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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Keweenaw Community Drum to host 10 Billion Beats global event TONIGHT, Sept. 22

HANCOCK -- The community is invited to participate in the 10 Billion Beats global intention event from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. TONIGHT, Saturday, Sept. 22, , at the Copper Country Community Arts Center in Hancock.

Members of the Keweenaw Community Drum group honor the late Greg Wright, who co-founded the group with drum maker Bill Anderson, at the Horsetail Scramble, Churning Rapids, on July 4, 2012. The group welcomes new members. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

10 Billion Beats is a drumbeat of positive intention sent around the world. Starting in Central Daylight Time on 9/21/2012, the wave has followed the sunset westward sounding for one hour at 7 p.m. in each time zone as the intention circles the Earth and concludes 24 hours later on 9/22.

This grassroots effort is for everyone who wishes to positively effect the Earth and all her inhabitants through the power of collective intention.

Bring your drums, rattles, and bells if you have them. Some instruments will be available to borrow. Participation is free.

Visit for more event information or call Bill Anderson at 483–4269.

Finlandia University to present 14th annual Sibelius Academy Music Festival Sept. 23-28

HANCOCK -- Finlandia University is pleased to present the 14th annual Sibelius Academy Music Festival. Events will take place Sept. 23 to 28, 2012, in metropolitan Chicago and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. This year's musicians are a classical music piano/cello duo and a Finnish folk music quartet.

Members of the Contemporary Finnish folk band "Hohka." (Photos courtesy Finlandia University)

Contemporary Finnish folk band "Hohka" mixes Finnish tradition, catchy pop tunes, and global atmospheres in a unique, energetic blend. Hohka's four musicians -- Meriheini Luoto (violin), Valtteri Lehto (kantele), Veikko Muikku (accordion) and Maksim Purovaara (bass) -- formed their band in 2006. In November 2011, the band won the Nordic folk music band competition, Nord11. The music and compositions of Hohka sound fresh and incorporate small vignettes and stories.*

Musical Duo: Pauli Jämsä, Piano, and Liina Leijala, Cello

When pianist Pauli Jämsä was accepted into the Sibelius Academy youth department in 2006, he became certain that he had chosen the right path. Now he studies in the Academy's soloistic department, as well as at the University of Vienna, Austria.

Pianist Pauli Jämsä.

"The great pleasure in playing chamber music is the possibility of sharing the music -- not only with the audience, but also with colleagues," he says. "It is inspiring to share the magic of music."

In January 2012, Liina Leijala completed her master's degree in music at the Sibelius Academy. Now, she is studying at the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna.  Happiness is shared, says one famous writer. Similarly, Liina believes that one side of music is also to be shared. The other side, she explains, is a hedonistic joy.

Liina Leijala with her cello.

"The unique character of performing music is what I like the most about it: you show your inner view to yourself and others," she reflects.

Here is the Schedule of Events:

Sunday, Sept. 23, 2:30 p.m. 14th annual Sibelius Academy Music Festival concert. Estonian House of Chicago, 14700 Estonian Ln., Riverwoods, Illinois. Concert tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for students and seniors.

Tuesday, Sept. 25, 7 p.m. 14th annual Sibelius Academy Music Festival event. Meet the Musicians. Finlandia University Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock, Michigan. Free, open to the public.

Wednesday, Sept. 26, 7 p.m. 14th annual Sibelius Academy Music Festival concert. Finlandia University Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock. Tickets are $10 for adults; $5 for students; Finlandia students attend free.

Friday, Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m. 14th annual Sibelius Academy Music Festival concert. Calumet Theatre, 340 Sixth St., Calumet, Mich. Tickets are $10 for adults; $5 for students; Finlandia students attend free.

Click here to buy tickets on line.

