Thursday, September 24, 2015

Guest Letter: Groups, concerned citizens, landowners, tribal leaders request DNR deny Eagle Mine mineral lease request, protect wetlands

This photo is a northwest view from wetlands in the southwest corner of the 40-acre parcel requested for a metallic mineral lease by Eagle Mine LLC. (Photo © and courtesy Jeremiah Eagle Eye. Reprinted with permission.)

[Editor's Note: This group letter was sent by Save the Wild U.P. (and signed by many individuals and groups) to Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Agency officials on Sept. 22, 2015, as a comment on the Eagle Mine's request for a metallic mineral lease for 40 acres of State-owned land (NE 1/4 of the NE1/4 of Section 8, T50N, R29W, Michigamme Township, Marquette County). It is reprinted here with permission from Save the Wild U.P. The deadline for comments is Sept. 25, 2015.]

Dr. Susan Hedman, Regional Administrator
US EPA Region 5
77 West Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60604-3590

Benita Best-Wong, Director
Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Waters
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460

Keith Creagh, DNR Director
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 30028
Lansing, MI 48909

Karen Maidlow, Property Analyst, Minerals Management
Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 30452
Lansing, MI 48909

Dear Ms. Maidlow,

On behalf of our collective members and supporters, including property owners, environmentalists and concerned citizens, tribal organizations, and on behalf of the watersheds we seek to protect, we strongly urge you to deny the proposed mineral lease sought by Eagle Mine LLC for 40 acres of State-owned land (NE 1/4 of the NE 1/4 of Section 8, T50N, R29W, Michigamme Township, Marquette County).

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) is entrusted with managing and conserving lands under the public interest doctrine. This lease proposes to sacrifice the use and integrity of public lands for the benefit of a foreign mining company.

The parcel in question is located in an intact watershed and contains an undisturbed headwater wetland ecosystem of over 1,000 acres (in a state that has lost 50 percent of its wetlands).* Wetland functions include benefits to fisheries and recreation; with tourism playing a major role in Michigan, it is unwise to despoil areas valued by our visitors.

Critically, these 40 acres contain headwaters of the Yellow Dog River, a federally-designated Wild and Scenic River. Mining is incompatible with the values espoused by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which specifies additional "regulations for minimizing surface disturbance, water sedimentation, pollution and visual impairment." Headwaters and wetlands, once polluted, would negatively affect downstream users and ultimately damage the Lake Superior watershed. The State of Michigan should not allow mineral exploration on headwater wetlands. Andersen Creek flows through this land, identified as headwaters of the Yellow Dog River.

● The Superior Watershed Partnership published the Salmon Trout River WatershedManagement Plan (2006), which included a recommendation to "prohibit sulfide-based mining" (p.41). Since the Salmon Trout River and the Yellow Dog River share common watershed boundaries at this critical headwaters site, the sulfide mining recommended prohibition applies to both watersheds.

● The State's mineral rights on this parcel are currently unsevered.

● The MDNR departmental lease review acknowledges the headwaters of the Yellow Dog (Andersen Creek) and noted the possible presence of endangered species and a Special Conservation Area, protecting the "wet willow marsh and its unique lowland wildlife habitat." MDNR Fisheries staff recommended that a "Stipulation 15" be included, minimizing surface disruption, but the lead agency reviewer removed Stipulation 15, which would have required proper drilling and exploration protocol. Multiple MDNR reviewers identified this land as headwaters, but (ultimately) recommended a "development with restrictions" classification.

● After reviewing comments from MDNR staff, we request that further review of the site be done in a timely manner by third party consultants.

● Additionally, we request a Public Hearing, in order to discuss concerns about the site of the proposed mineral lease, and review hydrologic data.

In announcing the Clean Water Rule, the Environmental Protection Agency has recently clarified the scope of protections intended by the Clean Water Act; in their analysis of peer-reviewed studies of watersheds, there was overwhelming consensus: "All ephemeral and intermittent streams, and the wetlands that are connected or next to them, will be subject to federal oversight under the proposed rule."**

The State of Michigan has delegated authority from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for protecting wetlands, especially headwater wetlands and other waters of the United States, from degradation, pollution and destruction. The state-administered 404 program must be consistent with all requirements of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and associated regulations set forth in the Section 404 guidelines, including the Clean Water Rule (effective August 28, 2015).***

In order to meet its responsibility to protect "waters of the United States," the State of Michigan needs to recognize that sulfide mining and associated mineral exploration is wholly incompatible with the protection of valuable headwaters. In accordance with new federal guidance, the State of Michigan must now act to provide enhanced protections for rivers, wetlands, headwaters and their aquatic resources -- or risk revocation of delegated authority.

