Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ninth-graders write bill against sulfide mining

MARQUETTE -- Ninth-graders Kenyon McFarlane and Sarah Jane Crimmins of Leland Public School recently introduced a bill to place a ban on metallic sulfide mining throughout the state of Michigan. According to an article posted on June 18, 2008, on Save the Wild UP, the students' project was presented at a Youth in Government Conference last April.

In a description of their Youth in Government experience, the students write, "Out of over 900 bills, our bill ended up being one of only 16 bills that were officially passed during the April Conference. We were very grateful that our bill was passed, but we realized that the journey wasn’t over yet. Because it was passed in the youth government, the bill will now be proposed to the real Michigan legislature, and it has the chance of being signed into law."*

More updates from Save the Wild UP

Save the Wild UP also posted on June 1, 2008, an Action Alert concerning violence against opponents of mining projects in the region.

The article recounts the incident of violence against Robert Pryor, husband of Cynthia Pryor, executive director of the Yellowdog Watershed Preserve and an active opponent of Kennecott Minerals' Eagle Project, the proposed sulfide mine near Marquette. While Cynthia was attending the contested case hearings in Lansing currently challenging the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's decision to permit the sulfide mine, her husband was attacked at their cabin, located near the proposed site of the mine.

According to the article, "He [Robert Pryor] was assaulted by three unknown males in the late hours of the evening at his cabin which is located in a remote area near Big Bay. The three identified themselves by asking if he 'was one of those anti-mining guys.' When he asked them to leave they knocked him to the ground and beat him, leaving him unconscious outside in the freezing rain."

This same article reports the visit to the shareholders' meeting for Rio Tinto, Kennecott's parent company, in London, England, by a Michigan delegation -- including Susan La Fernier, vice president of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community; Fran Whitman from Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK); Gabriel Caplett, from Northwoods Wilderness Recovery and Yellow Dog Summer; and Cynthia Pryor from the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.

"Susan La Fernier tried to ask the Rio Tinto board how they planned to protect and guarantee the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community’s treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather on lands in the ceded territory of Michigan but was interrupted and cut off by Chairman of the Board Paul Skinner," the article notes.

At the meeting the Michigan delegation spoke about misinformation given by Kennecott to shareholders. After the meeting, they met with CEO Tom Albanese, and Cynthia Pryor presented him with group resolutions against the mine and 10,000 signatures from an on-line petition against it.**

* Read the full story about the students' bill on Save the Wild UP.
** Read the rest of this Action Alert article and other news items related to sulfide mining on Save the Wild UP.

Editor's Note: See also the June 21, 2008, article in Marquette's Mining Journal, "Kennecott air surveys seek more minerals." The Journal's John Pepin writes in the article that the Kennecott Eagle Project [if finally approved] "would be the country’s only nickel mine in operation."

Isle Royale, Keweenaw National Historical Park form Parks Association

Sunset at Lane Cove, Isle Royale. (Photo ©2008 Joe Kaplan. Reprinted with permission.)

CALUMET -- The Isle Royale Natural History Association is celebrating its 50th birthday with a name change. The Isle Royale Natural History Association (IRNHA) was founded in 1957 by a group of Isle Royale residents and National Park Service staff whose love of Isle Royale prompted them to form an organization with the purpose of sharing with the public the story of one of the country’s newest national parks, Isle Royale National Park.

Now, fifty years later IRNHA is partnering with a second young park -- Keweenaw National Historical Park -- and changing its name to reflect its new mission. The new organizational name is the Isle Royale and Keweenaw Parks Association.

The revised mission of the Isle Royale and Keweenaw Parks Association (Parks Association) is to work in partnership with the National Park Service to promote the public’s understanding and appreciation of Isle Royale National Park and Keweenaw National Historical Park through education and research. By publishing and selling books and other educational products about Isle Royale and the Keweenaw, the Parks Association educates the public about these special places and raises funds that are re-invested to support research and interpretive programs. By educating the public about our local National Parks, the Parks Association helps to preserve and protect these parks for future generations.

Every year the Isle Royale Keweenaw Parks Association contributes approximately $25,000 in cash and in-kind aid to Isle Royale and Keweenaw to publish park newspapers, provide programs for both children and adults and support research and preservation efforts. New publications from the Parks Associations include Island Life: An Isle Royale Nature Guide and Downtown Calumet: Guide to the Historic Mining Community.

The Isle Royale Natural History Association, now the Isle Royale and Keweenaw Parks Association, has grown over the years from a small group of local residents to a membership of over 1,200 people from every state in the country. Financial aid to the parks has grown many times over, and their publications have changed from mimeographed brochures to professionally produced full-color books, but the organization’s mission and reliance on volunteers to fulfill that mission remains unchanged. The Parks Associations remains a grass-roots organization relying on the hard work, vision and financial support of a volunteer board of directors, several committees and their members.

