Cleaning Up After Sulfide Mining for Earth Day

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MARQUETTE—In recognition of Earth Day 2016, volunteers from Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) will collect litter along the Triple A in northern Marquette County.

“Until last year, there was no pavement on the Triple A,” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP president. “Now it’s a paved haul road leading to the gate of Eagle Mine, with giant ditches, and those ditches are accumulating litter.”

According to Gaylord Nelson, the Wisconsin politician who organized the first Earth Day in 1970, “The American people finally had a forum to express their concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air – and they did so with spectacular exuberance.” Earth Day became recognized worldwide in 1990.

Save the Wild U.P. works to defend the U.P. from the environmental threats posed by sulfide mining. “Generally, we raise awareness about sulfide mining’s most serious dangers, like acid mine drainage require perpetual care, surface water contamination, subsidence risk, air pollution, and so forth,” said Heideman. “But sulfide mining has definitely brought litter, too – roadside litter from increased vehicle use by mining employees and contractors, trash left behind at remote mineral exploration sites, and trash blown from the mine site.”

“Littering is part of the ‘mining camp’ vibe, unfortunately.” said Alexandra Maxwell, Save the Wild U.P.’s executive director. “Following surface and seismic mineral exploration, Lundin Mining’s contractors leave PVC pipes abandoned in forests, ravines, and swamps, and plastic ribbons fluttering from trees. Trash blows out of trucks, or gets tossed out a vehicle window. Litter inspires more litter,” said Maxwell. “Obviously, we’d like to see the mining industry take full responsibility for their environmental impacts, but that hasn’t happened yet.”

“It’s still thawing on the Yellow Dog Plains, but the forecast for Saturday looks terrific!” said Heideman

Participants should meet Save the Wild U.P. leaders at the Big Bay Outfitters at 12:30pm on Saturday. The carpool caravan will be leaving promptly at 1pm.  Folks planning to attend should wear bright colors, closed-toe shoes or boots, and should bring gloves. Snacks will be provided at the end of the day, but participants are encouraged to bring water and any other essentials they may need. For more information please send an email to info@savethewildup.org or call 906-662-9987.

Founded in 2004, Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots environmental organization dedicated to defending wild places and clean water of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from the dangers of sulfide mining. For more information contact info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with SWUP’s work at savethewildup.org or follow SWUP on Facebook at facebook.com/savethewildup or Twitter @savethewildup.

Poets of the Wild U.P. – April 1, 2016 Reading

Banner-for-wordpress-poetryReadingMARQUETTE — Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) invites the public to celebrate “Poets of the Wild U.P.” with a poetry reading featuring Milton Bates, Lynn M. Domina, Janeen Pergrin Rastall, Kathleen M. Heideman and Russell Thorburn. SWUP’s special literary event is scheduled for Friday, April 1 from 6-8 pm at the Marquette Federated Women’s Clubhouse.

“We’re lending a uniquely environmental vibe to National Poetry Month, balancing the celebration of beautiful, wild and protected places with a clear-eyed understanding of urgent environmental issues threatening the Upper Michigan. Poetry gives the wild a voice that can be heard above the din of progress. We have grown deaf to the natural world. Poetry opens our eyes and our ears to the beauty of wild places. All we have to do is stop and listen,” said Chip Truscon, SWUP board member.

“In sponsoring this reading, we’re highlighting the special connection between Yoopers and their environment, through the work of five local authors who draw inspiration from Lake Superior, U.P. environmental issues, and the natural beauty of Upper Michigan’s wild places,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s director. SWUP’s poetry reading is free and open to the public.

The U.P.’s environment figures differently in the work of each poet: back-country trails, roadless areas, backyards, wild animals, shorelines, or winter cabin-fever. “There’s a strong spirit of place, an identification with wildness and struggle, at the heart of our stories,” said Jon Saari, emeritus professor of History at Northern Michigan University, and SWUP’s vice president.

“If you’re inspired by the wild lands of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, you’re also aware of the wounded places – tailing basins, mine pits, caving grounds, clearcuts. To some degree or another, we all struggle to remain optimistic in the face of serious environmental issues. But poetry is a fundamentally hopeful act,” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP’s president.

“Poets of the Wild U.P.” will be the fourth literary event hosted by SWUP. Last year’s “Poets of the Wild U.P.” poetry reading attracted a standing-room-only audience. National Poetry Month, founded by the Academy of American Poets, is the world’s largest literary celebration, involving millions of readers, teachers, students, librarians and authors and celebrating the role of poetry in our lives every April.

