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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Letter: Embattled Great Lakes woman grateful for strong show of support

By Laura Gauger*

Laura Gauger paddling the Flambeau River. (Photo by Steve Garske of Marenisco, Mich., Oct 2011. Reprinted with permission.)

DULUTH, Minn. -- I stood up for clean water. I used my voice as a citizen. And now I am being punished by having to personally pay a substantial portion of a multinational mining company’s court costs.

That’s right. I am a citizen plaintiff in a Clean Water Act case against Rio Tinto, one of the largest mining corporations in the world. The case involved illegal discharges of pollutants into a stream at the company’s Flambeau Mine near Ladysmith, Wisconsin. For photos and official court documents, click HERE.

My co-plaintiffs and I won the case in U.S. District Court and exposed Rio Tinto’s highly touted "model mine" for what it is -- just one more example of how metallic sulfide mines always pollute. The ruling, however, was overturned on appeal, and now the court is ordering the plaintiffs, including me as an individual, to pay the polluter’s court costs. The bill is over $60,000, and my share is $20,500.

I am just a few donations short of paying off my share of these court costs awarded to Rio Tinto in the Flambeau Mine Clean Water Act case! Right now I am about $1500 short of my goal -- almost there! If you have not yet contributed, will you help put me over the top with a tax-deductible donation to my fundraiser?

I am completely OVERWHELMED by this huge flood of generosity. Truly, we have scored a victory on TWO different fronts in this lawsuit:

The first is a VICTORY FOR THE ENVIRONMENT. The court case provided a means for exposing, under oath and with credibility, the serious water pollution problems at the Flambeau Mine site. So the next time the Flambeau Mine is held up by supporters of PolyMet or Twin Metals (Minnesota), Lundin (Michigan), GTac (Wisconsin), the Pebble Partnership (Alaska) or anyone else as an example of how mining can be done "without polluting local waters," you will have solid ammunition to use in the defense of your clean water.

The second is a VICTORY FOR THE "LITTLE GUY." Rallying the way you did to help me sends the following message, loud and clear, to Rio Tinto and other corporate polluters:

Enough! You cannot ride roughshod over citizens who are simply trying to protect public waters, and you cannot keep us down. We "little guys" watch out for each other, we have each other’s backs, and we are tenacious. You may as well give up on your latest mining proposals because we WILL ultimately prevail in this battle to protect the water and the "little ones" whose voices need to be heard.

What happened to me is an assault to all citizen activists. If polluters can get away with bullying even one person for trying to enforce the Clean Water Act, it will make it more difficult for all of us to protect our drinking water, lakes and streams. Not only will it have a chilling effect on the ability and willingness of ordinary citizens to speak up, but on the lawyers we need to help us.

To all those who have already contributed to my fundraiser, THANK YOU! And if anyone else would care to make a donation to help erase the last $1500 of my debt, please click HERE.

With respect and thanks,

Editor's Notes:
*Laura Gauger is a member of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council (WRPC) and the Center of Biological Diversity (her co-plaintiffs in the Flambeau Mine lawsuit). Ms. Gauger is formerly a resident of Spooner, Wis., and currently resides in Duluth, Minn.

For background on the Flambeau Mine Clean Water Act case, see our Jan. 25, 2011, article, "Updated: Lawsuit filed against Kennecott subsidiary for water pollution at Flambeau Mine site" and our July 25, 2012, article, "Court: Flambeau Mining Company violated Clean Water Act."

Furry Friends Fall Festival to raise funds for K-SNAG Sept. 28

HOUGHTON -- Copper Country Veterinary Clinic will be hosting Furry Friends Fall Festival -- a fund-raising event for K-SNAG (Keweenaw Spay Neuter Assistance Group) from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 28, at the Clinic on Sharon Ave., in Houghton.

Poster courtesy Keweenaw Spay Neuter Assistance Group.

K-SNAG is a group of volunteers who raise money to spay, neuter and rescue local animals. It is strictly run on donations from the public and gets no state or federal funding at all.

The original purpose of K-SNAG was to assist area residents with the cost of spaying/neutering their pets in an effort to reduce the number of unwanted animals in our area. When people learned that this was an animal welfare organization, K-SNAG began to get calls from people needing help with stray animals, and that is how they began their rescue program.

K-SNAG is an all-volunteer organization that mainly relies on fundraisers to raise money for vet bills. Out of the 103 animals helped by K-SNAG in 2012, all but 20 were adopted. Currently, there are at least 22 cats waiting for a home. These cats are currently in the care of K-SNAG volunteers. To date, since the organization was founded, they have rescued hundreds of animals and helped to spay/neuter about 1,400.

There will be a multitude of fun events at the Furry Friends Fall Festival including the following: raffles, roulette wheel, dress like a doctor/pet photo station, cut-out posing booth, teddy bear surgery (bring in a teddy that needs surgery!), coloring station for young children, food and drinks, bake sale, face painting, t-shirts, outdoor events with prizes.

Some events will have a nominal charge, some are donation based and some are free!