For the most accomplished student-musicians in Finland and around the world the Sibelius Academy is the destination for the best and brightest. The prestigious Sibelius Academy, founded in 1882 and named for Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, is one of the largest and best regarded music academies in Europe. Visit the Sibelius Academy website at

For information, call 906-487-7512 or visit

* Visit the band's website at

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Updated: Celebrate diversity at annual Parade of Nations Saturday, Sept. 22

Argentina and Afghanistan flag bearers lead the 2011 Parade of Nations across the Portage lift Bridge from Hancock to Houghton. This year's parade begins at 11 a.m. this Saturday, Sept. 22, on Quincy Street in Hancock. (2011 file photos by Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- Floats and marching groups bearing flags of many nations will hit the streets of Hancock and Houghton at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, for the annual Parade of Nations. UPDATE: While all are hoping for good weather, the parade will happen rain or shine or snow! Participants should line up in Hancock at 10 a.m.

Chinese students, one of the largest groups of international students at Michigan Tech, are well represented in the 2011 Parade of Nations.

After the parade, crowds will gather at the Dee Stadium for a multicultural festival starting at noon, featuring international foods at 26 booths.

Visitors enjoy a large selection of international cuisine in Dee Stadium after the parade.

The festival includes a gala show featuring the Michigan Technological University Dance Team and the Michigan Tech Hip Hop Club, the Copper Country Cloggers, the Kivajat Dancers, songs by the Hassle Family, and a Chinese dance by Summer Gu. The Medievalist Club will also perform, as will the International Student Association.  Admission is free.

The Copper Country Cloggers entertain at the 2011 Parade of Nations show. They will perform again this year in Dee Stadium -- along with several other dance and musical groups.

The festival this Saturday is from noon to 4 p.m. at the Dee Stadium. Bring your appetite! Try tasty international food from dozens of food booths offering delicious ethnic specialties, desserts and more. The entertainment is endless. Enjoy bands, singing, dances, and, for the children, free pony rides, face painting and supervised arts and crafts.

More photos from the 2011 Parade of Nations ...

From Pakistan to Poland, flags and traditional dress represent many countries as the 2011 Parade of Nations heads across the Portage Lift Bridge from Hancock to Houghton.

Japanese students from Finlandia University enjoy some international cuisine during the 2011 Parade of Nations festival in Dee Stadium.

Anna Leppanen, left, and Meghan Pachmayer offer Finnish treats for sale during the 2011 Parade of Nations festival.

Indian students perform one of their popular dance routines.

Copper Country Suzuki musicians perform during the 2011 Parade of Nations festival.

Don't miss this great Copper Country celebration of diversity and fun for the whole family!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Finlandia University Gallery to exhibit "John Richardson: Recent Sculpture," opening Sept. 20

HANCOCK -- "John Richardson: Recent Sculpture" will be featured at the Finlandia University Gallery, located in the Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock, Sept. 20 to Oct. 17, 2012.

Case Study No. 19. Wood, cast bronze, rubber, and paint, by John Richardson. 2011. (Photos courtesy Finlandia University)

An opening reception for the artist will take place at the gallery from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

John Richardson’s sculpture has been described as a "visual koan," a visual Zen Buddhist riddle. Although he did not arrive at this description himself, the portrayal captures Richardson’s propensity to shift perceptions of how one views reality.

"At my best, I hope to create a sculpture that shifts perceptions of other objects in the world, even if only very slightly; a sculpture that is both interdependent and independent of me," says Richardson.

Richardson’s sculptures challenge conventional notions of reality by introducing forms that cannot be regarded as seamless components of ordinary experience. His work then becomes a metaphor for principles of reality that reach beyond the interests of a single artist.

Richardson works in a variety of media, including cast and welded metals, rubber, glass, wood, plastic, and stone. His sculpture explores the contemporary experience of space as it is influenced by the predominance of mediated images, screens, and communication technologies.

Case Study No. 22. Cast bronze with patina, plastic, and wood (oak) with paint, by John Richardson. 2012.

"My sculpture often exists fully in space, in contrast to a traditional relief sculpture that adorns an architectural surface," notes Richardson. "Unlike a traditional relief, my art has at least two dominant sides, although it is compacted as if in two-and-a-half dimensions, rather than fully embodied in three."

Richardson has participated in more than 50 national group exhibitions, most recently in summer 2012 at the Causey Contemporary Gallery, New York City. His numerous solo shows include the University of Minnesota-Morris in March 2012.