Clearly, the decision to proceed with a mineral lease to Eagle Mine LLC, a company with active mineral exploration and mining in the immediate vicinity, may cause irreparable harms to headwaters of the Yellow Dog River and Salmon Trout River. While mineral leases in themselves do not guarantee successful exploration, it is widely understood that if a viable mineral product is discovered, political and financial collaboratives will join until extraction becomes possible.

We collectively voice our unified opposition to this proposed mineral lease and urge the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to take this opportunity to immediately reclassify the 40 acre parcel as non-leasable, in light of significant headwater protection concerns.

Mineral exploration on this fragile property will threaten unspoiled wetlands and the headwaters of two watersheds. The State of Michigan cannot afford to be reckless in regulating the vital water systems that feed our Great Lakes.

Sincerely,

Alexandra Maxwell, Executive Director, Save the WIld U.P.; Save the Wild U.P. Board of Directors; Save the Wild U.P. Advisory Board; Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve Board of Directors; Carl Lindquist, Executive Director, Superior Watersheds Partnership; The Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition Board of Directors; Friends of the Land of Keweenaw Board of Directors; Central Upper Peninsula Group of the Sierra Club for the Michigan Sierra Club, Chair John Rebers; Social Action Committee, Marquette Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Megan Foulks; Rev. Jon Magnuson, Concerned Clergy of Marquette; Rev. Tesshin Paul Lehmberg, Concerned Clergy of Marquette; Charles West, Concerned Clergy of Marquette; Gene Champagne, Spokesperson for Concerned Citizens of Big Bay; Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, Jane A. TenEyck, Executive Director; Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, KBIC Tribal Council, Warren C. Swartz, President; Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Charlotte Jameson, Policy Manager; Amy Conover, President of Superior Sustainability; Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, Al Gedicks, Executive Secretary; Front 40, Ron and Carol Henriksen; June Rydholm, adjacent landowner; Daniel C. Rydholm, adjacent landowner; Catherine Parker; Edie Farwell; William F. Ogden Jr.; Kippy Isham Phelps; Laura Farwell; Maddie Dugan; Marianne Pyott; Mary H. Campbell; Jeffery Loman; Kathleen Scutchfield; M. Comfort, Physician Assistant; Dave and Beverly Stromquist, Laurie Serchak, Allan Stromquist, adjacent landowners; Kurt Stromquist, adjacent landowner; Andy Cocallas, President of Chicago Whitewater Association; Tom Hafner, kayaker with Chicago Whitewater Association; Steve LaPorte, member of Illinois Paddling Council, Prairie State Canoeists; Mari Denby; Pamela McClelland; J. Kevin Hunter; Steve Washburne; Tom Mountz; Judith Bosma; Dick Huey; Tracy Heenan Walklet; Justine Yglesias; Erin Bozek-Jarvis; David Kallio; Nancy Olsen; Jennifer Brown; Marian Gram Laughlin; Louis V. Galdieri; Luke Mountz; Allyson Dale; Martin J. Reinhardt; Gerry Stromquist.

Notes:

* "According to a 1991 United States Fish and Wildlife Service Wetland Status and Trends report, over 50 percent of Michigan's original wetlands have been drained or filled, thereby making the protection of remaining wetlands that much more important." SOURCE: http://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,4561,71353313_3687141296,00.html

** https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/epa-proposes-greater-protections-for-streams-wetlands-under-clean-water-act/2014/03/25/4811cd36-b42c-11e3-b899-20667de76985_story.html

*** http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-06/documents/epa-hq-ow-2011-0880-20862.pdf 

Guest article: Letter to DNR on Eagle Mine's proposed mineral lease near headwaters of Yellow Dog River

By Gene Champagne*

[Editor's Note: This letter was sent to the Dept. of Natural Resources as a comment on Eagle Mine's request for a metallic mineral lease from the State of Michigan for 40 acres of public land (NE 1/4 of the NE 1/4 of Section 8, T50N, R29W, Michigamme Township, Marquette County) in the Escanaba River State Forest. The deadline for public comments is Friday, Sept. 25, 2015.** The letter is reprinted here with the author's permission.]

Karen Maidlow
Property Analyst, Minerals Management
Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 30452
Lansing, MI 48909

September 23, 2015

Dear Ms. Maidlow:
I strongly urge you to deny the proposed mineral lease sought by Eagle Mine LLC for 40 acres of State-owned land (NE 1/4 of the NE1/4 of Section 8, T50N, R29W, Michigamme Township, Marquette County). Short of outright rejection of this mineral lease, I request a Public Hearing in this matter. I understand from the form letters you send out in such matters that Public Hearings are not routinely called for or done.

