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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Stewards of Bete Grise Preserve to hold Picnic, Dedication Aug. 23

The beach at the Bete Grise Preserve, known for its "singing sands," will be the site of a picnic hosted by the Stewards of Bete Grise Preserve on Sunday, Aug. 23. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

BETE GRISE -- Stewards of Bete Grise Preserve (SBGP) invite the public to their First Annual Picnic from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 23, at the Bete Grise Preserve on Lake Superior near Lac La Belle.

Here is the schedule:
1 p.m. -- Meet on the beach (the beach at Bete Grise South, within the Preserve)
1:30 p.m. -- Potluck Lunch. Bring a dish to share (something that does not need outdoor cooking), beverages and your own place settings.
2 p.m. -- Program featuring KBIC (Keweenaw Bay Indian Community) drummers
4:30 p.m. -- Dedication of new land (optional) on the water in boats at the sloughs area north of the channel near the Mendota Lighthouse. Bring your own boat, kayak or canoe (can be launched across from Lighthouse at the end of the road from Lac La Belle if you don't want to paddle from the Preserve Beach on Lake Superior). The Dedication will take place on the beach near the picnic if water is too rough to get to the sloughs easily.*

This aerial photo shows the wetlands and beach at Bete Grise South in relation to the Gay-Lac La Belle Road. Lac La Belle and some Lac La Belle sloughs are in the background. The Dedication on Aug. 23 will take place on the water in the sloughs. (Keweenaw Now file photo © 2003 Michael Jordan. Reprinted with permission.)

Other optional items to bring: beach toys, kites, chairs, towels, sunscreen. Some SBGP hats and t-shirts will be on sale at the picnic -- $15 each. A porta-potty will be available on the beach.

Map showing Aug. 23 picnic and dedication areas. Click on map for larger version. (Map courtesy Sue Haralson, Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District)

Directions from anywhere south of Lac La Belle: Travel north on U.S. 41. Turn right on the Lac La Belle Road. Continue 9.5 miles from U.S. 41 past Lac La Belle (right fork) toward Gay to the Bete Grise Preserve parking lot (note sign on left). (It is also possible to travel north on the Gay Lac La Belle Road from Gay and turn right into this parking lot.)

On the Gay-Lac La Belle Road watch for this sign, honoring the groups and individuals who have worked through partnership to create the Bete Grise Preserve. It marks the entrance to the parking lot for the Preserve. A short trail leads to the beach. No motorized vehicles are allowed in the Preserve or on the beach. (Keweenaw Now file photo © 2005 Michelle Manarolla) *

For more information call 906-482-0214.

The Bete Grise Preserve includes 1104 acres of pristine dune swale wetlands, 7500 feet of Lake Superior shoreline and significant frontage on the sloughs of Lac La Belle. This area will be preserved in its natural state in perpetuity, thanks to The Nature Conservancy, the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District (HKCD), the Keweenaw Land Trust, South Shore Association, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and many generous individuals. Read more on the HKCD Web site.

*Editor's Note: Read about the first Dedication of the Bete Grise Preserve in the July 19, 2005, article, "Ceremony marks Bete Grise preservation," by Michele Manarolla.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Native Plant Society to hold botanical visit to Keweenaw Shore Nature Sanctuary Aug. 22

Participants in the Aug. 22 botanical visit to the Keweenaw Shore Nature Sanctuary will pass through a boreal forest such as this. (Photos courtesy Michigan Nature Association and Joan Chadde)

HOUGHTON -- Join the North Woods Native Plant Society for a botanical visit to the Keweenaw Shore Nature Sanctuary, owned by the Michigan Nature Association (MNA). On this short three-quarter-mile trail, visitors will pass through four different plant communities (boreal, rich and poor conifer, and northern dry forests). Along the way, hikers will encounter a variety of plants from paintbrush to orchids and a cross section of Keweenaw geology. The terrain is slightly rough with some uneven footing with exposed roots and rocks, so proper foot gear is recommended.

Joan Chadde and Colleen Matula of the North Woods Native Plant Society will lead the trip, which is open to anyone interested in learning about native plants and ecosystems. No prior knowledge or skills are required. To register for the hike or to obtain more information, please email:

These colorful bunch berries can be seen among the rocks at Esrey Park (Keweenaw Shore Nature Sanctuary).

