See our right-hand column for announcements and news briefs. Scroll down the right-hand column to access the Archives -- links to articles posted in the main column since 2007.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Save the Wild U.P. Director Alexandra Thebert speaks about Rio Tinto's Eagle Mine at events in London

Alexandra Thebert, Save the Wild U.P. executive director, speaks critically about Rio Tinto's Eagle Mine during the London Mining Network's "Stories of Resistance" event at the Amnesty International offices in London, England, on Apr. 15, 2013. She also spoke during Rio Tinto's Annual General Meeting (AGM) for shareholders on Apr. 18. (London photos by Amy Scaife and courtesy Save the Wild U.P.)

LONDON, ENGLAND -- Alexandra Thebert, Save the Wild U.P. executive director, attended Rio Tinto’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) for shareholders on April 18, 2013, in London and voiced community concerns regarding Eagle Mine near Big Bay, Mich.

Thebert reminded Rio Tinto’s shareholders of the mine’s fraudulent permitting, engineers' warnings of unsound structure, the location of the portal under sacred ground (Eagle Rock), the removal of air filtration at the mine portal, uranium, and the continually growing opposition to Eagle Mine and growing support for protecting the community’s health and environment.*

"At what cost to our health and environment do you plan to continue this project for the so-called value of your shareholders?" Thebert asked.

Thebert's brief comments were followed by a rebuttal from Rio Tinto’s CEO, Sam Walsh, who states the mine has been awarded all the necessary permits. He also mentions the recent independent community monitoring program through the Marquette County Community Foundation and the Superior Watershed Partnership. He adds the uranium is naturally occurring in small percentages and is being tightly controlled by the company.* (Audio link below)

Thebert was one of several dissidents who protested Rio Tinto's practices around the world. She joined them on Monday, April 15, 2013, at the London Mining Network's "Stories of Resistance" event at the offices of Amnesty International.

During the London Mining Network's "Stories of Resistance" event on April 15, 2013, Save the Wild U.P.'s Executive Director Alexandra Thebert, center, joins an international panel of dissidents critical of mining practices of Rio Tinto and Anglo American mining companies.

At that event, UK journalist John Vidal of the Guardian moderated a passionate, informative panel discussion, in which Alexandra joined representatives from Arizona, Columbia, Mongolia, South Africa, and West Papua to highlight the appalling labor and environmental records of global mining companies Rio Tinto and Anglo American.** (Video link below)

The London Mining Network is an alliance of human rights, development and environmental groups. They pledge to expose the role of companies, funders and government in the promotion of unacceptable mining projects.

More photos from Save the Wild U.P.

Pictured here with Alexandra Thebert, right, at the London Mining Network's "Stories of Resistance" event are Sukhgerel Dugersuren, left, executive director of Oyu Tolgoi Watch in Mongolia and Benny Wenda of West Papua, now living in exile in the UK, having been granted political asylum by the British government following his escape from custody while on trial. (London photos by Amy Scaife and courtesy Save the Wild U.P.)

Roger Featherstone, left, of Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, a group that opposes Rio Tinto's water diversion and tailings pile plans for a proposed mine in Arizona, speaks at the London Mining Network's "Stories of Resistance" event in London on April 15, 2013.

Audience members applaud for speakers at the "Stories of Resistance" event in London.

In solidarity, Save the Wild U.P.'s Alexandra Thebert attended this protest against Anglo American's practices at a gold mine in South Africa. "Yesterday I went to the protests surrounding mining giant Anglo American's shareholders meeting to show our solidarity," Thebert writes on Apr. 20. "You'll be totally unsurprised to find out that Anglo American swoops into communities just like Rio Tinto -- promising jobs and environmental protection and delivering neither."  

* AUDIO: Click here to listen to this MP3 audio recording of Alexandra Thebert speaking at the Rio Tinto AGM on April 18, 2013.

** VIDEO: Click here to see a video clip of Alexandra Thebert speaking at the London Mining Network's "Stories of Resistance" event.

For more info visit and for more photos see Save the Wild U.P.'s Facebook page.

