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Friday, November 20, 2015

Save the Wild U.P. to hold Winter Gala Dec. 5, featuring filmmaker Louis V. Galdieri

Save the Wild U.P. will hold a fundraising Winter Gala event in Marquette on Dec. 5, 2015, with keynote speaker Louis V. Galdieri, director of the documentary 1913 Massacre about Italian Hall. (Poster courtesy Save the Wild U.P.)

MARQUETTE -- Grassroots environmental group Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) will hold their Winter Gala from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, at the Steinhaus Market, 1651 S. Front Street (South U.S. 41), Marquette, just past Huron Mountain Bakery as you leave Marquette on U.S. 41.

SWUP kicks off their 12th year of environmental advocacy by hosting an evening filled with locally sourced cuisine, music, filmmaker Louis V. Galdieri as keynote speaker, and a silent auction. The Winter Gala is an opportunity for SWUP to update the community on their environmental work while celebrating the hard work of their supporters and members of the creative community. Tickets for the event are $50 and are available at both Steinhaus locations (Steinhaus Market or Steinhaus at 102 W. Washington St., at Front St., Marquette) or by calling (906) 235-9251. All proceeds benefit Save the Wild U.P.’s work, defending wild land and clean water.

Save the Wild U.P.’s Winter Gala will feature hearty appetizers and desserts from Steinhaus Market and live music from local jazz combo Soul Pasty. The Silent Auction will feature original work by dozens of U.P. artists, artisans and small business owners.

The evening’s keynote speaker will be Louis V. Galdieri, writer, filmmaker and co-director of the acclaimed 1913 Massacre, a documentary film which "captures the last living witnesses of the 1913 (Italian Hall) tragedy and reconstructs Calumet’s past from individual memories, family legends and songs, tracing the legacy of the tragedy to the present day, when the town -- out of work, out of money, out of luck -- still struggles to come to terms with this painful episode from its past."

Since his visit to the U.P. in October 2013, Galdieri has been blogging regularly about the ethics of mining and the new mining around Lake Superior. Some of his articles have appeared on Keweenaw Now.*

Following the Winter Gala, Galdieri will present his film with a special Q and A session at the Peter White Public Library at 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 7, in the Community Room, as part of the library's "DocuMonday Meets the Filmmaker Series." The event is free of charge and open to the public. The Peter White Public Library is at 217 N. Front St., Marquette. For more information call 906-226-4318.

"I really look forward to seeing our supporters at the Gala," said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP president. "Save the Wild U.P. worked hard all year, reviewing permits and mineral leases, making a federal appeal to the Environmental Protection Agency urging them to require a wastewater discharge permit for Eagle Mine that would actually protect the Salmon Trout River, engaging regulators at Public Hearings, leading well-attended hikes to remote wild places and pristine wetlands, and educating a whole new generation of environmental leaders! Critical work remains to be done, of course -- but there’s much to celebrate as we enter a new year of environmental advocacy."

Alexandra Maxwell, who began her work with Save the Wild U.P. as a grassroots outreach coordinator, running SWUP’s Summer Fellows program, stepped into the role of Interim Director last year and was recently named Executive Director.

"I am honored to serve in this capacity, to take up a torch that so many of our community leaders have carried," Maxwell said. "Environmental issues desperately need our attention in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and I am grateful to contribute whatever I can to the community and the region that I love."

During the Gala, Save the Wild U.P. will announce the Fred Rydholm Sisu Award. Presenting the award will be Fred Rydholm's son, Daniel.

The Fred Rydholm Sisu Award was previously awarded to educator and environmental activist Gail Griffith. Save the Wild U.P. established the award to recognize the dedication and perseverance of community-minded activists and environmental stewards.

"We’ve created this award in honor of the late Fred Rydholm, who wholly embodied SWUP’s environmental values, as well as the yooper term sisu -- perseverance, grit, resilience -- a concept created by Finnish immigrants to the U.P.," Maxwell noted.

Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots organization dedicated to defending clean water and wild places from the threat of sulfide mining and to preserving the Upper Peninsula’s unique culture. For more information contact or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with SWUP’s work at, on Facebook at or on Twitter @savethewildup.

* Inset photos courtesy Save the Wild U.P. Read Louis V. Galdieri's articles on his blog, See also our Dec. 24, 2013, interview with Galdieri and his co-filmmaker Ken Ross --  "'1913 Massacre' filmmakers talk about their documentary on Italian Hall disaster."