The DNR, as well as the DEQ, need to realize that these issues surrounding mineral leases and mining permits, in this part of the UP with this type of mineral exploration, cannot be conducted as business as usual. The issues at hand will impact an area that has historically, socially, and culturally been one of sustainability containing a wide range of public uses that will be negatively impacted far into the future just by the mere presence of exploration and mining. I understand that mineral leases in themselves do not guarantee that a mining operation will follow. I also understand that a mining permit application may not, in theory, automatically be granted. The reality however is that if minerals are economically feasible for extraction, a mining permit no matter how flawed and risky will be granted. Over-weighted and unduly influential political and financial interests will join until extraction becomes a done deal.

The parcel in question is located in an intact watershed and contains an undisturbed headwater wetland ecosystem of over 1,000 acres. Wetlands have been greatly depleted in our state due to fragmentation of land areas with negative consequences for long-term sustainability. Andersen Creek, identified as headwaters of the Yellow Dog River, flows through this land. The Yellow Dog River has been designated as a Scenic and Wild River.

This 40 acre parcel may be the only piece of land that the DNR is required to look at, but the negative impacts of  a mineral lease permit to surrounding  parcels is so overly intrusive as to negate the enjoyment and usefulness of the multi-faceted activities enjoyed by a broader range of the general public.

These lands are used for gathering blueberries (of which there are an abundance on this 40 acres being scrutinized), hiking, biking, camping, mental recreation that comes from solitude, and many other uses that benefit a far larger public. This 40 acre parcel lies west of the current Eagle Mine operation and thus is given relief from the noise, truck traffic, light pollution, and other incursions that have interrupted and interfered with the quality of life enjoyed by area residents, camp owners, and tourists alike. The public should not suffer further erosion of enjoyable activities on state (public) owned land for the benefit of such a few.

I have personally set foot on this 40 acre parcel. It is a place of immense beauty and solitude. I have found moss there so thick that sitting on the ground rivals the comfort experienced from sitting on the deepest most comfortable couch available. As mentioned, blueberries are in abundance. Walking along one feels as if walking on a sponge, as the area is that wet; this despite the area being 4.5 inches below average for precipitation so far this year. The southern half of the 40 acres is wet/swamp land. No drilling can be performed on these 40 acres without negatively impacting and degrading the watershed to some degree. I have witnessed the impact of exploratory drilling in the area and the weak to nonexistent oversights that accompany it.

Holding a Public Hearing on this permit request will allow the DNR to witness firsthand the passion that people of this state, and particularly the people who live closest to the affected land, have for the quality of life activities afforded by our land. Fragmentation of land and land use is what has led to the scourge of urban sprawl and diminishing of wetlands that accompanied it. This situation of allowing such an overbearing effect of other area land and activity use through fragmentation will amount to the same negative future for our children and grandchildren.

Respectfully Submitted,
Gene Champagne
Big Bay, Michigan

Editor's Notes:

* Guest author Gene Champagne is a spokesperson for Concerned Citizens of Big Bay.

** See our Sept. 21, 2015, article, "Environmental, conservation groups question Eagle Mine's request to lease 40 acres of state land near Yellow Dog River headwaters."

Nobel Laureate Dr. Henry Pollack to present "A World Without Ice" lecture, multimedia installation, film at Michigan Tech

Iceberg Drums. Part of the installation "A World Without Ice," opening at Michigan Tech's McArdle Theatre Friday, Sept. 25. (Photo courtesy Rozsa Center)

HOUGHTON -- Michigan Technological University’s Rozsa Center in collaboration with The Department of Visual and Performing Arts, The Provost’s Office, and The Great Lakes Research Center present Nobel Laureate Dr. Henry Pollack’s lecture and multimedia installation "A World Without Ice." The lecture will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 24, at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts. The lecture is free, but due to limited seating reserved tickets are required.

The multimedia installation will take place in the McArdle Theatre, on the second floor of the Walker Center, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily from Friday, Sept. 25, to Tuesday, Sept. 29. The installation is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required. A variety of additional lectures, classes, and campus forums will also take place as a part of this event, including a panel lecture and discussion at the Forestry Friday Forum from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 25, in the Forestry Building G002.

Emeritus Professor of Geophysics Henry Pollack -- co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) colleagues and Al Gore -- musicians and composers Michael Gould and Steven Rush, and multimedia artist Marion Traenkle, have collaborated to create a multimedia exhibit that captures our planet’s precarious moment in global warming.