Friday, April 19, 2013

International Night to offer dinner, performances April 20 at Michigan Tech

HOUGHTON -- The International Club at Michigan Tech will host its annual International Night dinner and program from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, April 20, in the Memorial Union Commons.

Enjoy a multi-course dinner while watching international performances, including singing, dancing, and community drumming.

Tickets cover the international meal and entertainment. They will be on sale at the door the night of the event. I-Night tickets cost $12 for students, faculty and staff and $15 for the public. Children under 12 are half price.

For more information, contact Vienna Chapin,

Celebrate Lake Superior at Great Lakes Research Center Apr. 23; Photos: GLRC hosts World Water Day poster displays

HOUGHTON -- What makes our lake "Superior?" A contest on that theme, along with displays, music, local food tasting, birthday cake and lemonade are all part of the fun planned for the Lake Superior Day celebration at the Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 23. The community is invited to this free, family friendly event.

The Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) on the Michigan Tech campus will be the scene of a Lake Superior Day celebration on Tuesday, April 23.

All ages will be tapping their toes at the two 30-minute concerts (6:30 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.) by Joe Reilly, a popular Michigan children's musician, who will visit CLK and Barkell Elementary Schools, as well as Baraga, CJ Sullivan and Arvon Schools on his UP Tour from April 23-26 during Earth Week.

Sponsored by the  Western UP Center for Science, Mathematics and Environmental Education and by the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative (LSSI) in honor of the Initiative's 5th anniversary, the Lake Superior Celebration will also include informative displays by LSSI community partners -- Dollar Bay High School SOAR Team’s ROV, Keweenaw Land Trust, Isle Royale National Park and others.

A "Superior Taste" will showcase locally grown and produced products of the Lake Superior region. Other activities include tours of the new Great Lakes Research Center by Director Guy Meadows, and tours led by Robert Handler of the aquaponics lab that grows foot-long fish and vibrant veggies. Everyone is invited to enjoy birthday cake, tastes of local food, lemonade and coffee.

Photos: GLRC hosts poster display for World Water Day

The Great Lakes Research Center was the scene of a poster display by Michigan Tech graduate and undergraduate students to celebrate World Water Day, sponsored by Michigan Tech's Center for Water and Society on March 21, 2013.

Matthew Van Grinson, Michigan Tech doctoral student in Forestry, explains his research project on the hydrology of black ash wetlands in the Ottawa National Forest to Noel Urban, professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of Michigan Tech's Center for Water and Society. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

Mariah Maggio, who served in the U.S. Peace Corps in the Philippines in 2006 and is now a graduate student in social sciences, explains her project to help Peace Corps Volunteers use social science methods to help them understand communities in order to design effective sustainability projects. Maggio is speaking to Jessie Zhang, left, from China, who is a Ph.D. student in environmental engineering. Michigan Tech offers eight different Peace Corps Masters International programs for Peace Corps Volunteers who can earn a Masters degree combined with their overseas service.*

Rasika Gawde of Mumbai, India, a Ph.D. candidate in civil and environmental engineering, displays her research on the temperature structure of Lake Superior. In studying climate change effects on the lake, it is necessary to understand what the temperature structure of the lake looks like, she explained.

Aparupa Sengupta, Ph.D. candidate in biology, explains her project, "Remediation of Tetracycline from Wastewater Using Vetiver Grass and Tetracycline-Tolerant Bacteria."

Colleen Mouw, left, assistant professor in geology and mining engineering sciences, listens as Anika Kuczynski, Ph.D. student, explains her research on changes in Cladophora biomass in some of the Great Lakes.

Joshua Papacek, an undergraduate biology student, displays his project on "Nutrient Limitation of Phytoplankton in Portage Lake, Michigan."

*Editor's Note: To learn about Michigan Tech's eight Peace Corps Masters International programs, click here.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College to offer Native American Perspectives on Health course

Posted by Anishinaabekwe *
April 18, 2013
Reprinted with permission.

BARAGA -- Raeanne Madison is offering a really cool class called Native American Perspectives on Health during Summer 2013 at the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College. This survey course is intended to introduce students to a number of health issues faced by contemporary Native American communities. Sample topics include Stroke, Cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Cancer and Injury.