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Opinion: When talking PolyMet, don't be fooled by Michigan's Eagle Mine

This June 19, 2015, aerial photo shows 1) Salmon Trout River, 2) unfiltered vent stack (MVAR) over Eagle ore body and 3) Eagle Mine portal into Eagle Rock. (Photo courtesy Save the Wild U.P.)

[Editor's Note:  Recently Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton visited the Eagle Mine near Big Bay, Michigan, reportedly to help him make a very difficult and controversial decision about whether to allow a mine similar to Eagle Mine (polymetal sulfide orebody) -- the proposed PolyMet copper mine to be constructed in northeast Minnesota. Kathleen Heideman, president of Save the Wild U.P., wrote him the following letter, which was previously published in the Minnesota Star Tribune and is reprinted here with permission.]

Dear Gov. Mark Dayton,

When we learned you’d be touring the Eagle Mine in Michigan’s wild Upper Peninsula, we -- board and advisory board members of the grass-roots environmental group Save the Wild U.P. -- asked to meet with you, to share key concerns about the mine. We’d like you to make an informed decision on Minnesota’s proposed PolyMet project. Since you were unable to meet with us, we’re now sharing our concerns publicly.

You toured Eagle Mine’s facility, which the sulfide mining industry deems an environmentally responsible sulfide mine. Did you happen to notice the newly constructed, heavy-duty paved haul road you traveled on from Big Bay -- pavement that ends at the gates of the mine? Under Michigan’s Part 632 legislation governing sulfide mining, that road should have been regulated as a mining haul road, subject to an environmental-impact assessment and permit revisions. Through a series of political and corporate sleights of hand, the road was paid for by Eagle but built as a county road.

Did Eagle show you its air pollution? For example, did Eagle proudly show you the Main Vent Air Raise (MVAR) on the bank of the Salmon Trout River, a wild, blue-ribbon trout stream flowing swiftly down to Lake Superior? During the mine’s permitting phase, Eagle pledged to use environmentally responsible bag-house filters to remove heavy metals, sulfide rock particles, exhaust from underground equipment and cancer-causing particulates ejected from the mine following blasting. Did Eagle mention that it changed the design, revised the permit and removed all filters? Now, twice daily, the underground sulfide orebody is blasted and a plume of heavy metals is blown from the stack at high velocity. The pollutants are carried on the wind, falling out over the surrounding environment. Only one stack test was ever done, more than a year ago, prior to the mine becoming fully operational. Twice daily, we are told, someone stands at the vent site and views the plume to rate how dark it is, a sort of visual opacity test -- although one blast takes place at night. The actual contents of Eagle’s air pollution plume remain entirely unassessed and unregulated.

Spring-fed tributary of East Branch of the Salmon Trout River, near Eagle Mine; flowing water on Nov. 10, 2015. (Photo courtesy Save the Wild U.P.)

Did Eagle show you the Salmon Trout River, a pristine, groundwater-fed river? At the mine’s treated wastewater infiltration system, deionized wastewater is returned to the shallow groundwater aquifer, where it bonds with metals in the ground as it percolates. Almost immediately, it is outside of Eagle’s fence line. Did Eagle officials explain that they are using groundwater as if it were a sewer pipe, conveying wastewater directly to springs that feed the East Branch of the Salmon Trout River?

Detail showing spring-fed tributary of East Branch of the Salmon Trout River, near Eagle Mine; flowing water on Nov. 10, 2015. (Photo courtesy Save the Wild U.P.)

We’d like you to understand that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have allowed Eagle to use the wrong permit, a groundwater discharge permit that meets only human drinking-water values, rather than a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Clean Water Act permit, with the more sensitive pollution limits for copper and other contaminants needed to protect macroinvertebrates and other stream life, including trout. We hope you learned that there are no monitoring wells tracking the movement of Eagle’s wastewater toward these critical springs. The Salmon Trout River will be harmed; it’s simply a question of when.

Eagle’s milling facility, the Humboldt Mill, also poses multiple threats to clean water, with discharges from its tailings degrading the Escanaba River watershed and the Lake Michigan basin. Note that parent company Lundin Mining Corp. provided a mere $23.2 million in total financial assurances for both the mine ($18 million) and the mill ($5.2 million) -- a tiny sum, inadequate to fund even an EPA cleanup investigation.*

The sulfide mining industry would like you to ignore these serious issues -- impacts to the air, water and land, as well as grossly inadequate bonding assurances -- while falsely portraying the Eagle Mine as environmentally protective. The Eagle Mine should be viewed as a dire warning, rather than a good example. We urge you to deny the PolyMet permit and protect Minnesota’s most valuable natural resource: clean water.