Part science, part music, part art, the collaboration is a groundbreaking, multi-sensory experience that is thought provoking and compelling. Using photographs taken at both poles of our planet by Dr. Pollack and his team, an original composition written by Dr. Rush whose patterns and structure are derived from 120 years of climate data, and an ice-melt actuated rhythm created by ten ice domes melting onto drums created by Dr. Gould, the exhibit creates a different space in which visitors can contemplate a warming planet. Using Pollack’s climate data, the music allows the listener to hear the large leaps in temperature, and the melting ice provides an immersive, beautiful, random companion sound. A film by Traenkle used photographs of both poles by Pollack and his team to provide a stunning backdrop for the installation.

Tickets for the lecture are available by phone at (906) 487-2073, online at Rozsa.mtu.edu, or in person at the Central Ticketing Office in the Student Development Complex. Click here for a full schedule of related events.

Film: PROJECT: ICE by William Kleinert

Michigan Tech's Rozsa Center in collaboration with The Department of Visual and Performing Arts, The Provost’s Office, and The Great Lakes Research Center will present the film PROJECT: ICE by Director and Executive Producer William Kleinert at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 27, at the Rozsa Center. Immediately following the screening, Kleinert will join Emeritus Professor of Geophysics Henry Pollack (co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with IPCC colleagues and Al Gore), and Dr. Guy Meadows, Great Lakes Research Center director and Robbins Professor of Sustainable Marine Engineering, in a panel discussion of the film and the ongoing "World Without Ice" multimedia installation. The movie and panel discussion are free. No tickets will be required.

PROJECT: ICE views North America’s fresh water inland ocean through the prism of ice, from the crossroads of history, science and climate change. North America’s five Great Lakes contain a staggering twenty percent of all the fresh surface water on the planet. Lake Superior by itself holds ten percent of Earth’s fresh water at the surface. The cast and crew of PROJECT: ICE explore this shared Canadian-American resource that holds a timely and telling story of geology, human movement, population growth, industrialization, cultural development, recreation and the profound impact people have had on the very environment they cherish and depend upon. Kleinert is a committed environmentalist, avid student of history and a 40-year veteran of the media business.

The "World Without Ice" presentation is supported by the Van Evera Distinguished Lecture Series. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Eyes as Big as Plates exhibit opens at Finlandia University Gallery: Reception Sept. 24

 
Artists Riitta Ikonen and Karoline Hjorth. (Photo courtesy Finlandia University)

HANCOCK -- Riitta Ikonen and Karoline Hjorth’s Lautasen Kokoiset Silmät: Eyes as Big as Plates exhibit is featured at the Finlandia University Gallery, Hancock, through October 17, 2015.

An opening reception for the exhibit will take place at the gallery from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 24, with an artist talk by Riitta Ikonen beginning at 7:30 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Eyes as Big as Plates is an ongoing collaborative venture by Riitta Ikonen (Finland) and Karoline Hjorth (Norway). Inspired by characters from Nordic folklore and personifications of nature, the project has evolved into a continual search for modern humans' belonging to nature. Since 2011 the artists have collaborated with retired farmers, fishermen, zoologists, plumbers, opera singers, housewives, academics and 90-year old parachutists from Norway, Finland, France, US, UK, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Sweden, Japan. The artists will expand the project to Greenland in October, 2015.

#Pupi, 2012. Riitta Ikonen and Karoline Hjorth. (Photo courtesy Finlandia University)

"Each image in the series presents a solitary figure in a landscape, dressed in elements from surroundings that indicate neither time nor place," note Ikonen and Hjorth. "Here nature acts as both content and context: characters literally inhabit the landscape wearing sculptures they create in collaboration with the artists."

Agnes_i. Riitta Ikonen and Karoline Hjorth. (Photo courtesy Finlandia University)

"As active participants in our contemporary society, these seniors encourage the rediscovery of a demographic group too often labeled as marginalized or even as a stereotypical cliché," continue the artists. "It is in this light that the project aims to generate new perspectives on who we are and where we belong."