Participants will meet at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 22, at the Keweenaw Shore Nature Sanctuary trailhead. Parking is available at Esrey Park roadside park approximately 9 miles west of Copper Harbor (and 5 miles east of Eagle Harbor) along M-26. The trail through the sanctuary starts on the south side of M-26 about 200 feet west of the west entrance to Esrey Park.

At 8 a.m. Saturday morning, there will be an optional visit to Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary. Located three miles south of Copper Harbor, this is the most popular Michigan Nature Association sanctuary. Other nearby MNA sanctuaries include: James Klipfel Memorial Nature Sanctuary at Brockway Mountain and James Dorian Rooks Memorial Nature Sanctuary at Garden Brook.*

At 6 p.m. Saturday, there will be a no-host dinner at the Harbor Haus in Copper Harbor (please email Sherry Zoars at if you'd like to join the group for dinner). Overnight camping is available at Lake Fanny Hooe campground or Ft. Wilkins in Copper Harbor and at other campgrounds in the Keweenaw.

A Keweenaw cedar swamp offers botanical discoveries for hikers.

The MNA has 19 sanctuaries in Houghton and Keweenaw counties. The MNA protects natural areas and habitats for future generations, while providing educational opportunities for the public. The North Woods Native Plant Society is a group of professional and amateur botanists interested in learning about and preserving the native plants and ecosystems of the western U.P. and northern Wisconsin.

The Michigan Nature Association is committed to the protection and maintenance of Michigan's natural areas, in addition to the study of natural history and conservation education. Since 1952, the MNA has acquired more than 160 nature sanctuaries, from the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula to the Indiana border.

*Directions to Michigan Nature Association Sanctuaries:

Keweenaw Shore Nature Sanctuary: From Eagle Harbor, turn north on M-26 towards Copper Harbor and drive 6 miles to Esrey Park roadside park. The trailhead is across the highway and 50 yards west. This trail goes to Brockway Mountain Road and then returns on the same trail to the trailhead.

Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary: From the Copper Harbor Community Center on US 41, turn right on Lake Manganese Road and go 3 miles following the signs to "E.Pines." This road is rough; be careful.

James Klipfel Memorial Nature Sanctuary at Brockway Mountain is located on the top of Brockway Mountain along Brockway Mountain Drive. This sanctuary offers an easy one-mile loop trail beginning at the trailhead sign. Enjoy the view of Eagle Harbor and out over Lake Superior to the north and east. An easy hike for all ages. From Copper Harbor drive west on M-26 and turn up Brockway Mountain Drive at the edge of town. Drive 3.4 miles up Brockway Mountain Drive until you see the green MNA sign for the trailhead.

James Dorian Rooks Memorial Nature Sanctuary at Garden Brook offers a pleasant, two-mile round-trip walk through a moist woodland just below the Brockway Mountain Drive. A wide variety of shrubs, ferns and wildflowers will greet the hiker amidst the musical babble of Garden Brook. From Calumet, follow US-41 north 35 miles to just 0.5 miles before the intersection of US-41 and M-26 in Copper Harbor. About 0.25 miles past the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge entrance, and look for the MNA sanctuary sign on the left (north) side of the highway, and park in the designated parking area at the trailhead.

Updated: Judge upholds DEQ permits for mine, recommending protection for Eagle Rock

Eagle Rock near Big Bay: Administrative Law Judge Richard Patterson, in an MDEQ contested case, recommends Eagle Rock, a sacred site for Native Americans, not be used as a portal for Kennecott's proposed sulfide mine on the Yellow Dog Plains. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

MARQUETTE -- Administrative Law Judge Richard Patterson announced on Tuesday, Aug. 18, that he will uphold permits issued to Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) in 2007 for the company's "Eagle Project," a nickel and copper sulfide mine on the Yellow Dog Plains, with one critical exception that could nix the project or at the very least require a major overhaul of the mining plan.

Nonetheless, the petitioners in the case will likely appeal the portions of the permits not struck down or modified. Attorneys say the contested case record provides a remarkably strong basis for appeal.

In his decision, Patterson recommended moving the mine’s portal, or entryway, from Eagle Rock, a sacred outcropping with spiritual importance to local Native American tribes. Patterson stated that Kennecott and the MDEQ "did not properly address the impact on the sacred rock outcrop known as Eagle Rock" and suggested moving the mine’s entry portal away from the rock.