POETS OF THE WILD U.P. – BIOS:

Milton Bates taught English literature for thirty-five years at Williams College and Marquette University. During that time he was a Guggenheim Fellow and a Fulbright lecturer in China and Spain. He has published a half-dozen books on subjects such as the poet Wallace Stevens, the literature and film of the Vietnam War, and the Bark River Valley in Wisconsin. On retirement he and his wife moved to the Upper Peninsula, which serves as the setting for many of his poems.

Lynn Domina is the author of two collections of poetry, Corporal Works and Framed in Silence, and the editor of a collection of essays, Poets on the Psalms. Her work has appeared in The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Massachusetts Review, and many other periodicals. A Michigan native, she has also lived in Alabama, Illinois, and New York. She moved to the U.P. in 2015, where she lives in Marquette with her family and serves as Head of the English Department at Northern Michigan University.

Kathleen M. Heideman received the Marquette Arts and Culture Center’s 2015 Outstanding Writer Award. She’s completed artist residencies with watersheds, forests, the National Science Foundation, and the National Park Service — including Isle Royale and Sleeping Bear Dunes. Informed by environmental concerns, her work has been recognized by the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, the Wurlitzer Foundation, the Bush Foundation, and others. She’s a curious woman.

Janeen Pergrin Rastall lives in Gordon, MI (population 2). She is the author of In the Yellowed House (dancing girl press 2014) and co-author of Heart Radicals (ELJ Publications, 2016). Her chapbook, Objects May Appear Closer won the 2015 Celery City Chapbook Contest. She is Managing Editor at ELJ Publications when she isn’t looking out at Lake Superior waves.

Russell Thorburn served as the U.P. Poet Laureate from 2013-2015. He lives in Marquette, Michigan, with his son and wife. A manuscript consultant for poets, he takes orphan poems that don’t fit together, and arranges the pieces in a way that not only makes sense, but makes beauty. He is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Salt and Blood, an experimental noir, is forthcoming from Marick Press who also published his third book of poetry, Father, Tell Me I Have Not Aged.

POETS OF THE WILD U.P. READING

Friday April 1, 6-8 pm
Federated Women’s Clubhouse
104 West Ridge Street, Marquette, Mich. 49855
Free and open to the public

Founded in 2004, Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots organization dedicated to defending the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s clean water and wild places from the threat of sulfide mining. For more information contact info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with SWUP’s work at savethewildup.org on Facebook at facebook.com/savethewildup or on Twitter @savethewildup.

POETS OF THE WILD U.P. POSTERS

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SWUP Lies?

Recently a lone writer from Big Bay sent out, to undisclosed recipients, two of his short articles about the failure of environmentalism and in particular accused Save the Wild U.P. of lying in some of its outreach material. If you received such a message from Charles Glossenger, this response is for you.

Last fall Mr. Glossenger embarked on what he characterized as a two-month investigation of the Eagle Project (mine and mill), researching the “spin” put on economic projections by Lundin Mining (exaggerated, he said), the user-unfriendly nature of the Community Environmental Monitoring Program’s website (maintained by Superior Watershed Partnership), and the accusations of environmental pollution at the Eagle Mine and Humboldt Mill (there is no pollution, he concluded). The reports “for everyone” that came out of this investigation were shared with some SWUP Board members, among others. The reports were reasoned and readable, like the Letters to the Editor that Mr. Glossenger has written from time to time, especially on CR 595. He acknowledged that discussions of technical data and permits often led to disagreements; he did not argue that the company, the regulators, or the critics were deceitful, fraudulent, or lying in disagreeing with one another.

The latest articles sent by Mr. Glossenger in March 2016 are different. He has now drifted into attack mode against environmental organizations, from the large national ones (NWF, TNC, Sierra Club) to the smaller grassroots ones, like SWUP. They have apparently failed to change the world in any measurable way, whether on climate change or the size of individual ecological footprints. SWUP, he claims, is a small elitist clique prone to lying, and its actions have had no impact on sulfide mining. In his wild accusations he has undermined his own credibility as a commentator. Apparently he can not stand being ignored, and has broadcast his unhappiness far and wide.

SWUP has evolved into the most hard-hitting, thorough and factually correct critic of state permits related to mining, whether dealing with water discharge, mining applications, or leasing of state land. Hundreds of hours have gone into researching and writing public commentary on these permits (the Aquila Back Forty commentary alone was 40+ pages), and hundreds more into educational forums and hikes. To no effect? If Eagle Mine is a clean, small, and progressive operation, as Mr. Glossenger contends, it is due in part to the vigilance and persistence of its critics, who have not gone away. Similarly, the MDEQ knows that its every move is being watched, and has worked together with local environmental stakeholders to improve communication; they even attend some SWUP events. SWUP has thousands of supporters on its listserv for action alerts (yes, you read that right, thousands), and has engaged dozens of volunteers and student leaders in its past work.