Richardson’s work is held in numerous private and public collections, including the Michigan Legacy Art Park, Thompsonville; Xiadu Park, Yanqing, China; the Open Air Museum of Steel Sculpture, Coalbrookdale, England; and the Lumsden School, Lumsden, Scotland.

Richardson earned master of arts and master of fine arts degrees in sculpture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a bachelor of arts from the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma,Wash. He teaches at Wayne State University, Detroit, where he is the area coordinator for sculpture and chair of the department.

The Finlandia University Gallery is in the Finnish American Heritage Center, 435 Quincy Street, Hancock. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., or by appointment.

Lawsuit filed challenging hunting, trapping of Minnesota wolves

From Center for Biological Diversity
Sept. 18, 2012

Gray wolf photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Retron.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Center for Biological Diversity and Howling for Wolves filed a lawsuit on Sept. 18, 2012, against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources challenging the agency’s failure to provide a formal opportunity for public comment on recently approved rules establishing wolf hunting and trapping. The conservation groups are seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the opening of hunting and trapping seasons this fall.*

"The state rushed to issue wolf hunting and trapping rules without giving people a real chance to voice their opinions," said Collette Adkins Giese, a Minneapolis-based attorney with the Center. "Especially considering the tremendous controversy around hunting and trapping of Minnesota’s wolves, state officials should have followed the law carefully to make sure they fully understood how the public felt about their decision."

Minnesota’s 2001 wolf-management plan provided that wolves would not be hunted or trapped for five years after any removal of their Endangered Species Act protection, but the state legislature eliminated those safeguards last year by passing a budget bill that included a rider authorizing the Department of Natural Resources to open wolf hunting if the agency first provided an opportunity for public comment. In January 2012, the wolves’ federal protection was stripped away; but instead of opening a formal comment period, the department offered only an online survey. (More than 75 percent of respondents opposed the wolf hunt: Of 7,351 responses, only 1,542 people supported a wolf season.)

"Wolves already die at high rates from many causes, including human intolerance and persecution," said Maureen Hackett, founder and president of Howling for Wolves. "Minnesotans benefit economically, culturally and ecologically by having wolves in the wild. As a state, we have so much to gain by keeping wolves undisturbed."

Wolf hunting is scheduled to begin Nov. 3 with the opening of the deer firearms season; the state’s rules provide that 6,000 licenses will be sold to kill 400 wolves. The lawsuit filed on Sept. 18, 2012, asks the Minnesota Court of Appeals to prevent implementation of wolf hunting and trapping rules until the court can issue its decision in the case.

Livestock producers have pushed for hunting and trapping to reduce the state’s population of approximately 3,000 wolves. But hunting and trapping may actually increase conflicts between wolves and domestic animals by disrupting pack dynamics and creating more lone wolves that are more likely to target livestock out of desperation.

There are tested, nonlethal options to safeguard livestock from wolves, including guard dogs, flagging and fencing. Hunting and trapping is premature until state managers can gauge the impacts of a state management plan that allows the killing of wolves to protect domestic animals.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Howling for Wolves was created to be a voice for wild wolves. It aims to educate the public about Minnesota’s wolf population and let people know how they can take action to keep wild wolves in a self-sustaining existence. For more information visit

* Click here for the Injunction document.

Portage Library to host Healthy Aging seminars

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library will host a four-week course on Wednesdays that will explore the end of life options that are available in the Keweenaw.

Beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 19, the Community Coalition on Grief and Bereavement will present "Healthy Aging: Continuing Life’s Journey by Tying Up Loose Ends." Each seminar will focus on a specific topic and will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Participants can expect a supportive atmosphere, group discussions, and an opportunity for questions and answers.

On Sept. 19, family physician Thomas McConnon, MD, will speak about "Living Healthy." Dr. McConnon will review how people can choose a healthy life style to embrace the normal changes that people experience as they age. He will also discuss the physician/patient relationship with an emphasis on the need for good communication and planning.

The Sept. 26 seminar will focus on "Dying with Support," and will be presented by Ray Weglarz, the Development Director of Omega House. Weglarz will explain what the hospice movement is and the changes it has brought to health care. He will discuss how people can expect the possibility of dying pain-free and with support. Information about Omega House will be available.