Isle Royale Keweenaw Parks Association will celebrate its new name at an open house from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, June 27, at Keweenaw National Historic Park’s newly refurbished Headquarters on Red Jacket Road in Calumet. The public is invited to tour the new facilities, shop in the new bookstore, participate in drawings for park-related gifts and enjoy refreshments provided by the Parks Association.

Pasty Poetry Throwdown June 26 to kick off Calumet Pasty Fest

CALUMET -- A "Pasty Poetry Throwdown" will take place at 7 p.m. tonight, Thursday, June 26, at the Conglomerate Café, 104 Fifth St., in Calumet. The event is a poetry reading with a theme of pasties.*

"Everybody's welcome," said Babette Jokela, Conglomerate Café owner. "We're just looking for pasty poetry."

The poetry event kicks off Main Street Calumet's "PastyFest 2008," June 26-28, a weekend of family fun, including, on Saturday, June 28, a Pasty Parade at 10 a.m.; live music, a pasty bake-off, more pasty poetry and kids' games in Agassiz Park; a Karaoke Sing-off at 5 p.m. and more.

The New Christy Minstrels will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 27, in the Calumet Theatre. At 7:30 p.m. on Saturday evening, the Calumet Theatre will host "Richard Rodgers in Revue!"

Visit the Main Street Calumet Web site for the complete schedule of events.

*Editor's Note: For visitors who may not know, pasty rhymes with "nasty" (no connection, necessarily) and is a type of Cornish meat pie, that may contain potatoes and vegetables such as onions, turnips or rutabaga. Cornish miners carried them down in the mines. It's a portable whole meal. Some people put catsup on them, but they're good with plain yogurt on top, especially if you skip the meat. (Hei, this is a blog so I can give my opinion here!)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Updated: Reading the Landscape field trips to explore changes in land

The Keweenaw Land Trust's Paavola Wetlands Preserve will be the scene of the July 19 Reading the Landscape session, "Revised Landscapes and Home Grounds." KLT has expanded the preserve to include a trail system available for educational hikes through the marshland. (Keweenaw Now file photo © 2006 Evan McDonald. Reprinted with permission.)

GRATIOT LAKE -- Reading the Landscape of the Keweenaw 2008: Changes in the Land is a series of art and natural history field trips on diverse topics for adults. It is co-sponsored by a group of conservation-oriented non-profit organizations including Copper Country Audubon, Copper Country Trout Unlimited, Gratiot Lake Conservancy (GLC), Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District, Keweenaw Historical Society, Keweenaw Land Trust (KLT), and Michigan Nature Association.

Sessions will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on four Saturdays: June 28, July 12, July 19 and August 9. Participants in the trips will visit a variety of places in the Keweenaw Peninsula. Reservations for the trips are necessary and group size is limited. The fee is $15 per trip with discounts available for members of KLT or GLC.

Teachers interested in attending any of the field trips may apply to the Gratiot Lake Conservancy for a Janet Avery Scholarship that will cover the $15 fee.

The first session, "Phenology: what happens when and why," offered on June 28, may be of particular interest to birders. Participants will discover how to note and record the timing of natural events -- from the nesting of birds to the bursting of flower buds. They will learn how such observations can enhance our understanding of changing climate and how phenology data can be collected by students and amateur naturalists. The walk will be moderately strenuous. Participants will explore Mount Baldy (near Eagle Harbor) with conservation biologist David Flaspohler, research ecologist Erik Lilleskov and visiting photographer Randy Richmond.*

The July and August sessions are as follows:

July 12 -- "Shifting Sands: examining the unnatural and natural history of stamp sands." Visit the historic Central Mine site with artist Linden Dahlstrom, Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District Board Member Gina Nicholas and remediation experts from the Central/Winona Stamp Sand Stabilization Project to discover what effect the mining that took place over a century ago still has on land and waters there. Find out how mining has impacted the Eagle River Watershed and what the mitigation plan is for returning some of the area to a more natural state. Update: This session is already completely booked.

July 19 -- "Revised Landscapes and Home Grounds." Explore Paavola Wetlands and Boston Pond with nature writer Michael Moore and environmental engineer Heather Wright. These guides will lead participants on a nature walk and writing workshop, which will include discussions along the way of the kinds and causes of environmental change -- some natural, some human-made.

August 9 -- "Shaping Succession: visiting private lands restored." Visit private lands which are models of forest and wetland restoration. Join artist Joyce Koskenmaki and two Chassell landowners to see positive changes people can make on their own property to attract wildlife and revive the natural ecology.

More information on the complete Reading the Landscape 2008 series (including a downloadable brochure) visit the Gratiot Lake Conservancy Web site or contact the Keweenaw Land Trust at 482-0820 to obtain a paper copy.