Originally from Finland, Ikonen completed her BA at the University of Brighton and MA at the Royal College of Art, London. She was nominated for Ars Fennica, Finland’s biggest art prize, in 2014 and exhibits, lectures and performs internationally. Her recent works have been in exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, London 2012 Olympic Park, Victoria and Albert Museum, Photographer's Gallery and Gulbenkian Foundation. With support from the Finnish Cultural Foundation, she works from both Finland and New York.*

Karoline Hjorth is a Norwegian photographer, artist and writer. She completed her MA at the University of Westminster (London) in 2009 and is currently based in Oslo. Her photographic work has received the Deloitte Award at the National Portrait Gallery in London and has been exhibited and published internationally. Her first book,  Mormormonologene (Nana Monologues) was published in 2011 with a second edition in 2012. She is currently working towards an international book publication of Eyes as Big as Plates in collaboration with Riitta Ikonen, along with the production of new works and exhibitions.**

Eyes as Big as Plates is currently touring with the Norwegian National Museum and has previously been shown at Fotogalleriet (Oslo), Pioneer Works (NYC), The Finnish Institute in Oslo, Paris and Stockholm, Tetley Brewery (Leeds), Seibu Shibuya (Tokyo), Villa Borghese (Rome), Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts (Nebraska US), the Ars Fennica exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Arts Kiasma, Bogota International Photo Biennale (Colombia), gallery FACTORY in Seoul Korea, among others.

The Finlandia University Gallery is in the Finnish American Heritage Center, 435 Quincy St., downtown Hancock. For more information, contact the Finlandia University Gallery at 906-487-7500.

* Learn more about Ikonen at riittaikonen.com.

** Learn more about Hjorth at karolinehjorth.wordpress.com.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Food and Water Watch to hold Sept. 24 press conference to call for preventing oil spill in Straits of Mackinac

At Bridge View Park in St. Ignace, near the north end of the Mackinac Bridge (at right, background) concerned citizens at the July 14, 2013, Oil and Water Don't Mix rally against the Enbridge Pipeline (note sign: "60-year-old Time Bomb") listen as speakers, including Bill McKibben, 350.org founder, talk about the dangers of Enbridge's Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac. This Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, this same park will be the scene of a press conference/ protest to call attention once more to the dangers of an oil spill in the Straits. (Keweenaw Now file photo)*

ST. IGNACE, Mich. -- While Enbridge conducts an oil spill response drill in the Straits of Mackinac on Thursday, Sept. 24, Food and Water Watch -- a non-profit group that champions healthy food and clean water for all -- will hold a press conference to call attention to Enbridge’s shaky safety record. The group will unite with allies and concerned citizens near the Straits of Mackinac to call on Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette to shut down Enbridge's Line 5 before the winter ice appears.

The press conference will take place at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24, at Bridge View Park, Boulevard Drive, in St. Ignace.

Food and Water Watch warns that our state lawmakers need to be precautionary and not reactionary when it comes to protecting the Great Lakes.

During the Sept. 6, 2015, rally at the Mackinac Bridge near St. Ignace, protesters hold signs expressing concerns about Enbridge's Line 5 under the Straits. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)**

Line 5 is a 62-year-old oil and gas pipeline owned by Enbridge that runs under the Straits of Mackinac. According to a University of Michigan Study, the Straits are the "worst possible place" in the Great Lakes for a spill. Enbridge’s shaky track record includes one of the largest oil spills in U.S. history when roughly one million gallons of tar sands oil spilled near Kalamazoo in 2010. Of particular concern is that the U.S. Coast Guard testified before Congress this year and indicated that they wouldn’t be able to respond effectively to a spill in the Great Lakes. Further, Enbridge appears to have no plan for how to recover oil if a spill were to occur in the winter when the lakes are covered with ice.

Speakers at the event will be Lynna Kaucheck, Food and Water Watch; Aaron Payment, chair, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians; Phil Parr, local business representative.

Aaron Payment, chair, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, speaks at a Sept. 6, 2015, press conference during the rally against Enbridge's Line 5 in Mackinaw City. Several Native American leaders spoke to the media about their concern for the Great Lakes. Payment will also speak at the Sept. 24 press conference to be held at Bridge View Park, St. Ignace. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)***

Participants are welcome to hold signs.

Following Payment's talk, Mariah Urueta of Food and Water Watch speaks at the Sept. 6, 2015, press conference during the rally against Enbridge's Line 5. Urueta said she helped organize this event. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)**

Driving directions to park:

- Go to the US 2 exit off I-75

- Go west of 75 for a quarter mile

- Turn south at the moose statue at Boulevard Dr.

- Go all the way down towards the water. The park will be on the left. There is a big entrance sign.

Food and Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. They help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to their homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.

Notes:

* See our July 22, 2013, article, "Videos, photos: 'Oil and Water Don't Mix' rally draws hundreds concerned about Great Lakes." 

** Watch for a story, coming soon, on the Sept. 6, 2015, protests at both the north and south ends of the Mackinac Bridge.

