel Valencia. Susie Byykkonen, the festival's staff accompanist, accompanies the group. They will perform in Marquette, Houghton and Kingsford.

Justin Spenner and Mario Perez -- creators of the innovative B-Sides Art Song Collective -- will present a one-night-only vocal recital of the sublime art songs of German Romantic composer Robert Schumann on June 19 at Portage Lake United Church in Houghton. Works include Dichterliebe (A Poet's Love) and Liederkreis (Round of Songs). Leslie Dukes accompanies.

Pine Mountain Music Festival has a lasting commitment to bringing classical music to the Western Upper Peninsula. The Festival was founded in Iron Mountain, Michigan, in 1991 by Laura Jean Deming, a cellist and member of the orchestra of Lyric Opera of Chicago. That first season was primarily chamber music, but by 1992 opera was being produced. Carmen will be the 37th opera produced by PMMF.

This year the Festival is offering a $99 family season pass. This is part of a concerted effort to bring the next generation out to enjoy fine music. Festival artists will also conduct workshops and visit schools as "artists in residence" to further enlighten the next generation.

As residence of the U.P. we revel in our quality of life in this extraordinary land. Pine Mountain Music Festival is a major element in maintaining the special cultural perfection we enjoy. Tickets are available at**

* Visit for event details.
** Click here for the calendar and click on an event to order tickets or see the PMMF 2018 Ticket Brochure for more details.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Photography exhibit by Terhi Asumaniemi to open June 7 at Finlandia University Gallery

The Dawn, 2017. Pigment print by Finnish visual artist Terhi Asumaniemi. (Photos courtesy Finlandia University Gallery)

HANCOCK -- Finlandia University Gallery will present the work of Finnish visual artist Terhi Asumaniemi. Mindscapes - Forest Narratives, a photography exhibit, will be on display from June 7 to July 20, 2018. The Finlandia University Gallery is located in the Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock.

An opening reception for the public will take place at the gallery from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 7, with an artist talk beginning at 7:20 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Photographing the changing forests and mire landscapes of southern Finland, Terhi Asumaniemi examines our relationship with nature and how it is shaped by the cultural attitudes of the times and the moral and spiritual connections humans have with the environment. As forest industry has expanded in Finland, the forests of the artist’s childhood look different and mysterious to her now. Her poetic landscapes delve deeply into the interwoven relationship of humans and their environment.

The artist Terhi Asumaniemi.

"My own roots are in the rugged deep forests of southern Finland," says Asumaniemi. "According to research and oral tradition this area was in olden times inhabited by a mythical, indigenous people, which has been characterized as 'the Sami people' of the South. This vanished folk lived in the wooded areas up to the start of the modern age eventually blending into the main population. These days there is dispute about their real origin (about who they really were); however, they still live on in stories and legends."

Midsummer Magic by Terhi Asumaniemi.

"In my work I follow old stories deep into the forest where the real landscapes meet the way others describe, comprehend, and interpret their life-worlds resulting in various states of mind," continues Asumaniemi. "The creatures of the forest show themselves in the firelight, the ancient sea washes the rocks of the water spirits and the wanderer is lead to the expansive mire landscapes by those who watch over the deer."

Asumaniemi lives and works in Tampere, Finland. She received an MA in photography and visual journalism from Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Helsinki, Finland (2012), and a BA degree from Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands (1998).

Birdsong by Terhi Asumaniemi.
The Finlandia University Gallery is in the Finnish American Heritage Center, 435 Quincy Street, Hancock. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 906-487-7500.

Click here to learn more about this exhibit, other exhibits and the Finlandia University Gallery.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Grief workshop offers inservice training for staff, volunteers at Little Brothers

By Vanessa Dietz *

Pictured from the left, Sarah Cheney and Cynthia Drake conduct a grief workshop at Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly in Hancock on May 14, as Sandra Lewin and other participants look on. (Photo © and courtesy Vanessa Dietz)

"When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool."  - Chinua Achebe

"When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for your delight."  - Kahil Gibran

HANCOCK - Nothing has the power to diminish the tremendous love that binds us to one another -- even death.

Yet, the more we love someone, the harder it can be to learn to live without them, especially in societies where we suppress grief and avoid talking about death.

Two women are bringing light to the dark place in which we find ourselves after a loved one dies by talking about grief, most notably in a series of area workshops.