*Editor's Note: Visiting photographer Randy Richmond of Muscatine, Iowa, has an exhibit of his photographs in the Community Arts Center's Kerredge Gallery in Hancock through June 28. The artist will give a talk about his work at a closing reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, June 27, in the Gallery.

Monday, June 23, 2008

State Rep. Mike Lahti outlines issues for re-election campaign

By Michele Bourdieu

Mike Lahti chats on the phone in his office at State Farm Insurance Co. in Hancock on Friday, June 20. Lahti is seeking re-election to his position as District 110 State Representative. He represents a large area of the western Upper Peninsula in the Michigan House of Representatives. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

HANCOCK -- Jobs, education and natural resources are high on the list of priorities for District 110 State Representative Mike Lahti as he begins his campaign for re-election to the Michigan House of Representatives. From Big Bay to Copper Harbor to Ironwood, District 110 covers a large area of the Western Upper Peninsula and keeps him very busy in a schedule that includes driving to Lansing and back to Hancock every week.

All this commuting has not discouraged Lahti from seeking a second term. The following video clip, recorded by Keweenaw Now last Friday, June 20, is a message to his constituents. Here's Mike ...

video

In a June 20 interview with Keweenaw Now, Lahti outlined what he sees as the most important needs of his constituents. He said the major need in the Western U.P. reflects the major issue now facing the whole state of Michigan.

Jobs: number one priority

"The major issue is jobs," he noted. "Entrepreneurs and business people and developments create jobs, but it's up to the state to do what they can to make that a little easier for businesses."

Lahti said the state can offer incentives for businesses to come here, but the key is to make the red tape not so difficult so businesses can locate here and function.

Quality education trains for jobs, attracts new businesses

The next priority is education, he added. Quality education makes this a better place to live -- and one where businesses would want to locate. He cited the importance of both K-12 and higher education, including community colleges and universities in the area.

"You want to have your kids educated well so they can get a chance in today's society, so they can get a good job when they graduate or they can go on to college," Lahti said.

He pointed out that community colleges, such as Gogebic Community College in Ironwood, are training people for jobs that are already right here, in such fields as nursing and health care.

Lahti mentioned also the "No Worker Left Behind" program administered by Michigan Works, with support from both the state and the federal government.

"It really works with community schools (colleges)," Lahti said. "It works with employers so that people are trained. They get money to go to school."

Lahti said the advantage of the program is that it trains people -- not just for the sake of training, but for jobs that are available now in the area.

The local universities -- Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan and Finlandia -- also attract a good number of students from the U.P., Lahti noted.

"Where universities are, usually there's a better economy around that area," he added.

Lahti said we need to keep investing in these universities, which offer programs such as the Smart Zone -- a partnership of Michigan Tech, the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance (KEDA, formerly the Keweenaw Industrial Council) and the cities of Hancock and Houghton. The Smart Zone is set up to attract new businesses that need personnel with university training, especially in high-tech and business fields.*

"Michigan Tech is active in providing good jobs here," Lahti said. "Entrepreneurs want to come here because (MTU offers) trained people that can work in their businesses."

Lahti also mentioned the state provides tuition grants for needy students who attend private schools. That amounts to about $58 million for private schools all over the state, or about $2100 a year for each student.

"So that really helps Finlandia," he said.

Lahti said it's important to invest in the local universities because they add to the quality of life.

Use and conserve Upper Peninsula's natural resources

Natural resources are an essential part of that quality of life as well, and Lahti sees them as the third priority in meeting the needs of his constituents.

"We spend less per capita (on natural resources) than any other state," Lahti said.

Of the $285 million budget for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), less than $25 million comes from the general fund, Lahti explained. The rest comes from fees, such as park fees or hunting and fishing fees.

"We don't spend much, but it's worth protecting our streams, our rivers and our Great Lakes," Lahti said. "It makes Michigan a good state to live in, and we have to protect it."

He mentioned the recent (state) House water bill, and a state Senate bill in progress, to protect the lakes against water diversion.

Lahti also emphasized the natural resources that provide jobs, such as the forests -- a sustainable, renewable resource.

The state of Michigan owns 20 percent of the forest land in Michigan.

"We provide a lot of timber for the timber industry, and we have to do a better job in marketing and selling our timber to help the lumbering industry and the logging infrastructure," Lahti said.

He said the state needs to do a better job working with the private lumbering industry to keep that logging infrastructure sustainable.

The Michigan Conservation Districts recently gave Lahti an award for his strong support of their natural resource management services, such as the forester program through which the Districts work with private landowners to help them conserve their land, but also work with them so they can harvest their timber and manage their land. He said despite the fact that the Governor vetoed the forester program, he is still working now to get it back into the (DNR) budget.

"I think it's still valuable for the state to help private landowners in land management," Lahti said.

