Prominent U.P. Environmental Groups Merge


Alexandra Maxwell, Mining Action Group, (906) 662-9987
Gregg Bruff, UPEC Coordinator, (906)-201-1949
Horst Schmidt, UPEC President, (906)-369-3797

Marquette, MI — Two of the most respected environmental organizations in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula have joined forces! Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) and Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC) completed a year-end merger, resulting in the formation of a Mining Action Group (MAG) within UPEC.

“This merger brings together five decades of leadership and grassroots effort. We are now truly speaking with ‘One Voice’ to protect the environment of the Upper Peninsula. We could not have done it without the dedication of board members of both groups, ” said Horst Schmidt, UPEC president.

“Our goal in this merger was to create an active, far-reaching and inclusive environmental advocacy group for the Upper Peninsula,” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP’s outgoing president. “We are combining our strengths, and building on our cooperative efforts to protect clean water, healthy ecosystems, and wild places.”

Following the merger, the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition will maintain its focus on environmental education and advocacy for U.P. wild lands. The Mining Action Group, operating as a semi-autonomous arm within UPEC, will carry on Save the Wild U.P.’s legacy of informed grassroots activism.

Founded in 2004, SWUP has become widely known for leveraging social media and providing hard-hitting public commentary on sulfide mining related permits, most recently on the proposed zinc-copper mine targeting the Menominee River and proposed expansion of the Eagle Mine in Marquette County. MAG activists will continue serving as environmental watchdogs, urging regulators to make wise decisions to protect the natural resources and public lands of Upper Michigan, educating citizens about the risks of sulfide mining and the industrialization of wild lands, reviewing permits for new mineral leases in sensitive areas, speaking out at public hearings, and working collaboratively with regional tribal nations and watershed organizations.

“During the past year, our activism took many forms,” according to Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s outgoing executive director. “From the first hours of 2016 until the last, we worked tirelessly opposing Aquila’s Back Forty proposal for an open-pit sulfide mine and mill on the bank of the Menominee River. We hosted forums to discuss the proposed mine, held trainings for concerned citizens, facilitated a red-flag review by the Center for Science in Public Participation, prepared evidenced-based comments for the DEQ, and more.”

“We also worked to raise awareness about wetlands and wildlands threatened by the controversial County Road 595 proposal; we hosted cultural events and boots-on-the-ground experiences including musical events and poetry readings, opportunities to explore wetlands, waterfalls and native plant habitats; and we participated in a U.P. Environmental Stakeholder Group in order to provide meaningful input on sulfide mining permits to Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality,” said Maxwell.

“By contrast, UPEC’s perspective is broader and more historical,” said Jon Saari, who has served in leadership roles with both organizations. “U.P. environmental groups have vacillated about the best way to do our work. The Hard Power wing pushes lobbying, watchdogging government and industry, relentless pursuit in crisis mode, while the Soft Power wing stresses public education, strategic grant giving, and long term cultural changes.  SWUP is more in the former tradition, UPEC in the latter. Now the two approaches will be combined in one organization.”

As a member-based organization, UPEC has been helping to protect the U.P.’s great places since 1976; activities focus on community outreach through a quarterly newsletter, the annual Celebration of the U.P. event, and grant programs in environmental education and community conservation. “UPEC awarded $34,000 in grants in 2016,” said Horst Schmidt, “and going forward we want to enhance our presence and partnerships U.P.-wide.”

“This transformation enables members of the Mining Action Group to remain focused on the grassroots work of defending Upper Michigan’s clean water and wild places from the threat of sulfide mining. We’re not getting bigger, we’re getting better,” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP’s outgoing president. SWUP leaders Steven Garske, Kathleen Heideman, Alexandra Maxwell, and Jon Saari will form the initial MAG team within UPEC.

Concerned citizens are encouraged to support the work of the Mining Action Group by becoming members of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition. The merger is effective January 1, 2017.


UPEC-SWUP event – merger announced
Jon Saari speaking at UPEC-SWUP event

Suggested caption: “In September 2016, friends of Save the Wild U.P. and the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition gathered at the historic Peter White Camp as the planned merger was announced, creating the Mining Action Group within UPEC. Photograph provided by UPEC.”


Founded in 1976, the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition’s purpose remains unchanged: to protect and maintain the unique environmental qualities of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan by educating the public and acting as a watchdog to industry and government. UPEC is a nonprofit, registered 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, call 906-201-1949, see, visit our Facebook page, or contact:

The UPEC Mining Action Group (MAG) is a grassroots effort to defend the clean water and wild places of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from the dangers of sulfide mining previously known as Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP). Contact the UPEC Mining Action Group at or call (906) 662-9987. Learn more about the Mining Action Group at or follow MAG’s work on Facebook or Twitter.

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