"What is the common denominator we all have that is one of the hardest things we have to do?" Cynthia Drake asked rhetorically.

In addition to being a life coach in Ripley and an avid volunteer, Drake helps Sarah Cheney facilitate grief workshops. Cheney is researching grief in the Upper Peninsula in pursuit of her master’s degree in social work from New York City’s Columbia University.

"Grief is a normal and natural response to loss and the most challenging, painful, and often traumatic experience in our lives," answered Cheney in a research summary she presented at a May 14 grief inservice workshop at Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly in Hancock. "Grieving is more than sadness and tears, it is the essence of our love. It serves as an important function to continue the love relationship -- the love and relationship don’t die."

Sarah Cheney, left, and Cynthia Drake display one of the posters for their workshop on grief at Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly in Hancock. Click on photo for larger version. (Photo courtesy Cynthia Drake)

"People we love are literally part of us," said Cheney. "They affect our heart rate, blood pressure, immune system function, inflammatory responses, pain, and temperature sensitivity, even gene function."

According to Cheney’s research summary, her ongoing grief research project involves studying community members’ experiences of grief, perspectives of difficult emotions, and effects of community grief support.

"There is a huge need in the community," Cheney said, based on her local research. "We’ve learned that people in our community want better grief support from friends and family and want to provide better support to others, but don’t know how."

Cheney and Drake are teaching people how to talk about, understand and accept grief and death as a way to make their families and the community less traumatized by the common experience. After all, no one lives forever.

"Grieving is both public and private," Cheney informed about 10 interested staff and volunteers at Little Brothers. "It’s a dual problem."

It’s something we tend to struggle with silently, she added. Confronting grief this way can reduce the pain it causes.

"To help others in grief, we need to start with our own grief and acknowledge our own suffering," Cheney said. "Acknowledging our shared suffering and focusing on compassion and empathy can help us grow and change throughout life transitions."

Grief workshops to continue at Omega House hospice

Cheney will be talking about grief to an even wider and younger audience in the next year. She’s going to be a mental health counselor at Houghton-Portage Township Schools for the 2018-19 school year, while continuing to facilitate individual and monthly community grief workshops at Omega House, a hospice in Houghton, where she recently completed one internship. In addition to providing excellent end-of-life care, Omega House recruits and trains grief support workers to help the dying and their families through this difficult time.**

Sandra Lewin, of Calumet, attested to this fact at the workshop. She said she has helped raise funds for Omega House, where she learned to cope with death.

"It really helped me when my own parents died," Lewin said.

Lewin noted she felt less afraid than she might have without her hospice experiences and welcomed the peace she felt in the aftermath.

"It’s a gift to be able to be there," Drake said about seeing people and their families through the passage.

Experience from work at Little Brothers

Drake moved to the area in 1990 to work for Little Brothers, where she got plenty of hands-on experience grieving "forever" friends.

"This is big in my heart," she told fellow volunteers looking for ways to deal with the grief they face everyday in the aging community Little Brothers serves. "I remember working here. You go to a lot of funerals."

Finding one’s path after a loss, and/or responding to others who experience the death of a loved one, follows no prescribed course, but can become clearer with the guidance Cheney and Drake offered in the hour-plus Little Brothers inservice workshop.

This table set-up greeted participants in the recent grief inservice at Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly in Hancock. (Photo courtesy Cynthia Drake)

"There are no stages," Cheney said, wanting to get one thing straight. "These myths create unnecessary judgment and suffering."

She said the current philosophy and research on grief debunks the five stages popularized by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Those and other feelings might all come and go as we grieve. Being compassionate in the knowledge that grieving involves a unique whirlwind of emotions is important whether dealing with our own losses or helping someone else who is going through the process.

"Feelings are never right or wrong. They’re just feelings," offered Lee Parker, of Baltic.

Parker noted she’s been lucky in not having to experience the death of younger family members so far in her long life.

"It’s gone in the order it’s supposed to," she said, which helped ease her suffering.

No matter the intensity of our grief, Cheney suggested the best path is to notice all your thoughts and emotions and attend to the ones that drive you toward your true values and loved ones.