Visit the K-SNAG Facebook page for more information.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club invites volunteers to trail brushing party Sept. 27

Gromit the Trail Dog supervises trail clearing on Maasto Hiihto Trails earlier this week. She invites Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club members and friends to help with trail brushing tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 27. Visit Gromit's blog for more photos of her trail adventures (and photos of the Parade of Nations!). (Photo © and courtesy Arlyn and Sandy Aronson)*

HANCOCK -- Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club will hold a trail brushing party TOMORROW, Saturday, Sept. 27, on Maasto Hiihto/Churning Rapids ski trails. Meet at Tomasi trailhead at 9 a.m. Wear sturdy footwear and gloves, bring water and whatever food you need. Stay as long or as little as you like/can. Tools will be supplied or bring your own.

Please email Jay Green at or call 906-487-5411 to let him know you are coming so enough tools will be brought to the trailhead. Questions? Call or email Jay.

* Editor's Note: 
Grant Fenner reports, "Gromit is featured on page RG17 in the November issue of Lake Superior Magazine in the magazine's Lake Superior Recreation section under the heading of "X-Country Skiing for Dogs. There you go, Gromit!"

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fourth Thursday in History: "Creating the Torch Lake Industrial District and Its Environment" TONIGHT in Lake Linden

CALUMET -- It might not seem like it today, but the Torch Lake shoreline between Lake Linden and Mason was once the largest industrial site in the Keweenaw copper district. Enormous powerhouses, stamp mills, and smelters lined the waterfront, and the lake bustled with ships delivering coal and taking copper to market. Processing mined rock, reclaiming copper-rich stamp sands from the lake and from scrap metals, and experimenting with new copper oxide products consumed the attention of the Calumet and Hecla and Quincy mining companies in their later years.

Although many of the buildings, docks, and other outward signs of industry are gone, copper production left a lasting mark on the Torch Lake area. Join Carol MacLennan, anthropology professor at Michigan Tech, as she surveys the history of Torch Lake’s shoreline and explores its environmental consequences.

The presentation will take place at 7 p.m. TONIGHT, Thursday Sept. 25, 2014. It will be held in the Lake Linden-Hubbell High School Auditorium, located at 601 Calumet Avenue in Lake Linden, Michigan. The event is free and open to the public.

The Fourth Thursday in History series arranges public presentations on important aspects of Copper Country and regional history, including techniques for historic preservation. Presentations are scheduled in venues throughout the Keweenaw Peninsula, particularly at historic sites associated with specific topics. They are free and open to the public.

For further information, including specific directions to this event, contact Keweenaw National Historical Park at (906) 337-3168 or check the web at

"Tatu Vuorio: Alchemy" exhibit opens at Finlandia Gallery; reception Sept. 25

Nomad, by Tatu Vuorio. Bronze, mirror and wood, 4 x 16 x 21cm, 2014. (Photos courtesy Finlandia University Gallery)

HANCOCK -- "Tatu Vuorio: Alchemy" is on display at the Finlandia University Gallery, located in the Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock, through October 18, 2014.

An opening reception at the gallery will take place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. TONIGHT, Thursday, Sept. 25. Dr. Alexandra Morrison, Michigan Tech visiting assistant professor of philosophy, will present a talk on art and philosophy beginning at 7:15 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

In a series of works titled "Alchemy," Finnish artist Tatu Vuorio explores the ideas of existentialism. Small in stature and poetic in nature, Vuorio’s work asks big questions. How should we live each day? How do our actions of today affect tomorrow? How does coincidence drive existence? How does the inevitability of death affect the way we live our life? Vuorio’s lyrical and sensuous work asks us to pause, reflect and question the most meaningful and most undefined qualities of human life.

Drawing from abstract, figurative and conceptual traditions, Vuorio’s work experiments with technique and material, combining painting, sculpture, jewellery and installation.

"As a creative person I have not experienced the need to focus on a particular method," says Vuorio. "I find using a variety of techniques, materials and approaches to address my inspiration creates the most dynamic meaningfulness."

Every cloud has a silver lining, by Tatu Vuorio. Mdf, aluminium,concrete, sterling silver, 4 x 22 x 22, 2014.

"The key thing of making art has been a curiosity and interest in new issues," Vuorio notes.

Using intuition and experimentation, Vuorio explores the theme of human existence, with mythology of the alchemist tradition and philosophy integral to his work.

Vuorio believes that to create something new, an artist must have an understanding of the history of artistic pursuits, including materials and working techniques. It is by experimenting and stretching this historical knowledge, and combining it with the courage to explore, that Vuorio creates work -- work that sometimes even takes him by surprise.

Vuorio received a Master of Arts in Applied Art and Design from Aalto-University of Art and Design and a Bachelor of Design in Applied Art/Jewellery and Object Design from Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Institute of Design. He is currently a Jewelry design teacher at IJKK Järvenpää. He has also taught courses in Painting and Sculpture.

His work has been exhibited widely in Finland and he was the Association of Finnish Sculptors "Artist of the Month" in January 2014. 

He has received grants from the City of Espoo, the Arts Council of Finland (2013, 2014) and the Aune and Mauri Riuttu’s foundation, among others.

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 7 p.m. and Saturday noon to 4 p.m. or by appointment.

For more information, call 906-487-7500.