Activities include films, field trips, and artwork. The course is open to anyone who might be interested in learning about Ojibwa culture and health. Local health workers may be able to use their educational leave to take the course. Students from Northern Michigan University, Michigan Tech and Finlandia can receive up to 4 credits to transfer back to their schools.

Raeanne Madison, pictured here, is a member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa Indians from Nett Lake, Minnesota. A recent graduate of Michigan Technological University, Raeanne is currently going back to school for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She is interested in rural primary health care for reservation communities and especially in Diabetes education and nutrition. She is a graduate student at the University of Michigan and an EMT-First Responder. (Photo courtesy Raeanne Madison)

For more information email Register for the course by going to

* Learn more about Ojibwa heritage and culture and indigenous issues on the Anishinaabekwe blog.

[Editor's update: Through a misunderstanding, we published a photo of a Native American woman with this article yesterday, thinking it was Raeanne Madison. It was not. We regret the error, and we thank Ms. Madison for providing the correct photo.]

Letter to Rep. John Kivela on voters' right to challenge Michigan laws

Letter from Catherine Parker
Sent April 18, 2013
Reprinted here with permission

Representative John Kivela
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI 48909-7514

Hello John,

I did a little exploring on the Michigan legislature website and found that you co-sponsored two Resolutions, one in January and another in April, that were drafted in an attempt to clarify the power of referendum when making appropriations.* It seems you do realize, then, that appropriations are being attached to bills in order to make them referendum-proof, and that this is contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of the law.

As one of your constituents, and a voter who had high hopes for the candidate from Marquette, I was extremely disappointed to learn that you were co-sponsoring the House equivalent of SB 288, a bill that aims to undo the work of a citizen ballot initiative and eliminate the rights of voters to challenge any future designation of an animal as a game species.** A move like this is, at its heart, unlawful, and constitutes a betrayal of the trust placed in you by the voters who put you into office.

If you cannot remove your name from HB 4552, please amend your support to be contingent upon the elimination of appropriations from this bill. The problem could also be solved by separating the bill into its various components, attaching funding only to the portions where it is both necessary and ethical to do so. There should be no appropriations attached to language that would negate the efforts of Michigan voters to overturn the recently enacted wolf hunt law. 

The citizens of Michigan have a constitutional right to challenge any recently passed legislation, with the exception of instances where the attached appropriations are vital to the functioning of our state government. The escalating use of token appropriations to subvert the ability of citizens to utilize this important system of checks and balances is a matter of great concern. Notable examples are the Emergency Financial Manager and Right-to-Work laws. Do you really want to add a bill with your name on it to this list?

An organization called Voters for Fair Use of Ballot Referendum aims to put this issue on the November 2014 ballot, proposing modifications to the language of Article II, Section 9 of our State constitution that would protect critical state funding while ensuring that the people’s power to reject laws enacted by the legislature is protected.*** 

It would be wise to stay on the right side of this issue. Please do the honorable thing, and correct or reject HB 4552.


Catherine Parker
Marquette, MI

Editor's Notes:
* Click here to read the January 30, 2013, House Joint Resolution E. Click here to read the April 9, 2013 Resolution Q.
** See our April 11, 2013, article, "Right to vote threatened by Michigan Senate Bill 288," for background on the recent petition for a referendum on PA 520, the wolf hunt law passed in December 2012. More than a quarter of a million voters signed this petition. Because of appropriations attached to SB 288 (and now HB 4552), the referendum would not be valid.
*** Click here to learn about Voters for Fair Use of Ballot Referendum.

Green Film Series to present documentary on energy TONIGHT, Apr. 18

HOUGHTON -- The Green Film Series will present the 98-minute documentary Switch at 7 p.m. TONIGHT, Thursday, Apr. 18, in G002 Hesterberg Hall of the Foresty building at Michigan Tech. The film will be followed by discussion, facilitated by Michigan Tech Professor Wayne Pennington, Department of Geological and Mining Sciences and Engineering.

Refreshments -- coffee and dessert -- will be served on the main floor (atrium area).