The SWUP Board will not be responding to Mr. Glossenger directly, but if any of you SWUP readers/supporters have questions, please feel free to contact a Board member or leave a message on the website.

Charlie Parr & John Davey Perform “For The Love Of Land!” at Ore Dock Brewing Company

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MARQUETTE – Local environmental nonprofit Save the Wild U.P.(SWUP) will host another “For the Love of Land” concert on Sunday, March 20, from 6:00- 9:00 at the Ore Dock Brewing Company. The event will feature local musician, John Davey and Minnesota-based musical legend Charlie Parr. Tickets for the event are $10 and are on sale now at the Ore Dock Brewing Company; a portion of the proceeds will benefit SWUP’s work.

This concert, combining John Davey’s “… songs about heartbreaks and towns, people, places, and things” and Charlie Parr’s “blistering finger-picking and gritty, soulful vocals” will help support Save the Wild U.P.’s grassroots efforts to fight an open-pit sulfide mine proposed for the banks of the Menominee River.

This is the first event that Davey and Parr have played for SWUP. Davey is a songwriter from West Lafayette, Indiana who has been touring since 2007, playing hundreds of shows on dozens of tours, regionally and nationally. His lyrically substantive pop folk songs reflect his time on the road, and are often ruminations on the toll that traveling takes and the high cost of relationships.

Charlie Parr has been traveling around and singing his songs ever since leaving Austin Minnesota in the 1980′s. Parr has put out 13 studio recordings and plays over 250 shows a year featuring his distinctive resonator-fueled folk songs. Parr’s newest album, Stumpjumper (Red House Records), is receiving stellar reviews for its “deep blues” approach to American roots music.

“I’m excited to have such talented musicians share their work with our supporters,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s executive director. “These two fellas have very different styles, but it just goes to show there is an endless supply of creative inspiration in the Lake Superior region, and countless reasons to come together to protect our environment.”

Save the Wild U.P. hosts concerts, film screenings and literary events throughout the year in order to highlight the connection between artistic inspiration, northwoods culture, the U.P.’s wild places, and environmental threats.

Save the Wild U.P. will have an informational table at the concert, with volunteers and board members on hand to inform concerned citizens about the proposed sulfide mine and other environmental issues, and promote SWUP’s upcoming spring and summer events.

Founded in 2004, Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots organization dedicated to defending the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s clean water and wild places from the threat of sulfide mining. For more information contact info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with SWUP’s work at savethewildup.orgon Facebook at facebook.com/savethewildup or on Twitter @savethewildup.

Related Links
Charlie Parr’s Official Website: http://www.charlieparr.com/
SWUP’s event page: http://bit.ly/CharlieparrODBC

‘Red-Flag Review’ Reveals Flaws in Sulfide Mine Application

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MARQUETTE – Local grassroots environmental group, Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) has secured an independent “red-flag review” of Aquila Resources mining permit application for the proposed Back Forty project. The technical review, completed by Dr. Kendra Zamzow (Ph.D., Environmental Geochemistry) and Dr. David Chambers (Ph.D., Geophysics) of the Center for Science in Public Participation (CSP2), outlines significant concerns and recommendations related to Aquila’s proposal for an open-pit sulfide mine on the banks of the Menominee River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. CSP2 analyzes mining applications for the sake of increased public understanding of the complexities involved in mining projects. SWUP has forwarded this review, funded by Michigan-based Freshwater Future, to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

Aquila Resources Inc. submitted a mining permit application for their proposed “Back Forty” project to the MDEQ in late November of 2015. Their 37,000 page application includes highly technical information regarding rock chemistry, acid rock drainage (ARD), milling, tailings waste, environmental impacts, and more. Prior to securing independent, expert analysis from CSP2, SWUP provided extensive written comment to the MDEQ.

“We’ve already requested that Michigan reject this mining permit application as fraudulent. Why is the Michigan DEQ still seriously considering this permit? Given all the errors, critical omissions, and misleading statements about the mine’s life, this permit application should be rejected. It’s that simple,” said Kathleen Heideman, Save the Wild U.P. president. SWUP, along with hundreds of concerned citizens, also called on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to deny Aquila’s requested land swap, since the open pit mine and tailings would be built on what is currently public land.