Susan LaFernier, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) vice-president, said KBIC could not make a formal statement about the decision until the Tribal Council has time to review and discuss it.

"We're still in the process of reviewing the decision," LaFernier told Keweenaw Now today, Aug. 19. "It's 178 pages."

LaFernier spoke eloquently of the spiritual connection between Eagle Rock and the Ojibwe people at the Protect the Earth gathering at Eagle Rock on Aug. 2, 2009. More than 170 people participated in the event, which included a two-mile walk from the Yellow Dog River to Eagle Rock, Native American ceremonies and guest speakers.*

The Yellow Dog River. Opponents of the mine walked from here to Eagle Rock on Aug. 2, 2009. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Michelle Halley, attorney for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), said, "Kennecott has claimed for years that Eagle Rock is the only possible location for the mine’s portal. Without that option, this mine could be halted or, at the very least, require a complete overhaul of the mining plan. We are pleased that Eagle Rock will be protected, assuming MDEQ Director Steve Chester follows the judge’s recommendations on this issue."

Patterson’s decision comes in the form of a recommendation to Chester. According to law, the parties in the case will have an opportunity to file exceptions to the judge’s recommendations by submitting a written document outlining those components with which they agree or disagree. Once Chester has received the exceptions, he will issue his final decision. Chester is not obligated to follow Patterson’s recommendations.

Citing DEQ spokesperson Robert McCann, an article in the Marquette Mining Journal today, Aug. 19, said the parties in the case have 30 days to file objections to the Aug. 18 ruling, which will be reviewed by Chester before his decision is made.

While the protection of Eagle Rock is fantastic," Halley added, "it doesn’t address most of the technical deficiencies we outlined in the course of the contested case. Therefore we will almost certainly appeal the final agency decision should Director Chester adopt the judge’s recommendations on the remaining issues."

Other than quoting Michelle Halley's mention of "technical deficiencies," the Aug. 19 Mining Journal article did not mention petitioners' concerns about the safety of the mine or about the potential environmental damage acid mine drainage could do to rivers, streams and Lake Superior. The article quotes Kennecott extensively.**

Yellow Dog Summer: Judge ignores flaws in mine design

An Aug. 18 press release from Yellow Dog Summer, opponents of the mine, stated that while Judge Patterson has recommended that Kennecott not use Eagle Rock for its mine portal, he has ignored critical faults in Kennecott-Rio Tinto's application, including the very design of the mine -- faults noted by experts.

Teresa Bertossi, an organizer with Yellow Dog Summer, said, "The judge’s decision to uphold permits issued to Kennecott by the MDEQ is of little surprise. I am glad that he found one of the obvious flaws, the proposal to desecrate a sacred site of the Anishinaabe, in Kennecott’s fraudulent application. Unfortunately, he overlooked other obvious problems."

Dr. David Sainsbury, a rock mechanics expert, in his 2006 Technical Review commissioned by the MDEQ, stated as follows: "The analysis techniques used to assess the Eagle crown pillar stability do not reflect industry best-practice. In addition, the hydrologic stability of the crown pillar has not been considered. Therefore, the conclusions made within the Eagle Project Mining Permit Application regarding crown pillar subsidence are not considered to be defensible."***

Rock mechanics expert Jack Parker, author of the report, "KEMC Eagle Project: A Fraudulent Mining Permit Application," questioning the crown pillar stability and the safety of the mine, also questioned the recent decision document.

"Having read through the first fifty pages of the decision document I find numerous blatant lies, some of them critical, including that which claims that their outside experts, Sainsbury and Blake, agreed with Kennecott that the 87.5 meter crown pillar would be 'stable,'" Parker said. "Sainsbury actually said that because of the way the design process was conducted those conclusions were ‘not defensible,’ meaning not supported by fact."****

Gene Champagne, Big Bay resident, said, "The judge seemed to recognize the Tribe’s right to their sacred land. However, he didn’t address the deficiencies in the permit itself, including those that affect the safety of the mine."