"Take that pause moment to reflect on whether or not to approach someone," advised Drake, telling tales of having done both. "Lean into that discomfort. Notice what you want to do. Try something new. Try a different way of approaching people. Be present with the one you’re with. This relationship doesn’t look a certain way."

Drake said one grieving woman tired of the barrage of concerned people she ran into after a loved one died and simply wanted to hear, "It’s nice to see you."

Said Cheney, "You were taking her cues. You paused and noticed."

She advised people inclined to talk to someone who is grieving to ask themselves some questions: "Is this about you or is this about them? Are you just trying to cross something off your list or do you support them?"

While there’s no one way to offer compassionate support, people should be aware of their own emotions going in, listen carefully, and act accordingly.

Cheney advised "being comfortable to be uncomfortable," and using "creative discreteness" to know when and how to approach someone who is having a rough time after someone they love dies. Often, less is more in these interactions. "Attend to the emotion that needs to be attended to."

The fingertrap exercise

Using fingertraps as a tool, workshop participants experienced being stuck in the woven contraptions.

During the May 14 Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly grief workshop, Sarah Cheney demonstrates how a classic Chinese fingertrap works as Julie Beck ponders her plight. Beck, the Forever Friends program coordinator at Little Brothers, participated in this exercise illustrating the struggle of life and thinking outside the box. Your index fingers remain stuck in the braided bamboo finger traps when you try to pull your fingers out. (Photo © and courtesy Vanessa Dietz)

"The fingertrap is the struggle of life," Cheney said, as people unsuccessfully attempted to pull their forefingers out.

Smiling, she reminded them that sometimes the harder you fight to pull away from something, the more you remain stuck. While it may seem counterintuitive, pushing the fingertips toward each other loosens the weave, allowing release -- much like how leaning into our complex feelings about grief can bring much-needed relief.

Grieving is a cultural phenomenon guided by social norms that can seem to impose limitations on how and how long we do it.

"There was this idea that you were supposed to move on," Cheney said. "You need to spend time grieving. It’s hard work. Focus on the grieving, then go back to your life."

European volunteers offer their perspectives

Two young women visiting from Europe who are volunteering at Little Brothers in Hancock shared their observations of death rituals.

Pictured from left, Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly volunteers Selina Lutzel of Germany and Alois Moisson of France say Europeans grieve a little differently than their American counterparts. (Photo courtesy Little Brothers)

"Usually we don’t talk about that because (the) person might be sad or depressed," said Alois Moisson of France. "Each person settles their own individual way. We try to be positive. We’re just more shy (and) stay quiet at (the) funeral in church to respect the family. We don’t sing. I was shocked (about the) songs and how loud."

Facing death for just the third time in her life, Selina Lutzel of Germany was troubled by a recent funeral.

"It wasn’t what I expected," Lutzel said, adding it was "more sad. No one really talked about her."

More grief workshops available to groups

Cheney and Drake are also willing to tailor grief workshops for other businesses and organizations, as they did at Little Brothers.

For more information on individual, group, or organizational grief workshops, contact Cheney at (906) 281-5558 or Drake can be reached at (906) 370-6686 or

"We’re building legacy," Drake said. "They continue on through their memories, their stories, their legacies. How things have shifted in history because they were here. The love never ends. The love never dies."

Editor's Notes:

* Guest writer Vanessa Dietz is a freelance journalist, formerly feature editor and reporter for The Daily Mining Gazette.

** This is the second article in our series on community support in times of death and grieving. See the first article, also by Vanessa Dietz, "Omega House offers quality hospice care for terminally ill, welcoming atmosphere and counseling for families," posted May 14, 2018.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Isle Royale Winter Study celebrates 60 years

60 years. Two wolves. A lot of moose. (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

By Allison Mills, Michigan Tech Associate Director of Research Communications
Posted on Michigan Tech News May 17, 2018
Reprinted in part with permission

HOUGHTON -- The 2018 report is out: two wolves, almost 1,500 moose and an ecosystem in transition. In its 60th year, the research is the longest running predator-prey study of its kind.

Researchers from Michigan Technological University have released the annual Winter Study report detailing updates on the ecology of Isle Royale National Park. For the third year in a row, the Isle Royale wolf population remains a mere two, while the moose population continues to stay above the historic average. Without the pressure of predation, the expanding moose population will have a greater impact on the island's forest ecology.

