Friday, March 20, 2015

Michigan Tech's Center for Water and Society to host World Water Day events March 23-24

This Carrara Marble sculpture, "ladle 696," by Tom Rudd of Calumet, will be part of the "Texture of Water" Art Exhibit, opening in GLRC (Great Lakes Research Center) 201 on March 23 during the World Water Day celebration at Michigan Tech. Rudd says of his sculpture, "This piece was inspired by a small lake created by glacier runoff in the northern Rockies." (Photo courtesy Tom Rudd)

HOUGHTON -- Michigan Tech's Center for Water and Society (CWS) will celebrate World Water Day with several events next Monday and Tuesday, March 23-24, in the Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC). The 2015 World Water Day theme is Water and Sustainable Development.

Here is the schedule:

4 p.m. Monday, March 23, in GLRC (Great Lakes Research Center) 202: Dr. Peter Goodwin, director of the Center for Ecohydraulics Research, University of Idaho, will present a lecture on "River Restoration and Flood Management." (Inset photo of Dr. Peter Goodwin courtesy Michigan Tech University)

Monday and Tuesday, March 23-24: CWS World Water Day Poster Competition, GLRC 1st Floor. Monday, 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. -- Q and A with students.

3:30 p.m. Monday, March 23 in GLRC 201: Introduction to the "Texture of Water" Art Exhibit: Jamie Allen (painting), Tom Rudd (sculpture), Paul Rose (photography). The exhibit will run through the end of April.  

9 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 24, in GLRC 202: Panel Discussion: "What role will dams play in future water resource management?"
Panelists:
Peter Goodwin -- Director, Center for Ecohydraulics Research, University of Idaho William Leder -- President, Copper Country Trout Unlimited and Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Michigan Tech
David Rulison -- Otter Lake Property Owners Association
Jim Pawloski -- Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Water Resources Division, Dam Safety (invited)

For more information, click here.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Panel discussion to be held in honor of Environmental Justice Day March 19

HOUGHTON -- A panel discussion will be held in honor of Environmental Justice Day from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 19, in Ballroom B of the MUB (Memorial Union Building) on the Michigan Tech campus.

The panel speakers will be Wilma Subra, a chemist helping communities find justice in toxic environment; Jessica Koski, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community mining technical  assistant; and Linda Rulison, Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK) president. They will discuss their experiences working with communities facing environmental justice issues and their own motivation for taking action.

Combining technical research and evaluation, Wilma Subra provides technical assistance to citizens concerned with their environment -- both across the United States and some foreign countries. This information is then presented to community members so that strategies may be developed to address their local struggles.

Subra has just completed a seven-year term as Vice-Chair of the Environmental Protection Agency National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT), a five-year term on the National Advisory Committee of the U.S. Representative to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation and a six-year term on the EPA National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) where she served as a member of the Cumulative Risk and Impacts Working Group of the NEJAC Council, and chaired the NEJAC Gulf Coast Hurricanes Work Group.

Jessica Koski is Ojibwe from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. Jessica is an alumna of Michigan Technological University where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Sciences in 2009. After Michigan Tech, Jessica earned a Master's Degree in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. At Yale, Jessica’s focal area was Social Ecology and Environmental Policy, and her research examined indigenous environmental justice issues and activism in the western Great Lakes region.

Koski currently works for the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community's Natural Resources Department as mining technical assistant. In this role, she is working to build the capacity of her tribal community to address mining in the Lake Superior basin and Upper Peninsula. From 2011-2014, she also served on the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council’s Indigenous Peoples Working Group. In addition, Koski has been engaged as a community activist on mining issues for about eight years. This work has included organizing regional forums, assisting grassroots efforts, raising concerns at corporate shareholder meetings abroad, and elevating indigenous rights issues to the United Nations.