Switch is a new award-winning documentary that moves past the politics to deliver the straight answers on energy. Switch delivers straight answers to today’s most controversial energy questions, as energy visionary Dr. Scott Tinker travels the world, exploring leading energy sites, from coal to solar, oil to biofuels, most of them highly restricted and never before seen on film. He seeks the truth from international leaders of government, industry and academia, then cuts through the confusion to discover a path to our energy future as surprising as it is practical.

Switch is part of the Switch Energy Project, a multi-pronged effort to build a global understanding of energy. Over 250 universities across the country have participated in the GSA Switch Energy Awareness and Efficiency Program, which launched last fall at over 40 pilot schools with a student ambassador program, efficiency drive and screening of the film.

Audiences have called Switch "the first truly balanced energy film." As no documentary before it, Switch has been embraced and supported by people across the energy spectrum: environmentalists and academics, fossil and renewable energy experts, scientists and economists.

The Green Film Series is co-sponsored by Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative, Michigan Tech Center for Water and Society, Keweenaw Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and Keweenaw Land Trust -- with funding from the Keweenaw Community Foundation Environmental Endowment.

Cost: Free, $3 suggested donation.

The next film in the series, to be shown on May 9 (same time and location as above), will be Chasing Ice. Acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog ventures to the Arctic to document the melting of ice mountains using state-of-the-art time lapse photography. Chasing Ice depicts a photographer trying to deliver evidence and hope to our carbon-powered planet. (76 min.) Discussion Facilitator will be Michigan Tech Prof. Sarah Green, Department of Chemistry.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Michigan LCV: Michigan's Land Management Plan: What Do You Think?

By Michigan League of Conservation Voters
Posted April 8, 2013

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is ready to present a draft of their new land management plan to the public and they want your feedback.

The plan is a requirement of last year’s land cap legislation, which stopped the DNR from acquiring public land until a land management strategy was laid out. The DNR's draft is published and it is being presented in open houses around the state. If you missed one of these you can  send your comments to

The plan’s positives come from its focus on creating better public recreation opportunities, especially in urban areas, and improving access to Michigan’s lakes, rivers and streams. The Michigan League of Conservation Voters is concerned, however, about its promotion of Michigan’s extraction industries, such as natural gas, oil and logging, which have deep environmental impacts and are not adequately regulated.

Click here to read the rest of this article.
Click here to read the draft land management plan.

Michigan DNR Director to speak at Michigan Tech Apr. 18

HOUGHTON -- Keith Creagh, director of Michigan's Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and a Michigan Tech alumnus, will speak from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Thursday, April 18, in the U. J. Noblet Forestry Building G002 on the Michigan Tech campus. His topic is "Michigan's Natural Resources: Challenges and Opportunities."

Creagh will be joined by two other speakers: Bill Bobier, a senior policy analyst with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and Steve Casey, the Upper Peninsula district coordinator for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The program precedes a SFRES (School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science)  Advisory Board meeting. All three speakers serve on the Advisory Board.

Update from Sen. Levin on letter received at Saginaw office

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., released the following statement today to update the public on the situation at his Saginaw office:

"Law enforcement officials are performing tests on the suspicious letter that was delivered to my Saginaw office. We do not expect to learn at least a preliminary result of those tests until late tonight or tomorrow. The staffer who discovered the letter is being kept overnight at a local hospital for precautionary reasons, but has no symptoms. We do not know yet if the letter has any connection to suspicious mail sent to other public officials. I want to repeat how grateful I am to local, state and federal authorities who reacted so quickly and professionally, and especially to my Saginaw staff for being so vigilant.

"As a precaution, my Saginaw office will remain closed until further notice. Residents who would ordinarily contact my Saginaw office should contact my office in Detroit at (313) 226-6020."

Wolf Management Advisory Council to meet April 24 in St. Ignace

ST. IGNACE, MICH. -- Michigan's Wolf Management Advisory Council (WMAC) will meet from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, at the Little Bear Arena, 275 Marquette St. in St. Ignace.

