Songs and Stories of Cycling Lake Superior: Surrounding Water


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:

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 or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with SWUP’s work at on Facebook at or on Twitter @savethewildup.

Related Links:

Promotional Image of Ben Weaver:
Image of Ben on bike:
Save the Wild U.P. Event Page:
Explore Ben Weaver’s Music:


SWUP to Screen “Winona: A Copper Mining Ghost Town” by Michael Loukinen


MARQUETTE— Grassroots environmental group Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) will host a special screening of Michael Loukinen’s documentary Winona: A Copper Mining Ghost Town. The film will be shown on Thursday, January 7, from 6 to 8 p.m., in the Baraga Conference Room located at 129 W. Baraga Street, Marquette. Note: $5 cover for the film screening.

Michael Loukinen, who serves on Save the Wild U.P.’s Advisory Board, has also made copies of the film for sale at the screening, with proceeds to benefit Save the Wild U.P.’s work.

“You can dig out the heart of a community, but you can’t kill its spirit,” said Chip Truscon, SWUP board member.

“I really look forward to seeing our supporters at this screening of Winona,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP executive director and contributing photographer to the project. “There’s a poignant human story here, but the film also acknowledges a dirty little secret – when the mining boom ends, the U.P. is always left with struggling communities and collapsed economies, in addition to a polluted environment.”

ABOUT THE FILM: Winona, Michigan, a former copper mining town 33 miles south of Houghton is fast becoming a “ghost town.” The town’s population has shrunk from an estimated 1,000+ in 1920 to perhaps 13 residents today. Noted documentary filmmaker and sociologist, Dr. Michael Loukinen has created this beautiful, fascinating and elegiac film documenting the community’s history and demise. More info:

ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: Michael Loukinen is an emeritus professor of sociology at Northern Michigan University. He started by trying to teach using 35mm slide presentations. Gradually, he learned 16mm filmmaking, working with experienced filmmakers such as Tom Davenport, Debora Dickson, Kathleen Laughlin and especially Miroslav Janek (Czech Republic). Recently he has teamed up with digital cinema artist, Grant Guston. Most of his films are about the traditional cultures of the Lake Superior Region: Finnish Americans, Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) and wilderness workers (loggers, trappers, and fishers). He has also made three sociological intervention films concerning at-risk youth in alternative schools, adults with disabilities who are fighting for independent lifestyles, and the prevention of vehicular homicide. His films have won both academic and artistic awards. His films have won numerous awards and have been featured at film festivals across the country.

Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots organization dedicated to defending clean water and wild places from the threat of sulfide mining, and 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. 


Environmentalists Criticize Open Pit Sulfide Mine Planned for Menominee River



MARQUETTE – In November, Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) learned that Aquila Resources (Aquila) submitted a mine permit application to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) for their “Back Forty Project” (“Back 40” in some sources, including MDEQ’s website). Aquila describes the proposed mine as “gold- and zinc-rich” but their investor materials list several other “metals of primary interest” including lead, copper and silver. The Back Forty, a volcanogenic massive sulfide deposit, also contains additional toxic metals, arsenic, corrosive sulfosalts, and radioactive elements including uranium. Aquila’s mine permit application has been deemed “administratively complete” by the MDEQ.

Several grassroots environmental organizations, including Save the Wild U.P. and the Front 40, with local property owners, have been deeply critical of the Back Forty proposal for years, contending that an open pit sulfide mine, with on-site processing and tailings, will pollute the adjacent Menominee River. Tribal natural resources, including archeological sites, are also threatened by any mining operation on the Menominee River, the largest watershed drainage system in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. According to the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, “our origin or creation begins at the mouth of the Menominee River.”

“With a watershed of over 4,000 square miles (4,070 square miles with 2,618 square miles located in Michigan and 1,452 square miles located in Wisconsin, according to the Environmental Protection Agency) and more than 100 tributaries, the Menominee is the U.P.’s largest river system. It supports large populations of smallmouth bass, walleye and northern pike, and provides spawning habitat for sturgeon. Nearby Shakey Lakes Savanna is one of the few intact savanna ecosystems left in the Upper Midwest, and supports rare prairie plants and abundant wildlife. Mounds, garden beds, and other remnants of an ancient Native American village are also clearly evident. Aquila Resources couldn’t have chosen a worse place for a mine,” said Steve Garske, biologist and Save the Wild U.P. board member.

“I question the wisdom of digging an open pit mine on the edge of a river,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s executive director. “These metals are wrapped in an enormous amount of sulfides, so the risks to the U.P.’s clean water are real, unavoidable, and numerous.”

“In describing the Back Forty project, Aquila doesn’t mention the sulfides and pyrites in their rock. With a sulfide mine on a riverbank, acid mine drainage is a real threat. Aquila has no experience dealing with acid mine drainage. Back Forty would be their very first project, anywhere,” said Maxwell.