On Oct. 3, a panel of local funeral directors will present "Decisions for the End of Life." Neil Ahola, Ron Antila, Jeff Dennis and Mark Dennis will discuss today’s funeral industry and give suggestions for pre-planning.

On Oct. 10, local Attorney and Certified Financial Planner Roger Helman, J.D., CFP, will present "Planning for the End of Life." Helman will explain decisions that need to be made and discuss the legal documents that are required.

All library programs are free and everyone is welcome. People can register and get more information by calling the library at 482-4570 or by emailing Nancy Beyers Wakeman at

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Calumet Art Center to host Country, Bluegrass musical fundraiser Sept. 20

Pete Antilla and The Traprock Valley Crew will play Country and Bluegrass for a fundraiser at the Calumet Art Center Sept. 20. (Photo courtesy Calumet Art Center)

CALUMET -- The Calumet Art Center will hold a musical fundraiser from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 20. Pete Antilla and The Traprock Valley Crew will perform Country and Bluegrass music. Donations will benefit the Calumet Art Center Youth Programs.

The Calumet Art Center is at 57055 Fifth Street, Calumet.

Former Hancock Mayor Barry Givens appointed for two-month City Council opening

HANCOCK -- At a special meeting on Sept. 12, 2012, the Hancock City Council nominated and voted to appoint former Mayor Barry Givens to fill -- for the September and October 2012 meetings -- an open at-large seat vacated by the recent resignation of Councilor Jim Hainault.

"We have absolutely three excellent candidates," said Councilman John Haeussler, who seconded Ted Belej's motion to nominate Givens. "It's too bad we don't have nine seats on the Council."

The three candidates, who applied for the appointment by the deadline of Sept. 10, were Givens; Kevin Hodur, owner of the Keweenaw Archive, an arts and crafts supply business; and Bonnie Holland, executive director of the Jutila Center for Global Design and Business.

Four votes were necessary for the appointment, and four "yes" votes were cast by Councilors John Haeussler, Jeremie Moore, William Laitila and Ted Belej. Councilors Lisa McKenzie and John Slivon cast "no" votes. McKenzie had nominated Bonnie Holland for the open seat, but her motion for the nomination was not seconded.

McKenzie said she nominated Holland because she has been very active on the Downtown Development Authority (DDA).

"She (Bonnie) was the first one to support the facade grants through the DDA for the downtown, and she always brings fresh ideas," McKenzie said. "I hope she considers the write-in. Of course I'm more than happy to have a councilor like Barry sitting on the Council again. He was very good, too. But I think it would be nice to have new ideas."

Before the vote, Slivon noted he had a problem with the nomination of Givens.

"My problem with Barry is that there's this perception that he's the person who was primarily responsible for the excrescence under the bridge. A lot of people don't like that, and I'm one of them. When he was Mayor, I was at the meeting when he was asked if he knew what was supposed to happen with the property, and he said that he did not. I don't know what his position is with Moyle -- I think he's the chief engineer? How could he possibly not know? And the building was not built to specifications."

Slivon explained later that his understanding was that the entire structure (a condominium next to the Portage Lift Bridge) was to be no higher than the roadway level and the proposal that Moyle presented to the city satisfied that requirement.

"Then Moyle apparently changed their mind," he added, "and what was finally built was a building that unfortunately was higher than he thought the City Council had originally agreed to and quite different in character than the original design."

In the opinion of many residents, the height of the building results in an obstruction of the viewscape on and near the bridge.

Slivon said he thought Kevin Hodur would also be a good candidate.

"He's a businessman and he's got city planning in his Ph.D. education, so he'd bring some experience to the job," Slivon said.

Givens will be sworn in at the regular September meeting of the Council tomorrow, Wednesday, Sept. 19. He will serve only two months until the November election. Should he wish to remain on the Council, Givens will have to file a declaration of intent form by Oct. 26 to run as a write-in for a two-year term ending in 2014.

In that case he would run against any Hancock residents who file this declaration of intent (also by Oct. 26) to run as a write-in candidate for the open at-large Council seat.

In other business at the special meeting, the Hancock City Council approved Resolution Number 8-12 for an increase of $7,333 in operating funds for the City's Transit Operation for Fiscal Year 2012 -- approving  execution of the Revised MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation) Project Authorization.