The study co-authors include Research Professor Rolf Peterson, Professor John Vucetich and Assistant Research Professor Sarah Hoy. They say the heart of the study's success has been the more than 1,000 citizen science volunteers who have bolstered the study's fieldwork efforts in small teams totaling about 40 people each year for the last 30 years. Together, they helped gather enough skulls to document the shrinking moose of Isle Royale, observe seasonal wolf activity and earned more than their fair share of hiking boot blisters....

The National Park Service has proposed introducing 20-30 wolves to the island over the next three years. The final environmental impact statement was completed and the identified preferred alternative is to restore wolf predation, but the final decision on the plan is pending as of the Winter Study report publication.*
Click here to read the rest of this article on the Michigan Tech News.

* The National Park Service's Final Environmental Impact Statement to Address the Presence of Wolves (plan/FEIS) evaluates whether and how to bring wolves to Isle Royale to function as the apex predator within a changing and dynamic island ecosystem. The NPS preferred alternative is Alternative B, which calls for the introduction of 20 to 30 wolves over a three-year period. The goal of this alternative is to provide an introduction of wolves that has the potential to become a self-sustaining population. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Omega House offers quality hospice care for terminally ill, welcoming atmosphere and counseling for families

By Vanessa Dietz *

The sign outside Omega House in Houghton beckons people to visit the hospice. (Photos © and courtesy Vanessa Dietz)

HOUGHTON -- There’s a doorbell, but you don’t have to ring it at Omega House in Houghton. Through its figurative revolving door, the 24-7 hospice welcomes visitors, most of whom come to see their loved ones -- quite possibly for the last time.

Here's the main entrance of Omega House, located at 2211 Maureen Lane in Houghton.

Music plays in the background of the renovated house, where terminally ill patients are treated with compassion, respect and dignity by professional, volunteer and family caregivers.

"This is their home," said Omega House Executive Director Mike Lutz, who joined the staff as the first executive director in January 2016. Governed by an 18-member board, Omega House has been in operation since 2005.

"They’re all at different stages of dying," Lutz explained. "People come in all day long or any time (without) restriction. Those kinds of things enhance the quality of life."

The team at Omega House provides around-the-clock services to people who need more care than is available at home in the final phases of their lives.

Eight patient rooms sport private bathrooms, recliners, cable television, individual heating and cooling controls, ample seating for visitors, and large, low windows with a view of the surrounding gardens and trees so even those who are bedridden can take in the scenery. One of the rooms is set aside to provide temporary respite care for individuals recuperating from surgery, illness or hospitalization whose caregivers need a break for whatever reason.

In addition to staff office space and commercial laundry facilities, the house has a living room with a television, VCR, laptop computer and piano, as well as a quiet, meditation room, kitchen, and dining area, all of which are open to patients and their families. The house also has two specially designed bathrooms with walk- or wheel-in showers and whirlpool baths.

Omega House is beautiful inside and out, with an inviting  outdoor patio easily accessed through a side door. Comfortable wicker furniture beckons residents and visitors to enjoy the outdoors when the weather is nice.

Omega House Executive Director Michael Lutz enjoys the spring sunshine on the patio of the Houghton hospice.

The staff regularly perform housekeeping duties and prepare home-cooked meals that are served any time of the day or night to patients. Families are welcome to cook their own favorite dishes there as well.

"You eat when you want to eat," Lutz said. "We’re not that structured here. At home, we eat when we we’re hungry. We encourage families to come in and use our stove. We want our residents to be comfortable."

While the numbers vary, Lutz said an overall average of 5.5 residents stay about 10 days. The house has had around 500 residents, with about 40 new patients coming through the door each year.

"I’d like to see people come to Omega House earlier," he said, because it would allow caregivers to work with patients and families longer to help them all more fully prepare for their loved one’s death. That’s a family choice. Some spend a year here. This year we’re training for a record year. As baby boomers start aging, we may need to add rooms. This is an elderly area."

The Copper Country’s aging population is expected to drive the need for hospice services in the western Upper Peninsula.

Addressing each family's physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological and social needs, caregivers help control pain and symptoms so residents can live each day more comfortably.

Generous community support enables Omega House to care for people with limited insurance and finances. No one is turned away from Omega House due to lack of financial resources.

Covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurances, fees are based on a sliding scale. Residents are charged a daily rate from $30 to $260 per day, depending on their insurance coverage and financial resources. Lutz said the average cost is $120.

"What makes up the difference is community donations," Lutz said. "Donations need to be strong."

Donors' names are etched in glass panes inside Omega House in Houghton.

Logging about 3,000 hours per year, volunteers help Omega House make ends meet.

"They provide us another level of care," Lutz said.

People can give of their time, or contribute in other ways.

"We get lots of donations," Lutz added, gesturing to a stack of cookies and other bakery he said was typical of the fare available at any given time. Biggby Coffee owner Landon Palmer and his wife, Abby Palmer, recently stopped by with samples of their delicious coffee, shortly before a couple showed up with their little dog in tow to visit a loved one.

Biggby Coffee owner Landon Palmer and his wife, Abby Palmer, recently delivered coffee to Omega House in Houghton.

"You see so much good," Lutz said. "The community organizations are working together."

And it’s not just the financial and food donations that make a difference in residents’ everyday lives. Tadych’s Econo Foods sends fresh flowers to each patient weekly.

"As a dedicated community partner, Econo Foods seized the opportunity to enhance the final days of Omega House residents," said Econo's Houghton Store Manager Scott Rubich.

Art from Calumet High School and Michigan Technological University students has graced the walls in the past and new exhibits are always welcome.

"We try to showcase things, to try to drive foot traffic," Lutz said, adding Omega House also relies on several fundraisers to raise money each year.

Upcoming fundraisers to include golf, music events

In addition to a yearly vacation raffle, the 16th annual Joe Evans Golf Classic will be June 9 at the Portage Lake Golf Course in Houghton. And for a $10 suggested donation, people can enjoy the 12th annual Omega House summer concert at 7 p.m. on July 24 at Saints Peter and Paul Lutheran Church in Houghton. Another musical fundraiser tentatively set for Sept. 29 will feature an out-of-town band at the Calumet Theatre.

Lutz noted these events are really part of efforts to raise awareness of what the hospice has to offer.

Facilitators, counselors help patient and family

Getting residents and their families through the dying process in the best way is another focus at the Omega House.

Trained facilitators broach often difficult discussions with patients and their families, including advance care planning. The planning process entails the patient choosing an advocate to speak for them when they no longer can, telling the staff and family how they want to be treated, including the specific medical care they want and don’t want -- all aimed at reducing the burden on the family to make hard choices at a difficult time.

The staff also provides bereavement counseling to meet the social, emotional and spiritual needs of patients and families and welcomes members of the clergy anytime.

"People don’t like to talk about death and dying, but they’ll listen," Lutz said.

The Rice Memorial Foundation recently awarded Omega House a $6,400 grant and the Portage Health Auxiliary just chipped in another $1,000 to help fund a community grief support program which provides for a ongoing series of grief workshops and free counseling for community members, including the youngest members of the family.

"These children are suffering out there," Lutz said, whether due to the loss of a loved one, or other family upset like divorce. "They get lost and they have no one to turn to."

Any remaining funds will be used to augment the library selection of the house.

Potential volunteers and donors can contact Omega House, located at 2211 Maureen Lane in Houghton, next door to The Bluffs Senior Community. For more information, call (906) 482-4438, visit, or email

* Guest writer Vanessa Dietz is a freelance journalist, formerly feature editor and reporter for The Daily Mining Gazette.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Landowners alarmed by Highland Copper subsidiary's mineral lease requests; Highland completes Copperwood 2018 winter exploration in Porkies

By Michele Bourdieu
With information from UPEC's Mining Action Group and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Granite Cliff Community along (North) Rocking Chair Lake -- an area included in recent mineral lease requests to the State of Michigan by UPX Minerals, a subsidiary of Highland Copper. (Photo courtesy Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

MARQUETTE -- Landowners and residents in Marquette and Iron counties are expressing alarm at mineral lease requests to Michigan's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) by Highland Copper Company's subsidiary UPX Minerals, leading to an extension of the comment period on the leases to June 11, 2018. Meanwhile the DNR has announced completion of this year's winter mineral exploration by Highland's subsidiary Copperwood Resources Inc.