Linda Rulison, a retired middle/high school teacher of environmental and social studies, is interested in environmental justice on campus and in career paths. She became involved in local environmental issues with a group of citizens in 1989 and formalized the group as a 501(c)3 organization in 1990. She is currently the president of Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK).

This event is supported by the Parents' Fund of the Michigan Tech Fund, Michigan Tech's Students for Environmental Sustainability, the Center for Science and Environmental Outreach and the Michigan Tech Biology Department.

For more information contact Nicolette Slagle at nmslagle@mtu.edu.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Native American groups seek injunction against MDNR on Graymont land transfer proposal

By Michele Bourdieu

This wetland near Rexton, Mich. is within the area of the proposed Graymont limestone mining project -- an area that includes fragile wetlands and critical ecosystems. The proposed project is also within Native American ceded territory, which is under an 1836 Treaty that guarantees Native hunting, fishing and gathering rights. (Photo © and courtesy Steve Garske)

MARQUETTE, GRAND RAPIDS -- A group of American Indians from northern Michigan filed for an injunction today in federal court in Grand Rapids seeking to bar the Director of Michigan's Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), Keith Craegh, from approving a land transfer to Graymont Mining Company. If approved, the land transfer would be the largest transfer of land out of the public domain in Michigan's history -- over 11,000 acres would be affected.

According to the lead Plaintiff, Dr. Phil Bellfy, "The land subject to transfer is wholly within the 1836 Treaty of Washington Ceded Territory and subject to the conditions laid out in the 2007 Inland Consent Decree. It would be unconstitutional for the MDNR Director to transfer those lands as we -- American Indians -- have Treaty rights to "the usual privileges of occupancy" on those 11,000 acres. We are asking the Court to step in and preserve our Treaty rights and enjoin Mr. Craegh from transferring that land."

The phrase "the usual privileges of occupancy" is taken from Article XIII of the 1836 Treaty of Washington, and the extent of those "Article XIII Rights" was "conclusively resolved" by the 2007 Inland Consent Decree.

According to Idle No More, "Virtually all 'Land Cession' Treaties throughout the Upper Great Lakes region retain the right to hunt, fish, and gather on 'public lands.' The Courts have upheld these rights. Based on the language of the 1836 Treaty, for example, the 2007 Inland Consent Decree "is intended to resolve conclusively [Treaty Right] claims, and to provide for the protection of the resources in the 1836 Ceded Territory."*

Click here for the EX-PARTE MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION WITH SUPPORTING BRIEF.

Concerned groups, citizens write to MDNR Chief

"A foreign mining company wants to buy 10,000 acres of our public land?" said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP president. "By my calculation, that’s ten thousand great reasons to reject the deal." (Image courtesy Save the Wild U.P.)

A February 27, 2015, a collective letter of opposition from concerned groups and citizens in the Upper Peninsula to MDNR Chief Craegh urges him to reject the Graymont proposal.

"The Michigan Department of Natural Resources must manage and conserve public lands for public benefit," the letter states. "The Graymont proposal includes lands currently open to the public for hunting and recreational trails, lands supporting wildlife, and land managed for timber -- contiguous forest lands considered some of the most productive forest land in the Eastern Upper Peninsula."

This sale of public land to benefit a foreign mining company would be a great loss for Michigan's forest and tourism economies, the letter adds. It would displace existing limestone quarrying jobs as well as long-term forestry and tourism jobs and would be "devastating" for the environment.

"The sale of these lands interferes with Indian tribes' rights by having an adverse impact on fishing, hunting and gathering activities of tribal members under the 1836 treaty, as well as a lack of cultural inventory, and no plan for inadvertent discovery," the collective letter of opposition continues.

Graymont, a Canadian mining company, first submitted an application to purchase over 10,000 acres of public land from the MDNR in November of 2013. Graymont intends to construct surface limestone quarries and, eventually, an extensive underground mine.