Kathleen Heideman
President of Save the Wild U.P.

Board of Directors, Save the Wild U.P.
Advisory Board, Save the Wild U.P.**

Editor's Notes:
* See our Aug. 2, 2015, article, "Citizens question DEQ's wastewater discharge permit for Eagle Mine's Humboldt Mill; deadline for comments is Aug. 3."
** For more information visit

UPDATE: Lecture on "The Lighting of Detroit" re-scheduled for TODAY, Nov. 19

From Tech Today:

HOUGHTON -- Due to a flight cancellation, a presentation by Akemi Mitchell originally scheduled for yesterday, will take place this afternoon, Thursday, Nov. 19. Mitchell, senior vice president for quality control and continuous improvement for the Detroit Public Lighting Authority (DPLA) and a Michigan Tech alumna ('95 ChemEng) will be on campus through Friday for a series of meetings with campus leaders, students and researchers.

The public seminar "The Lighting of Detroit" has been re-scheduled for 3:30 p.m. TODAY, Thursday, Nov. 19, in Noblet G002, School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science (SFRES).

Mitchell is also looking for two new employees in this area, so she will participate in SFRES's Career Fair today, Thursday.

A forum/discussion on Michigan Tech's involvement in the use of bio-based materials in the "Lighting of Detroit" project is still scheduled for 3 p.m. tomorrow in SFRES 144.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Students to hold Candlelight Vigil Nov. 19 to remember victims of terrorist attacks

HOUGHTON -- A student-organized candlelight vigil will be held at 5 p.m. tomorrow, Thursday, Nov. 19, in front of the J.R. Van Pelt and Opie Library near the bronze husky statue on the Michigan Tech campus to pay tribute to the victims of the recent terrorist attacks against Paris, Beirut and Russia. The vigil will also remember those killed by extremists in April at Garissa University College in Kenya.

The public is invited to support the Michigan Tech community as they stand united with the world in mourning the innocent lives lost to senseless violence.

On October 31, Kolavia flight 7K9268 went down in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 passengers and crew on board. Investigations are ongoing; however the most recent U.S. intelligence reports suggest that a bomb planted by terrorists caused the crash. Last Thursday, at least 41 people were killed and more than 200 were injured in two suicide bombings in the Lebanese capitol of Beirut. Last Friday, a series of coordinated bombings and shootings in Paris ended the lives of 129 people and left 352 wounded, 99 of whom are currently in critical condition. In April of this year, 147 people were massacred at Garissa University College in Kenya by the Somalia-base Al-Shabaab militant group.

Please consider attending tomorrow's vigil to remember those lost and to stand in solidarity with the world against terrorism and senseless violence. A moment of silence will be honored at that time.

Houghton County Prosecutor's Office awaits complete investigation of social media threat at Michigan Tech

The Houghton County Prosecutor’s Office issued this statement as the result of inquiries regarding the recent threat posted on Yik-Yak by a Michigan Tech student:

This matter was brought before the Prosecutor’s Office Friday, November 13, 2015, a day on which approximately 20 cases were set for various hearings.

During the course of Friday, the Prosecutor’s Office worked with Michigan Tech Public Safety and had a search warrant prepared, authorized, and executed that day.

Late Friday afternoon, the Prosecutor’s Office was advised that the search yielded no evidence to indicate an actual ongoing public danger, nor was there obvious evidence of motive or intent. However, computer/electronic equipment was seized to determine if it contained information related to such issues.

Some questioned why a prosecution has not been started under Michigan’s Anti-Terrorism Statute. That statute contains a definition of terrorist act which requires more than a threat of violence, it has an intent or motive element.

The charge has not been brought because the investigation is incomplete and at this point, evidence of intent or motive is lacking.

A final determination will not be made until there is a substantially complete investigation.

This matter has not been taken lightly. The Prosecutor’s Office worked promptly with MTU Public Safety to assure the public was not at risk and to preserve and develop evidence. The disturbing the peace charge was not intended to be an opinion on the seriousness of the event. It was filed as a charge that could be filed based on the information available. Consideration is being made to dismissing it because of intervening considerations not as a denial of all charges.

There are questions in this case that need research in addition to the need for evidence. A final determination will be evidence-based according to law after adequate investigation and research. It will not be based on emotion. It will be based on law and facts.

Houghton County Prosecutor's Office
401 E. Houghton Avenue Houghton, MI 49931
(906) 482-3214

Editor's Note: See "UPDATE: Suspect in social media threat at Michigan Tech released on bond," with statement from Michigan Tech President Glenn Mroz, posted Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, and our Nov. 16, 2015, article, "Local peace marchers protest racist threats on social media, prosecutor's lenient charge against Michigan Tech suspect."