The new report from CSP2 flags serious omissions and miscalculations, and includes specific recommendations and technical actions regarding Aquila’s plans for Water Management, Tailings & Waste Rock Management Facilities, Pit Backfill Metal Leaching, Water Treatment Post Closure, Financial Assurance, and other topics. For example, according to the report:

  • “Monitoring wells need to be placed to ensure the tailings facility embankment is not contributing acid or metal leaching to groundwater.”
  • “Given the potential for antimony, selenium, and arsenic to mobilize under neutral conditions, monitoring will need to occur at the TWRMF leachate sumps and at monitoring wells on and around the backfilled pit until hydrology and chemistry have stabilized.”
  • “The TWRMF (tailings waste rock management facility) cap is designed to reduce infiltration, but given the extremely acidic nature of the material that will be enclosed, the cost of a WTP (water treatment plant) should be included in financial assurance for at least the 20 year post closure monitoring period.”
  • “When reviewing the indirect and direct cost estimates for the Back Forty financial assurance, it is obvious that it has been significantly underestimated, especially with regard to the indirect cost calculations(…) the direct costs should be reviewed by a qualified party to correct assumptions that underestimate the cost of reclamation that would need to be conducted by a regulatory agency.”
  • Dr. Zamzow also points out the erroneous comparison of Aquila’s closure plans to those of the much smaller Flambeau Mine, which had no tailings to deal with (ore was processed off-site) and left no waste rock on the surface. According to CSP2, detailed plans concerning alkaline amendment of tailings and the waste rock facility design was omitted from Aquila’s application.

In their letter to the MDEQ, Save the Wild U.P. requested that “the technical recommendations and questions raised in this report by Center for Science in Public Participation be incorporated into the MDEQ’s permit review process, and added to the Public Comment record for this permit application.”

“This review from the Center for Science in Public Participation – well known for their high quality technical analysis of mining applications – confirms our worst fears. Aquila’s permit application was incomplete at best, fraudulent at worst,” said Heideman. “Honestly, the Back Forty mining permit application reads like a bad cut-and-paste job. MDEQ should view this as a Red Alert.”

While CSP2’s review offers recommendations and actions that could remedy some of the technical deficiencies and glaring omissions in Aquila’s permit application, underlying, serious concerns cannot be resolved. As SWUP’s Executive Director Alexandra Maxwell points out, “The facts remain unchanged: this mine would destroy cultural and natural resources of the Menominee people, and it threatens the Shakey Lakes savanna, a globally unique habitat. The U.P.’s largest river is no place for an open-pit sulfide mine.”

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Founded in 2004, Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots environmental organization dedicated to preserving the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s unique cultural and environmental resources. For more information contact info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with SWUP’s work at savethewildup.org on Facebook at facebook.com/savethewildup or on Twitter @savethewildup.

Related Links:

Center for Science in Public Participation technical review in full: http://bit.ly/CSPPREVIEW
Save the Wild U.P. Public Comment to MDEQ: http://bit.ly/SWUPAQUILADEQ

Don’t Flint the U.P. – “Something went wrong there.”

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Editorial by Jim Voss, resident of Lake Township

On November 9th 2015, the Detroit Free Press reported on the findings of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit organization that promotes government transparency and ethics. State governments were ranked using criteria like: accessibility, responsiveness, and accountability. This national study concluded that Michigan ranked last in laws on ethics and transparency.

Those of you that worked on the committee that developed Part 632 know the effect that businesses can have on interpreting and developing the rules for laws in the State of Michigan. The result is a document that, in some opinions, makes Michigan a “Most Mining Friendly” state.

The process for developing the rules for Part 632 did involve citizen accessibility through input, but did it demonstrate governmental responsiveness and accountability? Was there a level playing field for all participants? Were ethics involved?

At the January meeting in Stephenson, the DEQ took questions concerning the application process for Aquila Resources’ application regarding their Back Forty project. Joe Maki, the DEQ spokesperson that presided at the meeting, said the process was going to be as transparent as possible. There would be public meetings and opportunities for public input and suggestions. We were assured that questions would be considered, each suggestion evaluated and, when appropriate, acted on. A first small step indicating that Joe Maki was going to live up to his word was, after many requests, the granting of a two week extension of the deadline for submitting questions to the DEQ.

Listening to concerns, considering requests and acting on behalf of the people are all things any governmental unit should be doing. Especially a department that is ultimately responsible to the people of the State of Michigan, and not to the people that appointed them.

If the DEQ’s loyalty is to their bosses and not to the people, disasters can occur. A recent example where this happened is the Flint water crisis, which is under investigation in Michigan today. It appears that appointed city officials and appointed DEQ members were more interested in saving money and saving face than serving the constituents they were charged to protect.