Landowners, environmentalists concerned by UPX mineral lease requests 

According to the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition's (UPEC's) Mining Action Group, local property owners are expressing alarm over mineral lease requests made by UPX Minerals, a wholly owned subsidiary of Highland Copper. UPX is seeking to lease nearly 4,000 acres of State-owned minerals in Marquette and Iron counties. Most of these mineral properties are in Marquette County; and many are underneath private property, homes, camps, rivers and streams, lakes, wetlands -- even nature reserves.

"We opened our mail and found a notice from UPX Minerals requesting a direct metallic minerals lease from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) -- under our own home," said Sue Beckstrom Noel, a concerned local resident. "We were horrified! The owner of mineral rights can access your property, conduct exploration or drilling, or potentially develop a mine under your home or camp, and as the landowner you have very little control over that. Doesn’t that seem outrageous?"

According to Karen Maidlow, DNR property specialist in the Office of Minerals Management, "The State of Michigan, as a severed mineral owner, does have the right to lease the severed minerals when the surface is not owned because the mineral estate is considered the dominant estate. DNR staff review parcels for lease classification and determine the most appropriate lease classification for resource protection as if the State owned the surface. The lease applicant is required to notify the surface owner during the public notice period. If a Lessee of State minerals wants to explore or develop the minerals, they need to work with the surface owner regarding the anticipated reasonable use of the land surface, in addition to working with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the State mining regulatory agency. The lease provides that the Lessee shall pay damages to the surface owner should any damages occur directly or indirectly from mining operations."

Local residents and landowners have been meeting recently to discuss their concerns about the proposed leases.

After hearing from concerned citizens, the Mining Action Group, Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC), Superior Watershed Partnership and others requested an extension of the public comment period, originally scheduled to expire early in May. It has been extended to June 11, 2018.

More than 3,800 acres of the requested mineral leases would be located in Champion, Michigamme, Negaunee, Ishpeming and Marquette townships, and include sensitive and scenic areas. Some mineral lease requests could impact the Noquemanon Trail Network in the Forestville Trailhead area, Echo Lake Nature Preserve, Teal Lake -- and the Vielmetti-Peters Conservation Reserve, owned by the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy.*

The UPX mineral lease request also targets the Rocking Chair Lakes -- considered by the DNR to be one of Marquette County’s wild gems, and recently nominated to become "The Rocking Chair Lakes Ecological Reference Area." This remote area of state land includes four different Ecological Reference Areas (ERAs): Northern Shrub Thicket, Dry Mesic Northern Forest, Mesic Northern Forest, and Granite Cliff. The rugged terrain of the Mulligan Escarpment is also the heart of Michigan’s moose range.**

Dry Mesic Northern Forest along (South) Rocking Chair Lake. (Photo courtesy Michigan DNR) 

John Pepin, DNR deputy public information officer, offered Keweenaw Now this information on the leases: "Parcels under lease request have been reviewed by DNR field staff to determine if there are resources on the parcel that need protecting. Based on the review, DNR staff have recommended the most appropriate classification for surface use for each parcel under lease request should the lease be approved. The recommended lease classification for parcels in the Rocking Chair area is Leasable Nondevelopment. This means the lease would not allow the parcel’s surface to be used for metallic minerals exploration or development without separate written permission from the DNR."

This map shows some parcels requested by UPX for mineral leasing in Marquette County. Section 10 includes the Rocking Chair Lakes area. Note that 8 of the parcels in Section 10 are marked with an X for nondevelopment, while the other 4 have an R for restricted development.***

This map shows some of the state-owned parcels requested for mineral leasing by UPX. Click here and go to p. 15 in the parcel list and maps document for a larger version of this map. (Map courtesy Michigan DNR)

Pepin also explained that a lease is not a permit.

"If a lease is granted by the DNR, the lease grants only the exclusive right to pursue exploration and development," Pepin said. "It does not provide a permit for any of these activities. Any and all needed permissions from the DEQ, the State mining regulatory agency, and local government would need to be acquired by the lessee before any surface or subsurface work occurs. The lease is only the first step to allow the Lessee the exclusive right to assess the mineral potential to the parcels under lease."

Northern Shrub Thicket along the Mulligan Creek. (Photo courtesy Michigan DNR)

Julie Hintsala, a local landowner, commented on the scenic beauty in the area of wooded lands near the McClure Basin and Neejee Road, where her family built a home in 1992.