NWF: Decision to permit unsafe mine violates law

The decision is the latest development in a series of legal challenges to prevent a foreign mining company with a deeply troubled environmental and human rights history from blasting a risky metallic sulfide mine beneath the Salmon Trout River in the central Upper Peninsula. Petitioners in the case are the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Huron Mountain Club, National Wildlife Federation and Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.

"Ore body 150 feet down" is the title of this photo of the Salmon Trout River, which flows above the site of Kennecott Minerals' proposed sulfide mine near Marquette. The River contains a rare population of Coaster Brook Trout. (Photo © 2007 Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve and courtesy Reprinted with permission.)

In most areas, the judge’s recommendations failed to address issues that are important to protect workers and the environment. Halley, who said she is still reviewing all of the specifics of the decision, went on to say that NWF will address its concerns in written exceptions presented to the MDEQ and ultimately through appealing Chester’s final decision if it comes to that.

"This ruling does not change our firm belief that the decision to permit this mine violates the law," said Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center. "We remain committed to protecting the people, economy and wildlife of Michigan from this risky type of mine that has proven deadly to rivers, streams and communities in other states."

During oral arguments in the summer of 2008, NWF and its partners presented more than two dozen witnesses in a variety of technical disciplines. At the time, Halley remarked, "the testimony in this case has done nothing but demonstrate Kennecott’s substandard job in preparing the application and the slipshod review by the DEQ. Testimony at the hearing from Kennecott, MDEQ and our experts proves time and time again that the proposed mine is unsafe for humans and the environment."

Perhaps most stunning was the admission of MDEQ employee Joe Maki, leader of the mining review team that ultimately recommended approval of the mining permit. Asked under oath if he had applied mining law Part 632’s critical standard which states that the company must prove it will not pollute, impair, or destroy natural resources, Maki stated simply, "I did not." Asked if the mining review team had applied that standard, he said "I don’t believe so, no."

Should MDEQ Director Chester act on Patterson’s recommendation regarding Eagle Rock, Kennecott will remain stymied and cannot conduct mining operations until a new mining plan is submitted and approved. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must still decide whether the company could obtain necessary federal permits.

Editor's Notes: Thanks to the National Wildlife Federation and Yellow Dog Summer for the press releases used in this article, and to Save the Wild UP for their news updates on this issue.
*If you missed our 2-part article on the Protect the Earth workshops and Walk to Eagle Rock Aug. 1-2, click here: Protect the Earth 2009, part 1 and Part 2: Walk to Eagle Rock (includes a videoclip of Susan LaFernier's speech at Eagle Rock.)
**The Mining Journal article quotes Kennecott spokesperson Deb Muchmore and Kennecott General Manager Jon Cherry.
***To read Dr. David Sainsbury's 2006 report, click here.
**** To read Jack Parker's report, click here. See also our videoclip of Jack Parker speaking on a panel at Michigan Tech last spring.
Update: Thanks to the Lake Superior Mining News for posting the document with Judge Patterson's decision. Click here to read it in pdf format.

Shelter Home, Humane Society to hold Walk Against Violence Aug. 19

HOUGHTON -- The Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter Home and the Copper Country Humane Society are collaborating on a special event to raise awareness about family violence. They are pleased to invite the community, including friendly pets that are under their owner’s control, to their Walk Against Violence event, starting at 6 p.m. today, Wednesday, Aug. 19, in Houghton. The walk will begin and end at the East Houghton Waterfront Park, located west of the Super 8 Hotel, behind the Isle Royale Apartments.

Diane Shoos, former Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter Home Board chair and member, her daughter Anna and their dog Laika, participate in the 2007 Walk Against Violence near the Houghton Waterfront. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

Research has revealed a link between domestic violence and animal abuse. In a violent home, everyone could be a victim. The Walk Against Violence is designed to increase awareness about this connection, as well as increase our community’s support of those in need. The Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter Home provides emergency shelter and support services for persons who have experienced domestic violence and the Copper Country Humane Society is dedicated to helping abused, stray and abandoned pets.

Speakers will start the event, followed by a group walk along College Avenue and returning to the pavilion. Commemorative bandanas and water bottles will be given away as long as they are available, and t-shirts will be available for $10.00 each. Please join the walk at 6 p.m. today, Aug. 19 and show your support for victims of family violence -- people and pets need our help.

