[Editor's Note: Lillian Marks Heldreth of Marquette read this statement -- addressed to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during the EPA Public Hearing on County Road 595 -- on Aug. 28, 2012, at Northern Michigan University. It is reprinted here with permission.]
MARQUETTE -- The issue here is whether or not we shall sacrifice the integrity and balance of one of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula’s few remaining open and undeveloped wetlands areas to provide a certain degree of convenience for some of the Marquette County’s citizens and to save a great deal of money for a very large, very wealthy corporation.
Personally, I do not relish the idea of dealing with heavy truck traffic on roads that I am accustomed to traveling easily.
However, I like far less the thought that if we build this road, it is being built for one reason only: to provide a haul road for Rio Tinto. Otherwise, it’s a road through nowhere, to nowhere. And it will forever turn the nowhere it bisects into somewhere else where people can run their machines and throw their trash, a place where a solitary hunter can no longer walk in silence.
Worse, it will destroy this fragile and complex ecosystem, which makes up a vital part of what sustains us. Places like this one, relatively wild and undisturbed, are the lungs and kidneys of the organism that, whether some of us realize it or not, supports our life.
We cannot live without such places where organisms both larger than we, such as trees and bears, and smaller than we, such as algae and salamanders, can live undisturbed in that complex web that keeps everything breathing. Such places can protect us against climate change, clean our air, and purify our water.
Pavement cannot do that. Mines cannot do that. Planted stands of only one kind of tree, or acres of cornfields, cannot do that. Only a mixed and healthy system of forest and wetlands can do that.
Yet we keep destroying the living mechanisms that keep us alive, so that we can have more convenience.
You are the Environmental PROTECTION Agency. Please, for the sake of future generations, for life itself, deny this permit, and require that Rio Tinto haul its ores over the available alternative routes that do not require putting a road where we, the people, do not actually need one, and where the life-systems of our peninsula will be irreparably damaged.
Please make your decision on the basis of the sound science you have, and not on popular opinion or popular politics. Thank you.
Lillian Marks Heldreth, Professor Emeritus, Northern Michigan University