The area under consideration includes fragile wetlands and critical ecosystems. These public lands support unique hydrology and biodiversity, including "karst" habitat identified in Michigan’s Natural Features Inventory, limestone features (cliffs, pavement, sinkholes, caves) and special ecologies uniquely adapted to limestone: bats reliant on limestone caves, globally-rare "alvar" plant communities, and limestone wetlands critical to the endangered Hine's Emerald Dragonfly, termed "one of North America's rarest dragonflies" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The collective letter of opposition is signed by individual citizens as well as major groups, including the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, Friends of the Land of Keweenaw’s Board of Directors, the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, the Central U.P. Group of the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club, Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, Concerned Citizens of Big Bay, Save the Wild U.P., the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Students for Sustainability of Northern Michigan University, Northwoods Native Plant Society, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizens Against the Rexton Project, Concerned Clergy of Marquette, the Marquette Unitarian Universalists Social Action Committee and multiple individual property owners in Trout Lake, Mich.**

"These are serious and unresolvable objections," said Alexandra Maxwell of Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP), who helped organize the collective letter of opposition. "Our message to Director Creagh is simple: don’t make this deal." According to Maxwell, Save the Wild U.P. has been following the developments of this project since Graymont submitted its application; SWUP and other groups have consistently attended public meetings and submitted commentary critical of this potential land sale. "Now a majority of environmental organizations and concerned citizens throughout the U.P. have reached a clear consensus -- the Graymont project must be stopped."

Aaron Payment, tribal chairperson of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, said he was glad to sign the letter.

"I know that the DNR has received hundreds and hundreds of letters, emails and calls from my Tribal Citizens in opposition to this mine as it would devastate our treaty right to the land," Payment writes. "The proposed action is a harbinger of what's to come. The DNR has admitted in smaller group meetings they oppose the deal so you have to wonder why they are prostituting our land by continuing to consider this deal. Ask yourself, if the DNR has made clear they are in opposition, who is directing them to proceed despite DNR professional staff objections? What or who is driving this proposal? During the Chippewa County group of the League of Women Voters' public session at the Bayliss Library in the Sault, the DNR admitted the input they received was well over 90 percent in opposition. If the vast majority oppose, who is selling you out and for how much?"

Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter: Public needs more time to comment

A March 15 update from the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club states, "Sierra Club opposes the large-scale sale of public lands for private development. The decision on this application may come as soon as March 19. However, the application has gone through so many revisions, so quickly, that the public has not had an adequate opportunity to comment on the proposed action. Graymont has submitted nine versions of the application, with five coming since January 5, 2015. This means that by the time the public has seen and read an application, there has often already been a new one submitted.

"The most recent application was released to the public on March 10, less than 10 days before a proposed decision. Sierra Club believes that regardless of the merits of the proposal, the public deserves to have a reasonable period of time to review and comment on the final version of the application. We are asking DNR Director Keith Creagh to allow the public at least 30 days to review a final application before he makes a decision."

Graymont Proposal not on agenda for Citizens Advisory Councils

Horst Schmidt of FOLK (Friends of the Land of Keweenaw) said he attended a joint meeting of the MDNR's U.P. Citizens Advisory Council (Eastern and Western U.P. councils) in Marquette on March 16, but the Graymont proposal was not on the agenda.

"Considering the importance of the Graymont deal, it is significant that it was not on the agenda, even though I had asked our chair to place it on the agenda," Schmidt told Keweenaw Now. "One member from the eastern council said the access provisions after the deal would be implemented, as explained to him by the DNR, were enough to satisfy him that it was acceptable. The DNR did not communicate anything to the eastern and western councils in toto about the nature of the provisions or anything at all about the Graymont transaction."

Schmidt also questioned Graymont's proposed royalty payments.