According to Ron Henriksen, spokesman for the Menominee River Front 40 environmental group, “This is not a done deal. Even though Aquila’s permit was deemed ‘administratively complete’ by the MDEQ, the company must comply with Lake Township’s ‘Mineral Extraction Ordinance’ and ‘Land Usage Approval.’ Front 40 will continue to do what is necessary to ensure that a metallic sulfide mine is not allowed to impact our rivers, lakes, groundwater and lands.”

“As a long-time Lake Township landowner and taxpayer, I am concerned that a foreign company can come in and dictate, through, what appears to be a flawed permit process, what will happen to the area,” said Marla Tuinstra of Lake Township.

In opposing this sulfide mine proposal, Save the Wild U.P. cites numerous threats to the Menominee River watershed. “Aquila’s press release never mentioned the Menominee River. That’s a very bad sign. This project would literally undermine the Menominee River – first with an open pit mine, and later with an underground mine, with milling and tailings proposed for the site as well. Furthermore, cyanide will be used in the processing, exponentially increasing the risks. I applaud all of the citizens who are fighting the Back Forty project, and defending Michigan’s clean water,” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP president.

“We still have the opportunity to help make “Pure Michigan” a reality, rather than just a catchy slogan,” said Jim Voss, a resident of Lake Township.


Public Notice – Concerned citizens are asked to review the proposed Mine Permit Application, now available by following directions on the MDEQ website:,4561,7-135-3311_18442—,00.html

Public Meeting – The MDEQ will hold a Public Meeting concerning Aquila’s Mine Permit Application. The meeting takes place on January 5, 2016, from 6 to 9 p.m. CST, at Stephenson High School, W526 Division Street in Stephenson, Michigan.

Public Forum – Save the Wild U.P. and Front 40 will host “Don’t Undermine the Menominee River!” an informational forum reviewing the Back Forty sulfide mine proposal, and what’s at stake. The forum will take place on Wednesday, February 17, 2016, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Shiras Room of the Peter White Public Library in Marquette.


Public Comment Deadline has been EXTENDED to February 16! – Concerned citizens and other interested persons are urged to submit written comments by mail or e-mail until 5:00 P.M. on Tuesday, February 16, 2016. Mail your comments 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:

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

DEQ to hold Public Meeting on “Back Forty” mine permit application

Grassroots organizations Save the Wild U.P. and the Menominee River Front 40 urge the public to attend an upcoming Public Meeting to be held by Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), regarding the Back Forty Mine proposed by Aquila Resources Inc. The proposed mine — an open-pit sulfide mine — would be located in Lake Township, Menominee County, Michigan, on the bank of the Menominee River.

According to the DEQ, “the application was submitted under the requirements of Part 632, Nonferrous Metallic Mineral Mining, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended. The MDEQ received the application on November 12, 2015, and determined it to be administratively complete on November 26, 2015. The purpose of the meeting is to provide an opportunity for interested parties to exchange information through informal discussions.”

The meeting will be held on January 5, 2016, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. CST, at Stephenson High School, W526 Division Street in Stephenson, Michigan. 

Concerned citizens and other interested persons are urged to submit written comments on Aquila’s Mine Permit Application by mail or e-mail until 5:00 P.M. Tuesday, February 2, 2016. Mail comments to DEQ Back Forty Mine Comments, Office of Oil, Gas, and Minerals, 1504 West Washington Street, Marquette, Michigan, 49855; or by email to Joe Maki:

Printed copies of the proposed Back Forty mine permit application may be reviewed in person at the following locations:

MDEQ Upper Peninsula District Office
1504 West Washington Street, Marquette, MI.
Contact Tina Coluccio, 906-228-4524

MDEQ Office of Geological Survey
525 W. Allegan St., Lansing, Michigan 48933
Contact Deana Lawrence, 517-284-6823

Lake Township Hall
Co. Rd. 577/G-12, Stephenson, MI 49887
Contact 906-753-4385

Concerned citizens may also view the the proposed Back Forty mine permit application online, by following the DEQ’s detailed instructions here:,4561,7-135-3311_18442—,00.html

The Menominee River’s Front 40 environmental group, founded in 2003, seeks to ensure that metallic sulfide mining operations are not allowed to adversely impact the Menominee River and surrounding lakes and streams. Save the Wild U.P., founded in 2004, is a grassroots organization dedicated to defending clean water and wild places in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from the environmental degradations of sulfide mining.

SWUP To Host Winter Gala, Fred Rydholm Sisu Award To Be Announced


MARQUETTE— Grassroots environmental group, Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) will hold their Winter Gala at the Steinhaus Market on Saturday, December 5th, from 6pm to 9pm. SWUP kicks off their 12th year of environmental advocacy by hosting an evening filled with locally sourced cuisine, music, keynote speaker Louis Galdieri 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 available at both Steinhaus locations or by calling (906) 235-9251.

During the evening filled with music, food and information, 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.,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s Executive Director.

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. 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,” said Maxwell.

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

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.”