The Wolf Management Advisory Council (previously known as the Wolf Forum) was codified under a law passed by the Legislature in December 2012 (PA 520) that reclassified wolves as a game species and directed the WMAC to report its recommendations on wolf management annually to the Legislature and the Natural Resources Commission (NRC). The NRC has the authority to determine whether public harvest of wolves should be allowed and to regulate season structure and method of harvest.

The WMAC includes members from a diverse group of organizations with an interest in wolves and wolf management, including hunting and trapping, conservation, tribal government, agriculture and animal advocacy.

At the April 24 meeting, staff from the Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Division will gather input from council members regarding a current proposal to use hunting and trapping to manage and resolve conflict issues.

Members of the public are welcome to observe the council's discussions and will have the opportunity to provide written comments at the meeting.

The NRC is in the process of considering the authorization of the hunting and trapping of wolves as a management tool. The NRC may take action in May on a proposal for the public harvest of wolves. The council will develop information at the April 24 meeting to help inform the NRC in preparation for its decision.

For more information about the WMAC meeting, contact the council's DNR liaison, Adam Bump, at 517-373-1263. To learn more about Michigan's wolf population and Wolf Management Plan, visit

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Letter from John Vucetich, wildlife ecologist: Reasons to oppose SB288

Photo of wolf courtesy Reprinted with permission.

By John Vucetich

HANCOCK -- John Vucetich, Michigan Tech associate professor of wildlife ecology and co-director of the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Study, has submitted a written testimony to be included in legislative hearings related to Senate Bill 288, which was recently passed by the Michigan Senate Committee on Natural Resources and is expected to pass the Michigan Senate, possibly this week. Vucetich, who has authored more than 75 scholarly publications on a range of topics -- including wolf-prey ecology, extinction risk, and the human dimensions of natural resource management, says he expresses his views in the letter as a citizen of Michigan with that expertise and the views are not necessarily those of his employer.

Walking on the ice of Washington Harbor, Isle Royale, are, from left, Don E. Glaser, winter study pilot, Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich, wolf biologists. Peterson and Vucetich are co-directors of the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Study. (Keweenaw Now file photo © 2008 George Desort. Reprinted with permission.)

Keweenaw Now received permission to publish excerpts from this letter, in which Vucetich says SB288 should be opposed for five main reasons, which we summarize here:

SB288: less science, less democracy in wildlife management

1. The best-available scholarship provides an exceedingly clear explanation that good wildlife management is a judicious balance between best-available science and democratic principles. SB288 would make wildlife management less democratic and less scientific. (author's emphasis) In particular, SB288 gives new management authority to Michigan’s Natural Resources Commission (NRC). While the NRC has a valuable role in natural resource management, it is not especially well-versed in the science of wildlife management; and NRC decisions are considerably more insulated from the will of citizens.

Also, wildlife and other natural resources are a public trust, which means that every citizen has an interest and voice in the management of natural resources. By contrast, the NRC has a strong tendency to represent hunters’ interests at the expense of representing the interests of most Michiganders who are not hunters. Hunting is an honorable tradition, and the voice of hunters is valuable. However, expanding the authority to the NRC with the ability to name which species of animals can be hunted is a betrayal of the public trust doctrine.

2) A ballot initiative process to determine what citizens of Michigan think about Public Act 520, which lists the wolf as a game species, has been underway for the past few months. That process has already gained many more signatures than required to result in a referendum vote that would occur in November 2014. Michiganders have democratically earned the right to this kind of referendum. The primary purpose of SB288 is to abort this process. However, the bill does not acknowledge that purpose or even attempt to offer reasons to think that wolf hunting is more important than basic principles of democracy.  For these reasons, SB288 is deceptive to a degree that is fundamentally antithetical to democracy. (author's emphasis)

3) The North American Model of Wildlife Management is essentially a set of seven principles held in high esteem by many hunting organizations and wildlife professionals including, as I understand it, many members of the NRC and Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). The reasons given above suggest that SB288 would work against three of those seven principles: Principle 1, whereby wildlife is to be held in the public trust; Principle 3, whereby management is to be determined through basic democratic principles; and Principle 7, whereby management is to be faithful to the best-available science.*