*** See video clips of Aaron Payment's talk about tribal opposition to Line 5 at a May 27, 2015, press conference on Mackinac Island in our June 17, 2015, article.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Environmental, conservation groups question Eagle Mine's request to lease 40 acres of state land near Yellow Dog River headwaters

By Michele Bourdieu, with information from Save the Wild U.P. and the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR)

This recent aerial photo shows the southwest corner -- marked with an x -- of the 40-acre proposed mineral lease for Eagle Mine LLC. Environmental groups are concerned about the location of the lease, since it is near the headwaters of the Yellow Dog River and includes wetlands. (Photo © and courtesy Jeremiah Eagle Eye. Reprinted with permission.)

MARQUETTE – The Eagle Mine LLC, owned by multinational conglomerate Lundin Mining, is seeking a new mineral lease from the State of Michigan for 40 acres of public land (NE 1/4 of the NE 1/4 of Section 8, T50N, R29W, Michigamme Township, Marquette County) in the Escanaba River State Forest.

The Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) announcement of Lundin’s mineral rights lease application was published on Sunday July 26th, 2015, commencing a legally required 30-day public comment period. Since then the comment period has been extended another month -- to Sept. 25, 2015.

The targeted land lies three miles west of Eagle Mine’s ore body, and south of the Triple A road. Ecologically, the land ranges from from jack pine and blueberry bushes to inundated wetlands known as the Anderson Creek swamp, critical headwaters of the Yellow Dog River.

Yellow Dog Headwaters, Anderson Creek Panorama. (July 31, 2015, photo © Steve Garske, courtesy Save the Wild U.P.)

Botanist Steve Garske commented on the pristine ecosystem in the area of the proposed lease.

"Much of this land is relatively undisturbed conifer swamp and pristine shrub-sedge meadow," Garske explained. "These headwaters flow into the Yellow Dog River. If Lundin can drill and potentially locate a sulfide mine here, they can do it anywhere. We need to tell the DNR that headwaters are too special to be mined."

The DNR lease review acknowledges the Headwaters of the Yellow Dog (Anderson Creek) and notes the possible presence of endangered species and a special conservation area. DNR Fisheries staff recommended "Stipulation 15" be included, minimizing surface disruption. Fisheries staff also recommended no development in the southern half of the 40-acre parcel, noting, "The south portion of this 40, particularly the southwest portion of this 40, is the headwater water system for Anderson Creek, which is the headwaters of the Yellow Dog River."

This photo looks southeast near southwest corner of the proposed 40-acre corner in Section 8. Photo © and courtesy Jeremiah Eagle Eye. Reprinted with permission.)

However, the lead reviewer, Don Mankee, DNR Forest Resources Western U.P. district supervisor, said he is not including Stipulation 15 (concerning "Limited Surface Disturbance") because it refers only to oil and gas drilling.

In a Sept. 17, 2015, email reply to Keweenaw Now, Mankee wrote, "As lead (reviewer), my recommendation is consistent with local Biologists to recommend Development with Restrictions for the parcel in question. When such a recommendation is made in our review system database, reviewers have a list of 69 frequently used stipulations they can choose from to aid them in the process. It is important to note that the vast majority of mineral review using this system is for oil and gas leasing in the lower peninsula of Michigan. As such, some of the stipulations are specific to oil and gas reviews, and do not apply to this particular review for a potential metallic mineral lease. That is the case with stipulation 15. This does not mean the Fisheries review is being ignored. It simply means that my review as lead, included the stipulations applicable to a metallic mineral lease."

George Madison, DNR Fisheries biologist, said in a Sept. 18 email to Keweenaw Now that he believed Mankee's email explanation "was very clear about this topic."

Mankee, who included only Stipulations 16 (Threatened or Endangered Species Habitat) and 49 (Best Management Practices) told Keweenaw Now his recommendation was consistent with that of Fisheries, but he wouldn't make a separate recommendation for the southern half of the 40-acre parcel because the classification has to refer to the whole 40-acre parcel.

Mankee said the review includes implications a metallic mineral lease would eventually have on the surface.

"We recommend that any development on the surface be restricted," Mankee said. "I can only speak for my area of expertise, which is as a land administrator for the Forest Resources Division."

Multiple reviewers noted the presence of Headwaters, but recommended a "development with restrictions" classification. 

Comments from the DNR's Forest Resources Division in their review of the lease request state the following: "There is the potential for the occurrence of  Narrow-leaved gentian within this parcel. Proper protocol for this species must be followed. In addition, the swamp/marsh to the south of this parcel is the headwaters for the Yellow Dog River. Proper BMPs (Best Management Practices) must be applied to protect the riparian area along the southern edge of this parcel."*

Environmental groups, including Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP), have expressed concern about potential development for mining in this 40-acre parcel.