At their regular meeting tomorrow, Sept. 19, the Council will consider appointment to Personnel/Finance Committee and Public Works/Utility Committee to replace Jim Hainault’s positions.

Click here for the Agenda for the Sept. 19, 2012, Hancock City Council Meeting.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Michigamme Moonshine Art Gallery exhibits work by Ed Gray, Bryan Kastar

MICHIGAMME -- "Of Moose and Men," a new show at Michigamme Moonshine Art Gallery, features art work by two artists: Ed Gray and Bryan Kastar. The exhibit opens today, Sept. 17, and will run through Oct. 27, 2012. A reception will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23, in the Gallery.

"Reliquary -- Mineshaft 1." Pottery by Ed Gray. (Photo courtesy Michigamme Moonshine Art Gallery)

Ed Gray employs traditional techniques to create exciting and beautiful clay pots and vessels. According to the artist, many contemporary potters are returning to these ancient methods for the unusual effects created by fire and smoke.

"The finished pot is always a surprise and cannot be duplicated," Gray says. "My work is primarily pit-fired."

The pit, which is four ft. across and three ft. deep, is filled with a variety of combustibles to create a smoky pattern of whites and darks on the surface of the clay. Gray’s knowledge of how fire interacts with the surface of the pot and the minerals found naturally in the ground allow him to manipulate and influence the general appearance of the art. Unique combinations of native minerals can be used to produce stunning red and blue-green hues bound into the pottery.

His work has been shown at the Smithsonian Museum and other prestigious venues. Much of Gray’s work connects to the natural world and teachings from his grandmother in
Traverse City, where he was born and raised. Dragonflies, bears and turtles are motifs that reflect his regard for storytelling, harmony, and the environment. Smaller pieces can serve as reliquaries for contemplation.

Gray, who has been producing art for sixty years, now is ready to "reach the torch" to a new generation of aspiring artists. His recent efforts have been devoted to teaching and mentoring students from four to ninety-two.

Artist Ed Gray demonstrates the use of a potter's wheel in the Calumet Art Center on First Friday, Sept. 7, 2012. Observing the demonstration are, from left, Patricia Van Pelt of Hancock; Mark Lounibos, Finlandia University professor of English; and his daughter, Lucy, 8. Gray opened the Calumet Art Center a few years ago for the teaching of art, history and culture. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)*

"For me, teaching is the most important thing to do," says Gray. "I want young people to learn and carry on the old traditions."

Bryan Kastar’s newest paintings focus on wild animals in various settings. "I like to paint animals in their actual environment," Kastar explains. "That is where their personalities stand out."

"Bull Moose Crossing." Acrylic painting by Bryan Kastar. (Photo courtesy Michigamme Moonshine Art Gallery)

In keeping with his U.P. connections, Kastar has produced several paintings of moose.

"There is a certain majesty in a moose, a presence," the artist notes. "The animals that I have observed and photographed for this project were unafraid and unperturbed."

The project has given Kastar a fresh appreciation for moose: "I came to realize that they are very intelligent creatures."

Kastar is a very deliberate and attentive painter. His compositions and concepts are carefully executed on a blank canvas where he strives to capture the feeling of his subjects. He uses pure colors in a subtle way that gently elicits the feeling of wildlife. His paintings are conceived to tell a story by showing more than one aspect of his subject.

"I want the viewer to be drawn in," Kastar says. "It’s my own way, and I hope people like it."

The Michigamme Moonshine Art Gallery is at 136 E. Main, HC 1 Box 3477, Michigamme, MI 49861. For more information call 906-323-6546.

* Editor's Note: To learn more about the Calumet Art Center and their classes visit their Web site.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Penokee Hills Rich in Natural Wonders and Human History

By Margaret Comfort and Steve Garske

A delightful and educational afternoon was had by all during a mid-August hike in the Penokee Hills east of Mellen, Wisconsin. The trip was organized by the Northwoods Native Plant Society (NWNPS), and led by local botanists Ian Shackleford and Steve Garske. Also on hand to help guide us was Sherry Zoars, NWNPS coordinator (1).