A local doctor, an independent scientist, and local residents were ignored and discounted while the citizens of Flint continued to drink tainted water. Ironically, bottled water was being supplied (as an alternative) to state employees working in government buildings while local citizens were being assured their drinking water was safe to drink.

Something went wrong there. Somebody (more than one somebody) lost sight of the reason they were appointed to their position. That reason, in a nutshell, should be to preserve and protect the health and well-being of their constituents. The health and well-being of the people they serve.

They have no obligation higher than that. Not to business, not to lobbyists, not to the “bottom line”, and not to their bosses. Their obligation is not to circle the wagons and protect the well-being of the puppet-masters that appointed them. Their obligation is to us!

As this permitting process for Aquila Resources Back Forty Project continues to unfold, as we look at the time lines, as we worry about governmental expertise, as we fret over the influence of cronyism and money and lobbyists, let’s constantly remind the people that are reviewing these documents that their loyalty is to us, that their loyalty is to the health and well-being of future generations, that their loyalty is to this great place we call the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

 

“Save the Michigamme Highlands” Public Forum

MARQUETTE – Local environmental groups Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) and the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC) will co-host “Save the Michigamme Highlands,” an informational forum concerning threats to Marquette County’s last stretch of wild lands. The forum takes place on Tuesday, March 1st in the Community Room of the Peter White Public Library, from 6pm- 8pm. The event is free and open to the public.

The primary threat to this region remains the twice-defeated County Road 595 (CR-595) proposal, which is the subject of ongoing lawsuit brought by the Marquette County Road Commission (MCRC) against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The contentious CR-595 plan would have torn open the wild heart of Marquette County, pushing a paved mining haul road disguised as a “county road project” through 22 miles of remote wild lands, fragile wetlands and critical wildlife corridors, and necessitating stream and river crossings of the Dead River, Escanaba River, Mulligan Creek, Voekler Creek and Wildcat Canyon, Yellow Dog River, and many more.

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Aerial photograph, Wildcat Canyon Creek wetlands and the proposed 595 route (2015).

Tuesday’s forum will offer an overview of the Michigamme Highlands and discuss federal objections to wetlands destruction along the CR-595 route, the lawsuit brought by the Marquette County Road Commission, the role of “dark money” in funding this lawsuit, recent road work that has taken place along the route, and other emerging threats.

“Save the Michigamme Highlands” will also feature mini-presentations addressing rare plants in the path of CR-595, basic elements of the MCRC lawsuit, the importance of interconnected “Wild Lands,” the EPA’s 2015 Clean Water Rule, the beauty of remote wetlands as seen through the eyes of artists who visited Wildcat Canyon Creek in 2015, and more. Speakers include Jon Saari, Northern Michigan University professor emeritus of history and vice president of Save the Wild U.P.; Catherine Parker, concerned citizen and environmental advocate; Gene Champagne, spokesman for the Concerned Citizens of Big Bay; Michelle Halley, local attorney; Steve Garske, botanist and SWUP board member; Kathleen Heideman, SWUP’s president; and Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s executive director.

SWUP Summer Fellows at the Dead River crossing (2015).

SWUP Summer Fellows at the Dead River crossing (2015).

In 2015, Save the Wild U.P. focused their outdoor summer programming on the multiple threats posed by the CR- 595 proposal, leading concerned citizens on several well-attended hikes at remote locations ranging from Pinnacle Falls to the Mulligan Creek wetlands.

“This stretch of wild land is irreplaceable. The Michigamme Highlands are ideal habitat for moose and other wide-roaming mammals, rich with creeks, rivers and wetlands, and home to the narrow-leaved gentian, a threatened native species found only in three U.P. counties,” said Maxwell.

“In addition to the enormous environmental impacts, there’s the very real issue of regulatory capture. Why is our Road Commission so dedicated to building a road-to-nowhere – for the benefit of one sulfide mine? We don’t even have enough money to fill potholes in Marquette County, much less fix our old bridges. Who is the Road Commission serving, if not taxpayers?” asked Maxwell.

In 2014, SWUP, along with regional environmental allies Yellow Dog Watershed and UPEC, alerted citizens to illegal construction along snowmobile Trail #5, which served as the only functional trail through much of this isolated region.

Marquette County Trail #5, 2014, before road widening.

Marquette County Trail #5 before road widening (2014).  

Marquette County Trail #5, 2014, after road work by Plum Creek (to "upgrade snowmobile bridge")

Marquette County Trail #5, after road work by Plum Creek “upgrade snowmobile bridge” (2014).

“The EPA’s position was clear: no CR-595 route may be constructed without permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP’s president.