"Other people appreciate the scenic beauty of the region also, because the old steel bridge and the new high bridge on Co. Rd. 510 over the Dead River are two of the most photographed areas in Marquette County," Hintsala said.  "Imagine having a mine in the background of your next bridge photo! It is shocking to consider. This would also impact the Noquemanon Ski Trail, the Hoist and McClure Basins, and the nearby Ore to Shore bike race."

Hintsala described herself as "a life-long Yooper" who appreciates the importance of mining to the area, but who believes in the current importance of tourism and recreation as well.

"Tourism, mountain biking and cross country skiing in this area would be devastated by possible mining operations," Hintsala said. "Is it worth forever changing our landscape and risking our environment, including the nearby Dead River basin, for a short-term mining operation? Why would the State of Michigan consider allowing mineral rights to be leased for exploration so near a community in Negaunee township in an area that will impact recreation and tourism?"

When asked why the company wanted to conduct mining exploration in residential areas, a UPX representative contacted by phone replied, "We’re just trying to tie areas together that we already have rights to."

In 2017, UPX Minerals acquired nearly 500,000 acres of mineral properties in the Central Upper Peninsula of Michigan -- lands formerly owned by Rio Tinto and Kennecott. UPX is reviewing historic mineral exploration data, and conducting "field exploration" in search of orogenic gold, magmatic nickel-copper and zinc-copper deposits in the various properties. Their goal is to "define drilling targets" this year, creating a "pipeline" of future mining projects.

Approximately 119 acres of the lease requests are located in the Crystal Falls Township of Iron County, adjacent to the East Branch of the Fence River, and underneath Wilson Creek and wetlands.

"Iron County communities and watersheds continue to feel the impacts of the iron ore mines that have been closed for more than 40 years," said Maggie Scheffer, a board member of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, who resides in Iron County. "The parcels identified for mineral exploration, and potential mining in Iron County, are remote, water-rich sites. It is in our best interest to protect our watersheds from wide-scale ecological disruption, and look instead toward a future that allows our local economies to thrive because of the natural beauty that attracts people to our area."

Richard Sloat, also a resident of Iron County, commented on Highland Copper's wetlands and soil erosion violations during their 2017 winter exploration in and near the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park during last year's spring thaw.

"Granting the mineral lease rights allowing exploration could lead to a possible mishap such as what occurred in the Porcupine Mountains wilderness area," said Sloat. "Degradation at that exploration site could have been prevented had there been proper oversight and inspection by the DNR and DEQ."

This April 26, 2017, photo shows sediment-filled muddy water passing through fiber rolls (erosion control) on an access road left chewed up by Highland Copper's drilling equipment in early spring last year. Muddy water was flowing into ditches of CR-519, which conveyed the water to a ravine that feeds the Presque Isle River. (Keweenaw Now file photo © Steve Garske and courtesy Mining Action Group)

Last year UPEC's Mining Action Group alerted the public when the DNR, DEQ and the Gogebic County Road Commission did not monitor the contractor during a period of rapid thawing, causing significant damage to public property along CR-519 or 510.**** 

Highland Copper's Copperwood Project: more exploration in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

Highland Copper is currently developing projects in Gogebic and Ontonagon counties, and in the Keweenaw Peninsula. They own the Copperwood Project, where they propose to mine adjacent to the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (aka the Porkies) and potentially underneath the park itself.

In April, the DNR announced that Copperwood Resources Inc. -- a subsidiary of Highland Copper -- had completed its 2018 winter exploration of a 1-mile section of the westernmost portion of the Porkies.

Exploratory drilling was conducted in this part of Gogebic County to see if the eastern extension of a mineral deposit first explored in the 1950s might feasibly be mined, which could potentially enlarge the mining company’s Copperwood Project beyond its currently-permitted boundaries.

Drilling and testing will determine hydrologic and geologic composition of the bedrock beneath the surface. Copperwood Resources is leasing the mineral rights from another company, which owns those rights beneath this part of the park. The state of Michigan manages the land surface features.

Earlier this winter, the Michigan DNR granted a land use permit for the work, allowing the mining company to resume exploration begun last winter at the park. The Gogebic County Road Commission granted a separate permit. Additional permits were required from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for two of the drilling sites situated in wetland areas.