Serving Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties, the Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter Home offers emergency shelter, a 24-hour crisis line, both individual counseling and support groups, advocacy, referrals and information and presentations about domestic violence. The crisis line is 337-5632 or in Ontonagon, 884-4004. Visit their Web site at

The Copper Country Humane Society (CCHS) serves over 900 animals a year from Houghton, Baraga, and Keweenaw counties. CCHS works to reunite lost pets with their owners. For those pets that go unclaimed, we provide food, shelter, veterinary care including sterilization, and kindness until new homes are found. Learn more about CCHS and preview pets available for adoption at

The Walk Against Violence is being made possible thanks to the contributions of the Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter Home and the Copper Country Humane Society. In addition, several area businesses have lent support, including the Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPCO) and the Hilltop Restaurant.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Negaunee theater group to perform "Kalevala: Land of Heroes" Aug. 22 at Finn Camp

Kalevala: Land of Heroes poster courtesy Paul Olson of Peninsula Arts Appreciation Council.

NEGAUNEE -- Kalevala: Land of Heroes will be performed at 11 a.m. and at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 22, at Finn Camp in Wixom, Mich. The play, written by Paul Olson, is based on the Kalevala, the Finnish epic. Members of the Peninsula Arts Appreciation Council (PAAC) will perform Olson’s play in the Finn Camp’s Dance Hall.

"We did a big section of the show at Scandinavian Midsummer Fest in Marquette in June and it was very well received," Olson says.

A videoclip of that performance (a swordfight scene, preceded by a familiar Finnish waltz in the audience) may be seen on You Tube.

PAAC is a community theater group located in Negaunee, Mich. Olson notes the group is open to suggestions for future performances.

Tickets purchased in advance are $12/adult and $8/child to 17 years old. Tickets purchased at the door are $15/adult and $10/child to 17 years old. If you would like to reserve tickets now, please send an Email to by Wednesday, Aug. 19. Include the number of tickets and the performance time (matinee or evening).

These performances are sponsored by Knights and Ladies of the Kalevala, Detroit Finnish Cooperative Summer Camp Assocation (Finn Camp) and the Finnish Center Association.

To learn more about Finn Camp, visit their Web site.

Keweenaw Krayons to host Thimbleberry Jam Fest Aug. 22

MOHAWK -- Keweenaw Krayons' 10th Annual Thimbleberry Jam Fest will be held from Noon to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 22, at the Mohawk School.

It’ll be a day full of music, art, crafts, face painting, photos with Oreo and more...

Live music and song will be performed by Kiersten Bergdahl Birondo, The Augustine Family Band, Uncle Pete's Allstar BBQ Blues Band, On the Spot Blues Band, ANENUKI, The Thimbleberry Band, and.... Red House Recording ( will be providing the sound and mixing.

Gail English Bailey of Eagle Harbor has graciously donated a number of painted glassware items for the silent auction and door prizes.

Call 337-4706 or email for more information. Visit the Keweenaw Krayons Web site for updated info.

This event is funded in part by Aspirus Keweenaw.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Keweenaw Heritage Center to host Ethnic Dance program Aug. 17

CALUMET -- The Keweenaw Heritage Center at St. Anne's in Calumet continues the "Musical Mondays" series with a Heritage Dance at 7 p.m. tonight, Monday, Aug. 17, in the Center. Music will be performed by Marilyn Monsivais and Jim and Terri Enrietti.

The event will feature a performance by the Chassell Youth Folk Dancers -- "Kivajat" -- as well as ethnic dances taught by Hester Butler. The public is invited to join in the dancing.

Admission is $5 -- a benefit for the Keweenaw Heritage Center's universal accessibility project.

The Photo Exhibit, "Keweenaw's Music Heritage" is still on display in the Heritage Center from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and during the evening events.

Popular Diets class to be at Jutila Center Aug. 19

HANCOCK -- Kate Alvord of North Coast Holistics will be leading a class called "Pop Diets vs. The Unique You" at 6:30 p.m. this Wednesday evening, Aug. 19, in Room 324 at the Jutila Center in Hancock (the old hospital, 200 Michigan Street).

The one-hour class will compare popular weight loss diets and focus on some of the unique features in all of us that influence which diets might work -- or not work -- for each. The class is $10 at the door.

Visit the North Coast Holistics Web site for more information about wellness, diet, etc.