“Any road construction in this environmentally sensitive area must be seen as part of a network of actions related to CR-595, and the cumulative impacts must be calculated. We need to be ever-vigilant to stop creeping incrementalism – a new bridge here, a gravel mine there, and lots of wetland destruction all along the way. The CR-595 proposal remains a bad deal for taxpayers and the environment,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP executive director.

“Our organizations remain outspoken opponents of the CR-595. The damage would be too great, period,” said Heideman. “The Michigamme Highlands are part of an incredible stretch of wild lands. This forum is an opportunity for folks to understand why, beyond its aesthetic value, this area needs to be protected. Places like this serve a real purpose in maintaining clean water and increasing quality of life for all Yoopers.”

Founded in 2004, Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots environmental organization dedicated to preserving the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s unique cultural and environmental resources. For more information contact info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with SWUP’s work at savethewildup.org on Facebook at facebook.com/savethewildup or on Twitter @savethewildup.

Links and Photographs

“Save the Michigamme Highlands” Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/975909212462706/

“Don’t Undermine the Menominee” Forum a Success

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MARQUETTE —On Wednesday, February 17th, environmental nonprofit Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) hosted a forum on Aquila Resources’ proposed Back Forty open pit sulfide mine, to a packed room of concerned citizens, Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) staff, Northern Michigan University students, and worried homeowners.

Successful Forum

Wednesday’s “Don’t Undermine the Menominee” forum featured Denny Caneff, the executive director of the River Alliance of Wisconsin; Ron Henriksen, spokesman for the Front 40 environmental group; Dr. David Overstreet, a professor of archaeology at the College of the Menominee Nation; Doug Cox, the environmental program coordinator for the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin; Guy M. Reiter, an environmental advocate and a member of the Menominee Conservation Commission; and Chuck Brumleve, an environmental mining specialist and geologist.

“It was a great forum and really rewarding to see everyone speaking to their expertise with passion. I think that the message came across loud and clear: concerned citizens don’t want a sulfide mine on the banks of the Menominee River”, said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP executive director.

Message to MDEQ: Deny Aquila’s Mining Permit

On Tuesday, February 16th, Save the Wild U.P. submitted a letter to the MDEQ asking them to deny Aquila Resources’ Back Forty application on the basis of fraudulent or misleading  “life of mine” statements. Over the past week, 829 concerned citizens signed onto the letter, some on behalf of organizations they represent, including Superior Watershed Partnership, Friends of the Land of Keweenaw, the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, The Western Mining Action Network, Save our Sky Blue Waters, Concerned Citizens of Big Bay, Sugar Law Center, numerous fishing clubs, and more.

SWUP’s Public Comment re: Aquila Back Forty

SWUP provided substantial public comment to the MDEQ concerning the Back Forty mining application, and sent a strongly worded request to Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), with supporting comments, asking that the MDNR deny an underlying “Land Swap” proposed by Aquila Resources. The proposed land swap between Aquila Resources and the State of Michigan would destroy critical habitat, threatened and endangered species, invaluable archaeological sites, and treaty-protected natural and cultural resources of the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin.

“The proposed Land Swap is not in the Public Interest, and would result in an uncalculated loss of ecological services, with adverse impacts on freshwater fisheries, wildlife including threatened and endangered species, human health and welfare, environmental justice and special aquatic sites,” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP president.

Aquila plans to develop a large open pit sulfide mine on the Menominee River northwest of Stephenson, extracting rock to create a pit over 750 feet deep and at least a quarter mile wide, processing ore – containing lead, zinc, copper, gold and other heavy metals using flotation, cyanide and smelting – and dumping their waste on the banks of Upper Michigan’s largest watershed.

SWUP’s public comments raised serious concerns about the mining application and the company’s environmental impact assessment (EIA), including: threats to sturgeon fisheries and freshwater mussels, shoddy or inadequate EIA surveys that missed or misidentified plants and failed to mention threatened and endangered species, the vulnerability of the mine site to flood hazards, the hazardous use of cyanide and mercury in smelting, reclamation plans based on the environmentally disastrous Flambeau Mine, the planned destruction of regulated wetlands and vernal pools, groundwater draw-down, the potential instability of highly-fractured and faulted rock at this site, Aquila’s plan to backfill the pit with acid-generating waste rock, and more.

As designed, much of Aquila Back Forty mine facility, including a majority of the Back Forty’s near-surface orebody, much of the Open Pit, and all of the Oxide Tailings Waste Rock Management Facility (TWRMF), would be built on State Land that is currently part of the Escanaba State Forest. The land that Aquila wants for an open pit mine and a perpetual waste rock facility are not currently owned by Aquila Resources.