New mining projects can provide jobs, Lahti says

Lahti then answered some questions Keweenaw Now had posed concerning his position on the proposed sulfide mine, Kennecott Minerals' Eagle Project near Marquette, and the additional mining exploration going on now in the Western U.P.

"We're rich in minerals," Lahti said. "I'm not against any mining business that comes here and follows the rules, gets the proper permits and does mining."

He said that includes the sulfide mine. He believes the state and federal governments are doing what they can with regulations to make sure there aren't any accidents -- or to make accidents less likely.

I'm not opposed to it, but I'm not opposed to keeping their feet to the fire to make sure they do it safely," Lahti said.

As for Kennecott's past record of mining, as in Wisconsin, where pollution from one of their mines led to a moratorium on sulfide mining by the state of Wisconsin, Lahti said we should look at what they're doing now and not what they did in the past.

Lahti said he had heard members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community express opposition to the mine at a town meeting in L'Anse. He also met with residents of Big Bay (which is very near Kennecott's proposed Eagle Project sulfide mine site) earlier this year and said the feeling there was mixed. While Big Bay is within Lahti's 110th District, the actual site of the Eagle Mine is not.

"I got opinions on both sides," Lahti said of the meeting in Big Bay.

He said he believed Kennecott was working to put in a road (for the mining) that doesn't go through Big Bay or Marquette. If Kennecott follows the rules and does the mining safely, he added, other mines will open up in the area. Lahti said he felt that would lead to jobs for U.P. residents.

As for the local pollution from past mining in the Western U.P., Lahti noted that was a time when there were no controls on the mining companies.

"(In the past) they could do what they wanted with their waste. Now we have people who are concerned and we have people watching them and we have government that's watching them," he said.

Lahti said he believes the area has room for both mining and tourism.

"We have lots of land, lots of beautiful natural resources. We should protect them, but we still should capitalize on our resources," Lahti added, "so we can use the money that's derived from them for jobs as well as taxes -- and pay for our services."

On the local Hancock issue of Government Lot 5 and whether or not the mouth of Swedetown Creek should be preserved as a park or sold for residential housing and taxes, Lahti said it's up to the City of Hancock to decide; but he has enjoyed the sandy area at the mouth of the creek.

"I've been there many times, as a kid and even as a grownup," he said. "That little area -- to protect it would be fine."

Alternative energy, public transit good for future

Commenting on the future effects of the increasing cost of gas and energy, Lahti said he was familiar with some of the sustainability ideas being suggested by local citizens' groups -- community gardens, highway and street plans that encourage biking and walking, wind and solar energy projects and more public transportation.

"Those are good grass-roots ideas," he said.

Lahti said he was in favor of public transit such as Houghton's and Hancock's.

"There may be a lot of people staying in apartments," he noted, "because of being close to downtown -- for the walkability and being close to public transportation."

He believes more people will soon be making sure their houses are energy-efficient. Lahti said he thinks there is a future for solar and wind energy in the U.P. as well.

"I've started enjoying turbines on the horizon," he said of some wind turbines he observed near Sault Ste. Marie, Canada. "I think the turbines are fine. I think solar energy as an alternative is fine."

Lahti said he also liked what the Smurfit-Stone Container Co. of Ontonagon is doing with their waste sludge -- selling it as biomass for the Warden Station, a power plant in L'Anse. He said he also learned just recently that Mascoma is planning on putting the first biomass-to-ethanol plant in the state somewhere in northern Michigan.

Lahti supports Stupak, Obama

Lahti said he is supportive of Congressman Bart Stupak's campaign for re-election.

"I think he's a hard worker," Lahti said. "He's got a lot of years now. His seniority is good, and he can be even more effective for his district. He's a fighter for us."

He added he is also supportive of Barack Obama as Democratic candidate for U.S. President.

"I like his character," Lahti said. "He initially didn't throw his minister under a bus (didn't leave the minister's church) -- until his minister wouldn't shut up."

Lahti said he believes Obama is very thoughtful in his decisions.

"He doesn't fly off the handle, and he exudes confidence," Lahti said, "People feel confident in him. I think he'd do a good job for the country."

Lahti said he was not too familiar with the platform of his Republican opponent, John Larson, who is both pro-life and pro-gun rights. While Lahti is pro-life because of his opposition to abortion, he is not opposed to family planning. As a hunter, he supports gun rights. He's also a fisherman but, with his busy schedule, has too little time for fishing.

To learn more about State Representative Mike Lahti, visit his Web site at http://110.housedems.com/

To see a map of Michigan's District 110, click here.

You can contact Rep. Mike Lahti by calling him toll-free at 888-663-4031 or by emailing mikelahti@house.mi.gov.

Editor's Note:
* The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) administers the Smart Zone program. See http://mtecsmart.com/.