"There was a 'no development' recommendation on the southern half of the parcel --the section of this parcel that contains the headwaters of the Yellow Dog River," said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP executive director. "Save the Wild U.P. demands that the parcel review be revised by DNR staff before any decisions on the mineral lease be made and that these revisions and recommendations be transparent and accessible to the public."

Maxwell also questioned the DNR's role, which should include protection of public lands.

"When will Michigan realize that public lands belong to the public, not private corporations?" Maxwell asked. "It (the area of the proposed lease) is 1.5 miles from the McCormick Tract Wilderness and the Yellow Dog Wild and Scenic National River, and surrounded by historic sites like the Nels Andersen homestead, the Bentley Trail, and the Bushy Camp. Eagle Mine is targeting our communal history."

Yellow Dog Headwater area of proposed mineral lease. (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, National Wetlands Inventory data). Click on image for a larger version. (Image courtesy Save the Wild U.P.)

"This land is part of a sensitive wetlands complex of more than a thousand acres," said Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) President Kathleen Heideman. "Headwaters are where rivers are born! Headwaters are simply not compatible with sulfide mining."

Gail Griffith, emeritus professor of Chemistry at Northern Michigan University and SWUP board member asks why the State bothers to write a land management plan for this section of the Escanaba River State Forest.

"Michigan regulators obviously believe that mining exploration is always the most desirable land use -- in every situation, no matter how it undermines or jeopardizes our public land, water, forestry, wildlife and fisheries!" Griffith said. "What is the purpose of a public comment period, if no one at the DNR listens to public comments?"

In a recent brief interview at Michigan Tech's Great Lakes Research Center, DNR Director Keith Creagh told Keweenaw Now the DNR would be looking at public comments on this lease:

Keith Creagh, Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources director, answers questions from Keweenaw Now on the potential Eagle Mine mineral lease near the headwaters of the Yellow Dog River. Creagh was visiting Michigan Tech's Great Lakes Research Center on Aug. 13, 2015, with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Video by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Karen Maidlow, DNR Minerals Management property specialist, said the DNR welcomes comments from the public up to the new deadline of Sept. 25, 2015.

"The public may be aware of valuable resource information to assist us in making an informed decision about the lease classification," Maidlow said. "All our lease does is give them permission to explore and develop state-owned metallic minerals."

The lease does not include surface use or development, she added.

"They would have to get a special surface use lease to lease state-owned surface," Maidlow explained. "The lease in and of itself does not grant all the permission needed to mine."

While Maidlow noted she did receive some comments asking for a public hearing, the DNR would not hold a public hearing based only on this lease request.

"A hearing would be held if an ore body is found and the company wants to mine it," Maidlow said. "The DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) would hold the hearing and the DNR would participate if any of the parcels to be mined are state-owned."

Gene Champagne of Concerned Citizens of Big Bay questioned a mining lease in an area that is mostly wetland -- besides being the headwaters area for the Yellow Dog River.

Eyeball Falls on the Yellow Dog River is less than a quarter of a mile from the area of the requested lease for 40 acres in Section 8. (Photo © and courtesy Jeremiah Eagle Eye. Reprinted with permission.)

"Why are they even considering an exploration permit?" Champagne asked. "Will there be a public hearing? Why is the DNR acting as a real estate agent for Lundin/Eagle and ignoring the future of our grandchildren -- the health and well-being of our grandchildren?"

Dave Allen, Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC) board member, also expressed concerns about the pristine habitat found on these 40 acres.

"We at UPEC are against this new mineral lease," Allen said. "The parcel contains Anderson's Creek, headwaters of the Yellow Dog River, a rather precious stream and prime brook trout habitat, very rich in good macroinvertebrates -- benthic bugs like caddis, flies, mayflies and others -- and clean water."

In 2006 the Superior Watershed Partnership (SWP) published the Salmon Trout River Watershed Management Plan which included the recommendation to "prohibit sulfide-based mining" (Page 41).

"Since the Salmon Trout River and Yellow Dog River are both high quality systems and share a common watershed boundary the SWP recommendation to prohibit sulfide-based mining would hold true for both watersheds," explained Carl Lindquist, SWP executive director. "The potential impacts to groundwater, surface water and Lake Superior are simply too great."

Chip Truscon, SWUP board member, compared Eagle Mine's exploration of new sites to a spreading cancer.

"When Eagle Mine's drill rigs go after new sites, they call it 'progress.' I call it Stage 4," Truscon noted. "When a cancer patient develops a malignant growth some distance from the primary tumor, we say the cancer is spreading, or metastasizing. It's bad news, with a poor prognosis for the environment."