“The Back Forty mine application raises more red flags than I can count – critical oak savannas, sturgeon fisheries, treaty-protected natural resources, and indigenous archaeological sites will be threatened or destroyed by this mining operation,” said Maxwell. “The U.P. is tired of being a long-term sacrifice zone for short-term profits.”

“We seem, as a society, to be ever ready to relinquish this public stewardship of the wild for the sake of private gains for a few, and contribute through ill-considered industrial-scale projects to an ongoing degrading of the landscape. Is reducing and mitigating damage the best that we can do?” asked Jon Saari, SWUP vice president.

Wednesday’s well-attended forum included multiple presentations from experts offering brief overviews of the proposed mining activities, the environmental impacts from mining activities, and significant regulatory steps taken by Menominee and Lake township residents to protect their citizens from the dangers of sulfide mining. During Guy Reiter’s presentation, he asked that the audience stand and pledge to “get involved” and every single person stood up and promised to work for the protection of the Upper Peninsula’s clean water and wild places.

Founded in 2004, Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots environmental organization dedicated to preserving the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s unique cultural and environmental resources. For more information contact info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with SWUP’s work at savethewildup.org on Facebook at facebook.com/savethewildup or on Twitter @savethewildup.

Additional Info:

SWUP Public Comments to DEQ:
http://bit.ly/SWUPAQUILADEQ

SWUP Letter to DNR:
http://bit.ly/SWUPAQUILADNR

SWUP Sign-On Letter “Deny Aquila Back Forty Application”:
http://bit.ly/SWUPSIGNONLETTERPUBLIC

SWUP Essay on Fraudulent Life of Mine:
http://bit.ly/2131zPF

 

Don’t Undermine the Menominee: Forum on Aquila’s Back Forty Mine Proposal

MARQUETTE — Local environmental group Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) is collaborating with the Menominee River Front 40 group, regional environmentalists, Menominee tribal leaders, archaeologists and mining experts to hold an informational forum on Aquila Resources’ Back Forty mine permit application. The forum will be held in the Shiras Room of the Peter White Public Library in Marquette on Wednesday, February 17th from 6pm – 8pm. The event is free and open to the public.

Aquila Resources has applied to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for a mine permit. Aquila plans to develop a large open pit sulfide mine on the Menominee River northwest of Stephenson, extracting rock, processing ore – containing lead, zinc, copper, gold and other heavy metals using flotation, cyanide and smelting – and dumping their waste on the banks of Upper Michigan’s largest watershed.

“Sulfide mines are known to pollute indefinitely. This mine doesn’t belong on the Menominee River,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s executive director.

The forum will include a slideshow, and experts offering brief overviews of the proposed mining activities, the environmental impacts from those mining activities, the potential loss of archaeological and cultural resources of the Menominee Nation and the significant regulatory steps taken by Menominee and Lake township residents to protect their citizens from the dangers of sulfide mining.

Wednesday’s “Don’t Undermine the Menominee” forum features a panel of experts from Michigan and Wisconsin, including: Gary Besaw, Menominee Indian Tribal Chairman; Denny Caneff, the executive director of the River Alliance of Wisconsin; Ron Henriksen, who joined the Front 40 Environmental Group to oppose the open pit metallic sulfide mine along the banks of the Menominee River; Dr. David Overstreet, a professor of archaeology at the College of the Menominee Nation; Doug Cox, the environmental program coordinator for the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin; Guy M. Reiter, an environmental advocate and a member of the Menominee Conservation Commission; and Chuck Brumleve, an environmental mining specialist and geologist.

“We’re truly honored to host such a knowledgeable and passionate panel of experts. The future of the Menominee River is at stake,” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP’s president.

The Back Forty mine permit application – over 37,500 pages, including environmental impact assessment – is currently under review by the Michigan’s DEQ. Concerned citizens, regional environmental organizations, and the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin are also scrutinizing the permit. “The Back Forty mine application raises more red flags than I can count – critical oak savannas, sturgeon fisheries, treaty-protected natural resources, and indigenous archaeological sites will be threatened or destroyed by this mining operation,” said Maxwell.

“Almost all of the rock Aquila plans to extract will be highly reactive, so acid mine drainage is going to be a serious issue here,” said Heideman.

“The DEQ has done almost nothing to educate the public about Aquila’s mining plans. This forum is long overdue. Yoopers have been hearing big promises from this company for over a decade. Everyone needs to be aware of the threats posed by this project,” said Maxwell. “This is a great opportunity for all of us to learn what’s really at stake — Michigan’s clean water, as usual, and the health and well-being of our communities. The U.P. is tired of being a long-term sacrifice zone for short-term profits.”