The Gogebic County Road Commission and DNR permits included several provisions aimed at protecting land surface features.

"All of the stipulations in the use permit were followed," said Doug Rich, western U.P. district supervisor for the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division.

Steve Casey, Upper Peninsula district supervisor of Michigan DEQ Water Resources Division, told Keweenaw Now that Highland Copper restored the wetlands they had damaged last year and obtained wetland permits for this year's drilling.

"We're not aware of any problems this year," Casey said. "They did what they were supposed to do according to the permit to prevent problems like those they had last year."

Three holes were drilled this winter on park land. A separate land use permit was granted by the Gogebic County Road Commission for drilling work at three sites that took place on county property, within the right-of-way of County Road 519.

Two additional test holes were drilled to the ore body from Copperwood Resources property situated west of the park. The mining company has completed winter exploration on its lands.

"We are pleased to have completed the drilling program on our Copperwood project, and would like to thank the DNR, DEQ, and the Gogebic County Road Commission for their cooperation over the last few months," said Justin van der Toorn, exploration manager of Copperwood Resources Inc. "The winter conditions have held out well for us and allowed us to finish all eight drill holes as planned. The information and assays that are derived from this work will now be incorporated into our ongoing feasibility study that is still on schedule for completion this summer."

UPEC President Horst Schmidt commented on Highland Copper's and state agencies' improved oversight of the winter exploratory drilling.

"This year the DNR, fearing negative public reaction, has had a carefully orchestrated PR campaign to show the public they are monitoring the drilling activity," Schmidt said. "I applaud them for it. This is what should be done at all times in all places by both the DNR and DEQ as well as by county agencies."

Schmidt added, "The real problem is the state's destructive severance of surface and subsurface rights -- which gives the extractive industries carte blanche to remove minerals, oil, gas and water almost anywhere. The DEQ gave permits for mining right next to Lake Superior for the Copperwood project and the DNR can allow them to mine under the Porkies, a supposedly development-free wilderness park. There must be a change in the way 'resources' are removed. 'Resources' are inextricably linked to the essential constituents necessary for all creatures to survive: water, air, land. UPEC has conveyed this message for over four decades. The lesson has still to be learned."

Public urged to comment on UPX mineral lease requests by June 11, 2018

Dennis and Kim Ferraro of Marquette, who formerly lived in Chicago and Indiana, said they relocated to the U.P. last year because they fell in love with the natural beauty, clean air and water, and opportunities for outdoor recreation.

"However, we now face a grave threat to that environment because UPX, Inc., subsidiary of Canadian conglomerate, Highland Copper, has targeted Marquette County for exploration and potential development of sulfide ore mining, a form of extraction that may leave the air, streams and groundwater polluted with toxic by-products," the Ferraros said. "We ask our fellow citizens to join us in urging DNR to reject this corporate poaching of our environment by submitting comments before the public comment period expires."

The public is urged to submit written comments expressing their concerns and providing additional information "relative to the request to lease the specified mineral rights" by June 11, 2018, to DNR, Office of Minerals Management, P.O. Box 30452, Lansing MI 48909, or

"If Highland Copper / UPX succeeds in taking even a fraction of these sulfide-mineral deposits from exploration to development, the risk to the Lake Superior watershed will be significantly heightened," warned Louis Galdieri, a writer and filmmaker interested in the history and long-term prosperity of the Lake Superior basin.

Asked if the DNR might hold a public hearing in addition to extending the public comment period, Karen Maidlow replied, "The lease only allows the Lessee the exclusive right to assess the mineral potential to the state-owned parcels under lease. The majority of leases expire without exploration or development occurring. Separate permissions to explore or mine must be obtained from the DEQ. In the event a metallic ore body is discovered, a mining plan must be submitted to the DEQ (and to the DNR if state land is involved). At that stage, public hearings are held so the public can be informed of the specifics of the proposed mining plan and provide valued feedback."  


* See the Michigan DNR: UPX Mineral Lease Request: Parcel List and Maps

** Click here for the Rocking Chair Lakes ERA Plan.

*** Click here for the DNR's definitions of Metallic and Nonmetallic Minerals Lease Classifications.

**** See our May 12, 2017, article, "DEQ cites Highland Copper's wetlands, soil erosion violations from mining exploration in Porkies, along CR 519."