Beautiful rock formations along the Tyler Forks River. (Photos © and courtesy Margaret Comfort and Steve Garske)

The hike began along the Tyler Forks River. This legendary river officially comes into being at O'Brien Lake, south of the Penokee Range. As it flows south and west, the river is fed by wetlands and streams. It then abruptly turns north towards the Penokee Hills. By the time it makes its way to the big hill we were about to visit, it has become a substantial river (and a Class II trout stream). Having heard reports of a canyon on the river, we followed a well-worn path leading upstream. A short walk brought us to the enchanting spot pictured above, with low waterfalls and a very picturesque vertical-sided gorge.

We then headed up the hill. A short walk along an old logging road through mature sugar maple forest brought us face-to-face with a bit of area history: the remnants of the original Tyler's Fork iron mine. The Tyler's Fork mine was named after Captain T. F. L. Tyler, an early minerals explorer in what is now the Mellen area.

According to local author and historian Bruce Cox, iron ore was discovered at this location around 1856 by a Mr. Latham. A "practical mining man" named Angus McDonald verified the ore body soon afterwards, but was called away and didn't return until 1888. Development of the mine began around this time. Two shafts were sunk to 225 and 300 feet, a railroad spur was built, and the mine began shipping ore two years later. The mine employed up to 200 men and shipped about 60,000 tons of iron ore before being abandoned in the late 1800s. In 1907 an attempt was made to reopen the mine, but low iron prices combined with the fact that the spur line had been removed shafted the attempt (2).

Today one can still see the rock foundation of the old hoist engine, as well as waste rock piles, now overgrown by balsam fir. A series of exploration pits is also still evident.

Ore pile from the old Tyler's Fork iron mine sits next to the old railroad grade.

 The foundation of the powerhouse for the mine.

A row of exploration pits can be seen at the old mine site.

The Tyler's Fork mine site is a vivid reminder of how the scale of industrial mining has changed. The entire site of the old mine, including waste rock and ore piles, occupies less than 1 percent of this 4.5-mile long hill that would be "Phase I" of the proposed Gogebic Taconite (GTac) open pit iron mine. Should this mine be built, by the time this phase was completed this entire hill would be gone and an open pit 4.5 miles long, up to 0.6 miles wide and more than 900 feet deep would take its place. The overburden and waste rock would be piled on Iron County lands to the south, forming a massive pile of rubble the size of Rib Mountain (near Wausau, Wisconsin), according to calculations by independent geologists. Cartographer Carl Sack has created a detailed map of all this (3: See link below to download map).

After visiting the old mine site, we followed an old two-track logging road west, along the north side of the hill. On each side of the road we were flanked by mature hardwood forest interspersed with seeps and wetlands. Pink flagging hung from branches along the south side of the road, marking the locations where the GTac company had applied for a permit to drill boreholes to characterize the deposit. On March 15, 2011, GTac applied for a permit to drill eight exploratory holes (4). The Wisconsin DNR issued the permit a few days later (5). Then in early June 2011 GTac announced that they would probably need to drill as many as 30 holes to characterize the site (6). But soon afterwards, GTac put the entire project on hold until the state's mining law was changed, and none of the holes were ever drilled (7). The pink flagging marking the locations for the prospective holes still hangs from the trees.

Flagging marks the location of a potential drill hole for the open-pit iron mine planned by Gogebic Taconite in 2011.

Along our walk participants pointed out some of the botanical treasures that light up the summer woods. Fringed loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliata) is an attractive and little known native wildlflower that favors wooded seeps, floodplains and wetland edges. It spreads underground to form a carpet on moist to wet, lightly to moderately shaded sites, and makes an excellent border or wildflower planting. Tall sunflower (Helianthus giganteus) grows in similar habitats (usually in light shade to full sun though), and is one of our choice late summer wildflowers. And nodding trillium (Trillium cernuum) was busy making seeds.

Sundrop-like flowers of fringed loosestrife brighten our path.

You're not so tall, Mr. Sunflower! On sunny, moist sites tall sunflowers can reach more than seven feet tall.

Nodding trillium with its bright red seed capsule.