In November 2010 at the Portage Lake District Library, Dr. John Vucetich, Michigan Tech University professor of wildlife ecology, participated in an environmental ethics discussion led by Michael Nelson, resident philosopher of the Isle Royale Wolf/Moose project. Here Vucetich reads from his contribution to Nelson's book of essays, MORAL GROUND: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril. (File photo by Keweenaw Now)
Management principle 5: Adequate reason needed for hunting wildlife

4) Controversy over SB288 is also troubling because it distracts from a much deeper problem: a tendency for advocates of SB288 to advocate wolf hunting, and for detractors of SB288 to oppose wolf hunting. Many advocates for wolf hunting believe that opposition is just one element of a much larger social force to abolish all forms of hunting. In support of their concern, these citizens remind us of the 2006 referendum that precludes sport hunting of mourning doves in Michigan. On the other side of the issue, some opponents of wolf hunting believe that SB288 and wolf hunting represent a path to allowing many cruel and thoughtless forms of hunting. 

Citizens on both sides of this issue accuse those on the other side of relying on human and financial resources from outside the state of Michigan in support of their cause. Both sides are correct on this point. However, concerns about big money interfering with politics distract from a serious problem; that is, as a society, we have lost the ability to understand the true value of hunting. Principle #5 of the North American Model states that wildlife should not be killed for "frivolous use." Stated more straightforwardly, we should not kill a living creature without an adequate reason.

Judging what does and does not count as an adequate reason is a responsibility that good hunters take quite seriously. There is legitimate concern that advocates of wolf hunting have failed to offer adequate reasons for hunting wolves. This testimony is not the place to review all the reasons that have been offered. It is sufficient to observe that (i) nearly a quarter million citizens of Michigan, in signing a petition to take Public Act 520 to referendum vote, believe that adequate reasons have not been offered, and (ii) sociological research indicates that non-hunting citizens tend to support hunting when the purpose of a hunt is adequately justified.

Isle Royale wolves in winter. Wolves first came to Isle Royale in about the year 1950 by walking on an ice bridge from Canada. (Keweenaw Now file photo © and courtesy John Vucetich. Reprinted with permission.)

The referendum of November 2014 is a critically important opportunity for advocates to provide adequate reasoning for wolf hunting. Plenty of time exists between now and next November to make the best possible case. SB 288 should be opposed because it seems to work against principle #5 of the North American Model and thus fails to honor the good reputation of hunting.

Questions on MDNR goals of wolf harvest

5) Good wildlife management demands good answers to these three questions: What is the goal of any proposed wildlife management action? How will that goal be accomplished? Why is the goal appropriate?  My concern is that advocates for wolf hunting have not provided adequate answers to those questions.

This concern is illustrated by the memo submitted by the MDNR to the NRC (April 2, 2013), which explains the details of a proposed wolf harvest. The memo states that a purpose of the proposed wolf harvest is to protect human safety. Threats to human safety, when they occur, had better be dealt with swiftly, precisely, thoroughly and immediately. Protecting human safety cannot wait until the upcoming hunting season, with the subsequent hope that some hunter has the good fortune to kill the offending wolf. If genuine human safety concerns are dealt with appropriately then offending and potentially offending wolves would either be dead or living with plenty of fear of humans by the time the next hunting season rolls around. I do not quite see how a harvest is an appropriate way to promote human safety in any appreciable manner.

The memo also implies that the goal of the harvest is to reduce the number of complaints (of nuisance wolves) received by the MDNR. It should not be taken for granted that the number of complaints is an adequate indicator of threats to human safety.

Other key aspects of the memo can be criticized in a similar manner. If wolf hunting is to be good wildlife management, there is a need to evaluate more rigorously whether adequate answers exist for this constellation of questions -- What? How? and Why? And, that evaluation needs to occur in a manner that is accountable to the citizens of Michigan. SB288 seems to work against these interests.

* This particular numbering of the principles is presented at

The original version of this letter was submitted respectfully to Joy Brewer, Michigan House Committee clerk, on 16 Apr 2013 by John Vucetich.