The public comment deadline for the Aquila application is Tuesday, February 16th at 5pm. Concerned citizens are urged to send comments and concerns to: MDEQ Back Forty Mine Comments, Office of Oil, Gas, and Minerals, 1504 West Washington Street, Marquette, Michigan, 49855; or by email to Joe Maki: makij3@michigan.gov

Founded in 2004, Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots environmental organization dedicated to preserving the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s unique cultural and environmental resources. For more information contact info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with SWUP’s work at savethewildup.org on Facebook at facebook.com/savethewildup or on Twitter @savethewildup.

MEDIA LINKS

“Don’t Undermine the Menominee” Event Page: http://bit.ly/MQTMenomineeForum

GUEST SPEAKER BIOS + PHOTOS

Gary Besaw is the Tribal Chairman of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin.
photo: http://bit.ly/BesawImage

Chuck Brumleve is an environmental mining specialist and geologist.
photo: http://bit.ly/CBrumleveImage

Denny Caneff is the Executive Director of the River Alliance of Wisconsin.
photo: http://bit.ly/DCaneffImage

Doug Cox is the Environmental Program Director for the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin.
photo: http://bit.ly/DCoxImage

Ron Henriksen is the spokesman for the group Menominee River Front 40.
photo: http://bit.ly/RHenriksenImage

Guy M. Reiter is a traditional Menominee Indian, an environmental advocate and a member of the Menominee Conservation Commission.
photo: http://bit.ly/GReiterImage

David Overstreet is the Principal Investigator at Center for Cultural Research, and professor at the College of the Menominee Nation.
photo: http://bit.ly/DOverstreetImage

Songs and Stories of Cycling Lake Superior: Surrounding Water

facebook-eventbanner2016-benweaver-returns

MARQUETTE — Local environmental nonprofit Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) will host an evening of song and storytelling featuring singer-songwriter and clean water advocate Ben Weaver. The event takes place Friday, February 12th, and starts at 6pm at the Marquette Women’s Federated Clubhouse.

SWUP hosted Ben Weaver in July of 2015 as he circumnavigated Lake Superior on his bicycle, raising awareness about the environmental stewardship of Lake Superior. Weaver, a Minnesota- based musician, has toured extensively in Europe and North America, with critically acclaimed recordings and a “hillbilly Leonard Cohen” stage presence. Weaver visited communities around Lake Superior — working with local parks and environmental groups to help raise awareness and tell new stories about how we can take better care of our freshwater resources.

Weaver is returning to tell stories from his trip, sharing songs, poems and videos from all around Lake Superior. “We are happy to offer a wild alternative to the corporate-sponsored events in town,” said SWUP director, Alexandra Maxwell. “Ben is an incredible talent and we are so happy to welcome him back and hear all the inspiration he gathered. I think his project really resonates with folks —advocating for the protection of Lake Superior while getting out there and really experiencing the landscape first-hand.”

“This past July, I circled Lake Superior on a bicycle in 16 days. Along the way, I performed for audiences in small towns, on behalf of Provincial Parks, the Great Lakes Commons, Save the Wild U.P., Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, F.O.L.K., and other environmental groups, in order to raise awareness about clean water and Lake Superior,” said Weaver. “I’ve been riding bikes around the country for several years now, preferring to do my performances outdoors or in alternative spaces, using music and bikes to offer new ideas about how we can live more fulfilled, satisfying lives with healthier connections to our land and ecosystems.”

“Ben brings together so many facets of Save the Wild U.P.’s work. Insight is gained from time spent in nature, it can inform the way we interact with the world at large, and Ben will be sharing his insights with fellow concerned citizens. Ben Weaver wants us all to ‘become better ancestors’ — I love that idea,” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP president.

The event is $10 at the door with proceeds benefitting the work of Save the Wild U.P. and Ben Weaver’s advocacy on behalf of the Great Lakes Commons. For more information on the event, check out SWUP’s facebook page: http://bit.ly/BWFBEvent

Founded in 2004, Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots organization dedicated to defending the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s clean water and wild places from the threat of sulfide mining. For more information contact info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with SWUP’s work at savethewildup.org on Facebook at facebook.com/savethewildup or on Twitter @savethewildup.

Related Links:

Promotional Image of Ben Weaver: http://bit.ly/BenWeaverIMG
Image of Ben on bike: http://bit.ly/BenWeaverBike
Save the Wild U.P. Event Page: http://bit.ly/BWFBEvent
Explore Ben Weaver’s Music: http://bit.ly/BWRatherBeABuffalo

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