Sunday, November 30, 2014

"Paddle to D.C." team to reach Washington this week with petition to protect Boundary Waters, Lake Superior from proposed sulfide mining

By Michele Bourdieu

Kessler Silvelet, 4, adds his signature to the canoe that is now on its way to Washington, D.C. -- part of a petition to protect Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Lake Superior from projected sulfide mines. Dave and Amy Freeman of Ely, Minnesota, are "Paddling to D.C." with the petition and expect to arrive this Tuesday, Dec. 2. On Sept. 11, 2014, Amy Freeman and her teammate, Olivia Ridge, gave a presentation in the Portage Lake District Library on the Freemans' educational work. (Photos by Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated.)

HOUGHTON -- Dave and Amy Freeman of Ely, Minnesota, and members of their team  plan to arrive in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 2, 2014, with their canoe full of signatures for a petition to protect Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Lake Superior from plans for sulfide mining in northern Minnesota. Their canoe trip this fall also coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, which established the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.*

The Freemans, named "National Geographic Adventurers of the Year" for 2014, are outdoor enthusiasts / educators who, before setting out on this trip from Ely last August, spent three years kayaking, canoeing and dog sledding 11,700 miles across North America -- while communicating via Internet with children in schools who interacted with them and even gave them suggestions for their trip.

Through the Freemans' "Wilderness Classroom," students again participate in the couple's adventure -- this time a 2,000-mile canoe and sailing trip from the Boundary Waters to Washington, D.C.

Dave and Amy Freeman of Ely, Minn., posted this recent photo of paddling down the Chester River towards Chesapeake Bay with a Thanksgiving update on their "Paddle to D.C." blog as they near their goal of arriving in D.C. on Dec. 2. (Photo © and courtesy Dave and Amy Freeman. Reprinted with permission.)**

Each week this fall -- since September 2 -- elementary and middle school students have been using STEM-focused lessons to join the adventure and learn along with the Freemans through educational updates, video conferencing and a variety of educational activities. The Freemans and their team will also record data ranging from the amount of garbage they produce, to water quality measurements for students to interpret.***

The Freemans launch their canoe in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. They set out early this fall on their "Paddle to D.C." trip from Ely, Minnesota, to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness of potential pollution from sulfide mining. (Photo © and courtesy Nate Ptacek)

On Sept. 11, 2014, at the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton, Amy Freeman gave a presentation including both the nearly 12,000-mile North American adventure from the Pacific Northwest to Key West via the Arctic and the reasons for the current "Paddle to D.C." trip. The event, "Protecting Our Precious Waters," was sponsored by the Portage Library and Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK).

Here are some video excerpts from the presentation:

At the Portage Lake District Library on Sept. 11, 2014, Amy Freeman begins her presentation with photos and videos of kayaking, canoeing and dogsledding 11,700 miles across North America with her husband, Dave Freeman. Their human-powered trek took them from the Pacific Northwest to Key West via the Arctic. She stopped in Houghton during their present trip, "Paddle to D.C.," 2,000 miles by canoe and sailboat to call attention to sulfide mining threats to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota and the Lake Superior watershed. Chris Alquist, Portage Library community program director, introduces Amy and explains that Dave Freeman was unable to attend as scheduled because of high winds on Lake Superior that day. Click on YouTube icon for a larger picture. (Videos by Keweenaw Now)

Amy Freeman describes animals she observed at the beginning of the Freemans' 3-year trip -- including humpback whales that came very close ...

During her presentation at the Portage Library, Amy Freeman describes the Arctic sled dog portion of the Freemans' nearly 12,000-mile trip via kayak, canoe and sled dog. She explains how students interacted with the team and made a decision about one of the dogs, 12-year-old Fennel, who, they felt, deserved retirement.

Amy Freeman describes navigating through the Boundary Waters in the fall. They followed the route of the voyageurs to Grand Portage, where they saw some spectacular Northern Lights, photographed by their friend Bryan Hansel, who joined them on this part of the trip.

Showing photos of cities they passed through on the East coast, Amy explains how they stopped along the way to give community presentations. She points out that wild areas still exist not too far from some cities. Amy describes how they felt when they finally completed their trip at Key West, Florida.

Why the Freemans are "Paddling to D.C." -- sulfide mining threats in Minnesota

During the second part of the presentation, Olivia Ridge, also of Ely, Minn., a member of the Freemans' team, speaks about the grassroots effort to save the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior watersheds from the threat of proposed sulfide mines by Polymet and Twin Metals in Minnesota. Click on YouTube icon for larger view of maps.

Amy Freeman and Olivia Ridge describe examples of acid mine drainage that already exists from old mines and from new prospecting (exploration) for future mining in Minnesota.

Following the presentation, Freeman and Ridge invited members of the audience to sign the "petition" canoe and the written petition to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from sulfide mining. The petition can also be signed on line.****

Kyle McGurk of Green Bay, Wis., a third-year Michigan Tech student in electrical engineering, signs the Freemans' canoe.

Amy Freeman commented on the double purpose of "Paddling to D.C." -- taking the petition to Washington to request that federal agencies enforce the Clean Water Act and the Wilderness Act and also stopping in communities along the way to share their message about sulfide mining.

"When we were planning this trip it wasn't the paddling that was the challenge," Amy Freeman told members of the Houghton audience. "It was planning events like this along the way. This is new to us."

After the presentation, Amy Freeman, left, pauses for a photo with, from left, Chris Alquist, Portage Lake District Library community program director and FOLK board member; Connie Julien, FOLK member, who hosted the visitors in her home; and Olivia Ridge of Ely, Minn., a member of the Freemans' team and spokesperson for the grassroots effort to save the Boundary Waters from sulfide mining.

Connie Julien, FOLK member, said Amy Freeman and Olivia Ridge stayed at her home during their visit to Houghton while they waited for the Freemans' sailboat to arrive after it was held up in Ashland, Wis., because of high winds and waves (preventing Dave Freeman from participating in the presentation).

"It was a pleasure to host them and hear of their exciting adventures so far on this long journey to our Nation's Capitol," Julien said. "We are so proud of their quest to bring the issues of environmental protection to our legislators and communities along their route in such a dramatic way."*****

Ann Pace and John Slivon of Hancock (formerly of Minnesota) also commented on the presentation.

"I thought it was very impressive because they have clearly thought through the issues involving this kind of mining in their particular community and environment," Pace said.

Slivon added, "Their issues are exactly our issues -- polluting the last great unpolluted fresh water system in the world."


* On September 3, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act, which set aside an initial 9.1 million acres of wildlands, including the one-million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, for the use and benefit of the American people. In the 50 years since that event, over 100 million acres in the U.S. have been preserved for the public through the Wilderness Act.

** Click here for the Freemans' Thanksgiving blog entry on their Web site.

*** Click here to learn about the Freemans' Wilderness Classroom activities allowing young students to participate in "Paddle to D.C."

**** Visit "Paddle to D.C." to learn more about the trip. Click here to sign the petition.

***** See the Freemans' Sept. 18 blog entry, "To Houghton After the Gale," for their impressions of the Houghton visit.

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