Artist Mary Wright to present community sauna project for FinnFest 2013 Apr. 18 in Calumet

CALUMET -- Local artist Mary Wright is organizing downtown sauna displays for FinnFest 2013. She will share her vision and ideas at 6 p.m. this Thursday, April 18, at  Café Rosetta, 104 Fifth Street in downtown Calumet. All artists, craftspersons, sauna enthusiasts, local business owners and the general public are invited to attend this free presentation.

Artist Mary Wright visits the historic Keweenaw sauna in Hancock with, from left, House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills), State Representative Scott Dianda (D-Calumet), and former State Senator Mike Prusi on March 2 during a tour of the U.P. organized by Dianda for Greimel.* Wright will speak about her FinnFest 2013 sauna displays on Apr. 18 at Café Rosetta in Calumet. (Photo by Michigan House Democratic Staff. Reprinted with permission)

Ms. Wright has prepared a PowerPoint overview to outline and explain her concept and community approach to the project. She will discuss historic and traditional saunas, modern and contemporary sauna design and the use of recycled materials to construct saunas.

An example of recycled materials in sauna construction, "the door sauna," crafted by the Finlandia Lions Hockey team, is currently on display in front of the Finnish American Heritage Center in downtown Hancock.

For additional information or questions please contact Main Street Calumet at 906-337-6246 or

*Editor's Note: See our Apr. 4, 2013, article about this tour: "State House Democrats announce Michigan's Middle-Class Plan; House Democratic Leader visits UP."

Celebrate "Tradition" with "Fiddler on the Roof" Apr. 18-20 at Rozsa

HOUGHTON -- The Michigan Tech Theatre Company and Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra will present one of the most-loved Broadway musicals of all time, Fiddler on the Roof, at 7:30 p.m. this Thursday, Friday and Saturday -- April 18 - 20 -- in the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts at Michigan Technological University.

Fiddler on the Roof is a timeless tale of a father trying to maintain traditions at odds with modern culture. The performance features music by Jerry Bock; lyrics by Sheldon Harnick; and book by Joseph Stein, set in Tsarist Russia in 1905. It is based on "Tevye and his Daughters" (or "Tevye the Milkman" and Other Tales) by Sholem Aleichem. The story centers on Tevye, the father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his family and Jewish religious traditions while outside influences encroach upon their lives.

According to Director Roger Held, "Economic depression, threats of war, ethnic hatred and violence grab at Tevye’s shirt sleeve as he makes his way through the world caring for his family and horse, seeing his children married well, and dreaming of a better life. Tevye is 'every man,' every one of us who share hope, joy, and heartache."

Local radio personality Mark Wilcox makes his Tech Theatre Company debut in the lead role of Tevye. The original Broadway production of the show, which opened in 1964, had the first musical theatre run in history to surpass 3,000 performances.

General admission is $18.75, and Michigan Tech students are free. To purchase tickets, call (906) 487-2073, go online at, or visit Ticketing Operations at Michigan Tech’s Student Development Complex (SDC), 600 MacInnes Drive, in Houghton. SDC box office hours are 8 a.m. - 9 p.m. Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 7 p.m. Saturday and 12 noon - 8 p.m. on Sunday. Please note the Rozsa Box Office is closed during regular business hours and will only open two hours prior to show times.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Rep. Dianda introduces plan for middle-class tax relief

CALUMET -- State Representative Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) today announced the House Democrats' plan for middle-class tax relief. The bills are focused on restoring tax credits and deductions to middle-class families and repealing taxes on retirees. Legislation included in the plan will relieve the tax burden on Michigan families when next year's tax season rolls around.

"Many of these tax changes that people are seeing for the first time are hurting our senior citizens," said Dianda. "Here in the U.P. that is devastating. We have a lot of elderly folks in our district -- more than anywhere else in the state -- and they can't just go out and find another job to keep the heat on because Gov. Snyder changed the rules after they retired."

Last session, the Republican-led Legislature made severe changes to the Michigan tax code that punished middle-class families and seniors. Changes included imposing a tax on retirement income, eliminating the Homestead Property Tax Credit for many families, making a drastic cut to the Earned Income Tax Credit and eliminating the $600 per-child tax deduction and tax credits for charitable donations. These changes were made to fund nearly $2 billion in tax breaks for big corporations, effectively making Michigan's low-income and middle-class families pay for a handout to big corporations.