Starting around 1958, renewed interest in iron mining led to 233 cores being drilled in this part of the Penokee Range, including some along this hill. We saw several of the old holes during our walk. An interesting article by Deanna Erickson relates a tour of the area by state senators and local officials in 2006 and mentions these cores (8).

A fellow hiker checks out an exploration hole along the crest of the hill.

The Penokee Hills and the wetlands to the south form the headwaters of a large number of streams and several major rivers. These include Ballou Creek, Bull Gus Creek, the Tyler Forks River, and the Bad River. The main branch of the Bad River begins at Caroline Lake. From there it makes its way north to Copper Falls State Park. The Tyler Forks River also flows to the Park, before cascading over spectacular Brownstone Falls and into the Bad River. The Bad River continues its journey north, flowing through the Bad River Reservation and eventually reaching the Kakagon-Bad River Sloughs and Lake Superior. The Kakagon - Bad River Sloughs support what may be the largest and most pristine wetland complex on the Great Lakes. That complex supports what may be the largest and most productive wild rice beds in the world. These rice beds are an irreplaceable cultural and economic resource for the Ojibwe people. The sloughs were designated a National Natural Landmark in 1973. All together, about a dozen lakes south and west of the proposed mine site and more than 24 streams and rivers running through the site would be impacted by the mine (9).

Much of the concern about the environmental damage from the proposed mine has focused on the region's lakes, rivers, and streams. These risks are substantial -- including increased sedimentation; lowering of the surrounding water table; and acid mine drainage, which would carry acidified runoff and toxic heavy metals downstream towards Lake Superior. But less attention seems to have been given to the forests and wetlands that would be obliterated if this mine were to proceed.

The Penokee region supports some of the healthiest and most productive northern hardwood forests in the state. It forms a natural corridor of forests and wetlands joining the Chequamegon National Forest in northern Wisconsin to the Ottawa National Forest in western Upper Michigan. And many consider it one of the most scenic areas of the state as well.

A view of the next Penokee hill, from this one.

On March 6, 2012, the Wisconsin State Senate declined to pass the House mining bill (widely understood to have been written primarily by GTac) by one vote, with all 16 Democrats and Republican Dale Schultz of Richland Center voting against the bill. Within hours the GTac president announced that the company was "leaving Wisconsin." The company continues to linger in the shadows, though. A letter from the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) (leaked to Progressive Magazine) outlines WMC's strategy of waiting for a Republican-controlled senate in November to push GTac's bill through (10). And a recent Ironwood Daily Globe article quotes GTac president Bill Williams as saying that the company is still considering the area (11).

For millennia the Penokee hills have towered above the surrounding landscape, the worn-down roots of an ancient mountain range that was once as high as the Rockies are today. A billion years of wind, rain, freezing temperatures and glaciers have not been able to erase them from the landscape. But the final chapter in their history has yet to be written. What will be left of the Penokees 50 or 100 years from now? Their fate is in our hands.


1. Click here to learn more about the Northwoods Native Plant Society.
2. Cox, Bruce. Mines of the Pewabic country of Michigan and Wisconsin. Volume 3: Wisconsin Iron. Wakefield, Michigan: Agogeebic Press, 2005. Click here for information about this book.
3. Click here to download map.
4. Click here for the March 15, 2011, exploration license application.
5. Ansami, Ralph. "WDNR grants permit for Gogebic Taconite. Ironwood Daily Globe 19 Mar. 2011. 
6. Simonson, Mike. "GTAC may drill 30 exploration holes." Ashland Daily Press 10 June 2012.
7. Hawley, Jon. "Bewley updates local Democrats on mining." Ironwood Daily Globe 10 Oct. 2011.
8. Erickson, Deanna. "Another Northwoods Mine?" Northwoods Wilderness Recovery 5 Mar. 2008 (updated) < >
9. "Iron Mining In the Penokee Range - What's at Risk." Report by The Nature Conservancy. < >  See also: "Proposed Changes to the Iron Mining Regulations and the Associated Risk to Wisconsin’s Natural Resources." By The Nature Conservancy. <>
10. See
11. Hawley, Jon. "GTAC still considering area." Ironwood Daily Globe 25 Aug. 2012.