From Tech Today: The Lighting of Detroit Using Forestry Know-How

By Jennifer Donovan, Michigan Tech Director of News and Media Relations
Posted on Tech Today, Nov. 18, 2015
Reprinted with permission

UPDATE: Mitchell was scheduled to talk about "The Lighting of Detroit" at a public seminar at 4 p.m. Wednesday in Noblet G002, School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science (SFRES), but her flight was cancelled. Michigan Tech is re-scheduling her program.

Mitchell is also scheduled to meet with members of Michigan Tech's Diversity Council and under-represented minority students during her visit.

SFRES Dean Terry Sharik and researchers plan to discuss Tech's possible involvement in managing the DPLA lighting system through the use of wooden transmission poles. SFRES is looking at the entire life cycle of these poles, from planting the trees, harvesting them, manufacturing the poles and recycling them. There would also be an educational component for inner city youth. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is another important component of the proposed system.

Mitchell is also looking for two new employees in this area, so she will participate in SFRES's Career Fair on Thursday.

A forum/discussion on Michigan Tech's involvement in the use of bio-based materials in the "Lighting of Detroit" project is still scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday in SFRES 144.

Sponsors of Mitchell's visit to Tech include the Sustainable Futures Institute (SFI); the  Visiting Women and Minority Lecturer/Scholar Series, which is funded by a grant to Institutional Equity and Inclusion from the State of Michigan's King-Chavez-Parks Initiative; the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science; and NSF-AGEP (National Science Foundation Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate).

Monday, November 16, 2015

Local peace marchers protest racist threats on social media, prosecutor's lenient charge against Michigan Tech suspect

By Michele Bourdieu

Michigan Tech students, faculty and staff and community members begin a peace march from campus to the Houghton County Courthouse Sunday night, Nov. 15. Marchers' signs protested recent threats on social media against the lives of black people. (Photos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated.)

HOUGHTON -- More than 200 Michigan Tech students, staff and community members turned out for a peace march Sunday night, Nov. 15, to make a statement against threats of violence made on social media against black people.

Marchers walk peacefully from the Michigan Tech campus to the Houghton County Courthouse Sunday night.

The student-organized and led march began at the Walker Arts and Humanities Building and continued through downtown Houghton to the Houghton County Courthouse, where candles were lit and a moment of silence was observed before the marchers headed back to campus.

Marchers hold a moment of silence in front of the Houghton County Courthouse.

On Friday a Michigan Tech student was charged with disturbing the peace in connection with a Thursday social media threat against the lives of black people. The threat was posted on Yik Yak, which allows users to post anonymously. Organizers of last night’s march say the intent was to protest the lack of stringent charges pursued by Houghton County Prosecutor Michael Makinen.

Marchers hold signs asking others to contact Prosecutor Michael Makinen and express objections to his charge of disturbing the peace as too lenient.

The suspect was arraigned today in 97th District Court, has been served with an interim suspension and is banned from campus, allowing the University to complete the investigation process.

Speakers address the large crowd of marchers in front of the Houghton County Courthouse Sunday night, Nov. 15. (Photo © and courtesy Miriam Pickens)

Emerald Gary of Detroit, a Michigan Tech student in the School of Business, was one of several student leaders who organized the march. She said concerned students hope the suspect will receive a more severe punishment.

"I don't think he should be allowed to return to Tech," Gary said.

She noted similar threats against black people in other universities, including the University of Missouri, allegedly resulted in more serious charges.

At Indiana University in Bloomington last Friday, Nov. 13, police were investigating a similar threat on Yik Yak.*

According to, "The Yik Yak messaging app is popular with college students because it lets users post quick, anonymous messages to others in the same geographic area."

The IndyStar article noted Yik Yak claims they cooperate with local authorities and may share information with law enforcement.

Concerning the threatening post by the Michigan Tech student, Michigan Tech President Glenn Mroz reported last Friday, "Yik Yak is cooperating with Michigan Tech Public Safety and Police Services to help us obtain information on this post."

Gary said she and other students believe the university has done its part in working with campus police and Houghton Police on this investigation, but the students' objection is the prosecutor's  initial charge of "disturbing the peace."

Makinen may possibly drop or change the charge, but so far his office has not replied to Michigan Tech on his intentions.

* See the Nov. 13, 2015, article, "IU investigates racist threat" on