"Over and over, Graymont appears to be generous," Schmidt noted. "First with the royalty increase from 18.75 to 30 cents/ton of usable dolomitic limestone. Second, it can indicate they are significantly underpaying the state. Third, by so doing, they are robbing people of the State of Michigan of revenue that would go into the DNR's land trust. Finally, by appearing generous, they apparently must think that it is still profitable for them. What kind of profit margin would they being making? Unlike regular mining operations, there is much less risk for Graymont with a known limestone deposit."

The Michigan Natural Resources Commission will hold its regular monthly meeting Thursday, March 19, at the Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center, 104 Conservation Drive, in Roscommon. Following public comments, MDNR Director Creagh is scheduled to announce his decisions on several land transactions, including a revised land transaction application submitted by Graymont, Inc. For the agency's  background on Graymont’s proposals, visit the MDNR website at www.michigan.gov/graymontproposal.***

The MDNR is accepting written comment from the public concerning the newest revision of the Graymont proposal through Thursday, March 19.

"We strongly urge folks to review the facts," said SWUP's Maxwell, "and then write directly to Director Creagh, asking him to reject the Graymont land deal. Concerned citizens still have time to protect their public lands, in their own words."

Written commentary may be submitted to:
DNR-GraymontProposalComments@michigan.gov
 

Notes:

*Full texts of the Treaty and the Consent Decree can be found here: http://article32.org/

** Click here to read the Feb. 27 letter of opposition.

*** See also our Feb. 22, 2015, article, "DNR Chief approves mineral rights exchange with Graymont but delays decision on 10,000-acre land transaction; residents, groups express opposition to Graymont project."

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Carnegie Museum to host discussion on Keweenaw plants by Karena Schmidt March 17

Poster for the March 17 discussion on Keweenaw plants by Karena Schmidt, expert on natural plant communities and Michigan Tech's greenhouse manager. (Poster courtesy Carnegie Museum)

HOUGHTON -- Karena Schmidt, expert on natural plant communities and Michigan Tech's greenhouse manager, will lead a discussion on "Natural History and (un)natural future of plants in Keweenaw and Isle Royale" at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, at the Carnegie Museum. An introduction and refreshments, from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., will precede the lecture and discussion.

"Geologically, Isle Royale and the Keweenaw Peninsula reflect each other quite nicely," Schmidt explains. "Bedrock twins one could say. Botanically, too, the spare acidic soils maneuvered by glaciers are the substrate to a host of plants that manage to survive dynamic influences of Lake Superior. Historically humans, in their quest for cash, mined for copper and harvested magnificent old-growth forests; their actions radically altered the vegetative landscape, even more than a beaver or moose could ever dream. Isle Royale and the Keweenaw have recovered quite differently from these ventures for a variety of reasons we will explore. There is no end to the botanical delights that await discovery and understanding. Many plants here are western disjuncts, primarily having home base in the Pacific Northwest. Many arctic species reach their southern-most limit. Plants readily identified with more southerly climes reach their northern-most limit, putting down roots yet declaring thus far and no farther. Unique too are large and diverse populations of orchids, heathers and lichens all of which have evolved unique and admirable adaptations to abide in the spectacular Keweenaw terrain."

This event is part of the 2014-2015 Keweenaw Natural History Heritage seminar series at the Carnegie Museum.

Coming Tuesday, April 14: "Talking Rocks: Common Ground -- Geology in the Lake Superior Region and Native Americans." Come join the conversation as earth scientist Ron Morton and Native American elder Carl Gawboy -- wise men from two cultures -- explore the natural history of the Lake Superior region, examining both the science and the spirit of the land. For more information click here.

The Carnegie Museum of the Keweenaw is located at Huron and Montezuma in downtown Houghton. Seminars are held in the recently restored Community Room on the ground level of this historic building. Lectures are free, open to the public, and barrier free (wheelchair accessible). For each monthly lecture, the museum will open at 6:30 p.m. for refreshments; lectures and discussion from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, please contact the Museum by telephone (906-482-7140) or Email (history@cityofhoughton.com); find them on Facebook, or go to the Seminar Web-site.