Mankee said he is willing to speak to citizens who question the potential lease.

"I would welcome the folks who are concerned about (the Yellow Dog headwaters) to visit us, and we're available to answer questions," he said.**

According to SWUP, in 2014, Eagle Mine made a similar request, seeking mineral rights to a parcel of public land along the Yellow Dog River. Together, Save the Wild U.P., Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters called on the State of Michigan to hold a Public Hearing on that 2014 proposed lease. The groups asked the DNR to deny Eagle Mine’s mineral lease request, stating, "Metallic mineral lease of this land would serve only the short-term goals of Industry (...) once again, the State of Michigan seems wholly incapable of serving the public trust." In response, the DNR sent out form letters, and approved the lease without notifying the organizations or individuals who requested a hearing.***

Public comments on the lease request should be sent by Friday, Sept. 25, by email to Karen Maidlow at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources: maidlowk@michigan.gov, or mail your comments now to Karen Maidlow, Property Analyst, Minerals Management, DNR, P.O. Box 30452, Lansing, MI 48909.****

Notes:

* Click here for the 2009 Best Management Practices (BMPs) manual used by DNR and DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality). (See Ch. 5, beginning on p. 13, on Riparian Management Zones, and Ch. 12, beginning on p. 47, for Wetland BMPs.)

** Don Mankee's office is in the Baraga DNR Office, 427 US-41 North, Baraga, MI 49908. Phone: 906-353-6651.

*** See our Oct. 31, 2014, article on the 2014 Eagle Mine mineral lease request near the Yellow Dog River.

**** Note that public comments can also be made to DNR during the meeting of the Western UP Citizens Advisory Council, which meets tonight, Sept. 21, in the chalet at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Click here for info.

Finlandia University's Festival Ruska to celebrate Finnish roots Sept. 21-27

Poster for Festival Ruska 2015 courtesy Finlandia University. 

HANCOCK -- Finlandia University is celebrating Finnish roots this week with their Festival Ruska, from TODAY, Monday, Sept. 21, through Sunday, Sept. 27.

The weeks events include hiking; two concerts by Baltic Crossing, a folk band of Finnish and British musicians, at the Calumet Theatre; presentations and book signings by authors Tim Jollymore and Ellen Jensen; a lecture by actress Taina Elg; an art exhibit at the Finlandia University Gallery; a tour of Finnish American sites (see our News Briefs and sign up TODAY, Sept. 21); a Finnish game on the Quincy Green; Finnish Genealogy Day; and a concluding vesper service at Jacobsville Chapel.

See the poster above, visit www.finlandia.edu/festivalruska or visit the Finlandia Facebook page for details.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

DNR Western U.P. Peninsula Citizens' Advisory Council to meet Sept. 21 at Porkies chalet

MARQUETTE -- The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Western Upper Peninsula Citizens’ Advisory Council will meet from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. EDT (5 p.m. to 7 p.m. CDT) Monday, Sept. 21, in Ontonagon County. The meeting will take place at the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park chalet, which is located at the ski hill, along Ontonagon County Road 107, about a half-mile west of the Union Bay Campground.

Before the meeting, DNR division staff report to council members and the public, beginning at 5:30 p.m. EDT (4:30 p.m. CDT).

The public can participate in the session by offering comments to the discussion during two specified periods during the meeting. Public citizens may provide comment on the day of the Council meeting by filling out a public comment card when they arrive. They will receive a maximum of three (3) minutes to provide comment.

New business items on the agenda include:
- State forest road funding presentation.
- Additional agenda items added by the council.

Old business items include:
- DNR Land Management Plan update.
- U.P. Wildlife Habitat Workgroup update.
- Gogebic Community College-DNR partnership update.
- Oman Creek update.
- Council survey.

Committee reports also will be received on trails, recreation, law, forestry, fisheries and wildlife.

Stacy Haughey, DNR U.P. regional coordinator, is scheduled to discuss a breakdown of motorized and non-motorized spending from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.

The DNR’s eastern and western Upper Peninsula citizens’ advisory councils are designed to provide local input to advise the DNR on regional programs and policies, identify areas in which the department can be more effective and responsive and offer insight and guidance from members’ own experiences and constituencies.

The council members represent a wide variety of natural resource and recreation interests. Agenda items are set by the council members and council recommendations are forwarded to the DNR for consideration.

Anyone interested in being considered as a future council member should fill out the nomination form found on the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/upcac. For more information, contact the DNR Upper Peninsula regional coordinator’s office at 906-226-1331.