The new taxes took effect in 2012, and many taxpayers became aware of them for the first time as they filed their state income taxes this year.

"Some families are getting a much smaller refund, some aren't getting one at all and some taxpayers have to write a check to the state for the first time. That's a new appliance or a new car for some folks. Families wait on that money all year to make ends meet," continued Dianda.

Since he took office in January, Rep. Dianda has been listening to the concerns of constituents who are struggling under the new tax rules. In response, Dianda is advocating a comprehensive middle class tax relief plan that includes the following:
  • Repeal the new tax on senior retirement income
  • Require employers to inform employees about the Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Restore the Earned Income Tax Credit to 11 percent in the first year
  • Restore the Homestead Property Tax Credit
  • Restore the child deduction
In addition to these initiatives, Dianda and the House Democrats will continue to fight against tax increases on the middle class and seniors every time a new, harmful tax is introduced to the Legislature. Dianda plans to keep Michigan taxpayers aware of the changes through a series of coffee hours and town halls in his district.

"Tax changes that help the middle class and working people would be  beneficial to my neighbors up here. If the economy is going to recover in the Upper Peninsula, people need to have money in their pockets to spend at local businesses -- not be giving it all to the state," said Dianda.

Editor's Note: See also U.S. Sen. Carl Levin's comments posted today in USA Today, "Levin: Corporations should pay fair share."

Save the Wild U.P. Executive Director to represent U.P. activism at Rio Tinto international shareholders meeting Apr. 18

MARQUETTE -- Save the Wild U.P.’s executive director, Alexandra Thebert, will be heading to London to voice community opposition to Eagle Mine at Rio Tinto’s annual shareholders meeting this Thursday, April 18, 2013. She will be the 10th person from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to attend this meeting, drawing attention to the hazards and risks of Eagle Mine to the local community.

Concerned citizens who have previously addressed Rio Tinto's shareholders at their Annual General Meeting include Rev. Jon Magnuson representing 100 leaders from faith-based communities, Cynthia Pryor of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, Carla Champagne of Concerned Citizens of Big Bay, Friends of the Land of Keweenaw member Fran Whitman, law student Meg Townsend, and Keweenaw Bay Indian Community tribal members Susan LaFernier and Jessica Koski.

"I am honored to attend this shareholders meeting to bring representation to thousands of citizens concerned about the hazards and risks associated with Eagle Mine. I hope to represent supporters of our land, water, and of stable economics -- not the booms and busts of mining. We will not 'keep calm and carry on' in the face of sulfide mining," said Thebert. (Photo of Alexandra Thebert, above left, courtesy Save the Wild U.P.)

Thebert will join activists from around the world, including representatives from Oyu Tolgoi Watch (Mongolia), the Arizona Mining Reform Network, IndustriALL, a global union, and others to protest and highlight Rio Tinto's environmental and labor record. This project is made possible by a special fund created by activists in support of this trip.

Margaret Comfort, Save the Wild U.P. president, noted Rio Tinto recently has been laying off local workers at the Eagle Mine and reducing its contractors by 20 percent.

"Yoopers and the Upper Peninsula deserve better," she said.

Cynthia Pryor, who attended the shareholders meeting in 2008 and 2012, added, "On every front this mine threatens the health of our community and the environment. There will be so many issues this year to discuss -- transportation routes, blastomycosis, air and water quality, mine construction delays/layoffs, and now uranium too."*

Richard Solly, coordinator of the London Mining Network, an alliance of human rights, development and environmental groups which works to expose unacceptable mining projects, said Rio Tinto is under the scrutiny of people around the world.

"It has an appalling record of environmental destruction, violation of Indigenous rights, attacks on unions and benefiting from human rights abuses," Solly said. "That is why, every year, people come from across the world to Rio Tinto's shareholders meeting in London to challenge the company over its operations."

Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots environmental organization dedicated to the preservation of the Upper Peninsula’s unique cultural and natural resources.

* See our May 23, 2012, article on last year's Rio Tinto AGM, "Updated: Big Bay residents report on Rio Tinto AGM in London."