Following the Winter Gala, Galidieri will present his film with a special Q & A session at the Peter White Public Library on December 7th at 7pm in the Community Room, as part of their “DocuMonday Meets the Filmmaker Series.” The event is free of charge, for more information call 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.”

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.

Louis V. Galdieri and Alexandra Maxwell are available for interview. For more information or to schedule an interview call (906) 662-9987 or write


Photograph of Louis V. Galdieri:


Suggested caption: “Louis V. Galdieri will be the keynote speaker for Save the Wild U.P.’s upcoming Winter Gala on December 5th.”

Bio: Writer and filmmaker Louis V. Galdieri co-produced and co-directed 1913 Massacre, the 2012 feature-length documentary about the Italian Hall disaster and the Woody Guthrie song it inspired. He blogs regularly about the ethics of mining and the new mining around Lake Superior.

Photograph of Soul Pasty:
Suggested caption for band photo:  “Soul Pasty will provide musical entertainment at Save the Wild U.P.’s Winter Gala at the Steinhaus Market. Left to Right, Harry South on bass, Bud Clowers on drums, Travis Swanson on guitar and Zach Ott on keys.”


Bio and Photograph of Alexandra Maxwell, Save the Wild U.P.’s new Executive Director:


Tell the DNR: Don’t Undermine Superior Heartland


320 Acre Mineral Lease Would Undermine Environment, Historic Site

MARQUETTE – According to grassroots environmental organization Save the Wild U.P., a new mineral lease request on the Yellow Dog Plains stands to threaten both the environment and a local historical site. North American Nickel, Inc. of Canada is seeking a mineral lease from the State of Michigan for 320 acres of public land (SW1/4; N1/2 SE1/4; W1/2 NW1/4, Section 35, T51N, R29W, Michigamme Township, Marquette County). The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) published the announcement of North American Nickel’s mineral lease application on September 11th, 2015, commencing a 30-day public comment period. North American Nickel has no experience operating in the United States.  They currently have mining projects in Sudbury, Canada and in Greenland.

The targeted land lies north of Triple A road, northwest of the Eagle Mine. Ecologically, the land supports jack pine forest habitat critical to the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler. The DNR lease review acknowledges the possible presence of endangered species, and notes the presence of a site of “archaeological significance.”

Historically, the land is connected with the Nels Andersen (sometimes spelled Anderson) family homestead, home to early Danish immigrants who settled on the Yellow Dog Plains in 1902. Prior to the 1900’s, the plains were frequented via a trail between L’Anse and Big Bay, used for hunting and berry-picking, with a strong pre-European Indigenous presence. These oral histories and other stories related to the Andersen site were recorded by the late historian and storyteller, C. Fred Rydholm, in Superior Heartland: A Backwoods History.

According to the DNR’s Management Plan for the Yellow Dog Plains, this area “provides multiple benefits including forest products, dispersed recreational activities, and provides habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife species” and the DNR’s stated management priority in this area “is to continue to provide these multiple benefits while minimizing user conflicts.” The DNR’s stated priority for this land is NOT mineral exploration.

“Why does the State bother writing these land management plans?” asks Gail Griffith, emeritus professor of Chemistry at Northern Michigan University and SWUP board member. “Michigan regulators obviously believe that mineral exploration is always the most desirable land use — in every situation, no matter how it undermines or jeopardizes our public land, water, forestry, wildlife and fisheries.”

In their Management Plan, the DNR states that “almost all state lands are leased and extensive exploration has been conducted” but further notes “there is insufficient data to determine the glacial drift thickness” on the Yellow Dog Plains.

Northwest end of Yellow Dog Plains, site of a 320 acre mineral lease request by North American Nickel, Inc. of Canada.  Source: Google Earth map.

Northwest end of Yellow Dog Plains, site of a 320 acre mineral lease request by North American Nickel, Inc. of Canada. Source: Google Earth map.

“Unfortunately, these ‘insufficiently-understood’ glacial sands contain a pristine aquifer — groundwater water unpolluted by any industry, until it flows east toward Eagle Mine,” said SWUP board member and botanist Steve Garske. “Groundwater from the Yellow Dog Plains aquifer feeds headwaters of several rivers and coldwater trout streams, and supports unique spring-fed ponds such as Andersen Lake, which provide key habitat for mammals, migratory birds, reptiles and amphibians, insects and native plants, including threatened species.”

“Once again, we’re asked to trust that the Department of Natural Resources will act as a responsible environmental steward, and that our clean water and natural resources are in good hands,” says Kathleen Heideman, SWUP’s president. “The public is not consulted when exploratory drilling and seismic blasting surveys are done, and regulators are not out in the field, keeping an eye on day-to-day exploration work. Mineral exploration is not a democratic process – there’s no accountability, and no transparency. The public wants an open and responsible process. Why won’t the DNR listen?”

In 2014, Eagle Mine made a similar request, seeking mineral rights to a parcel of public land along the Yellow Dog River. Working collectively, Save the Wild U.P., Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters called on the State of Michigan to hold a Public Hearing on the proposed lease. The groups asked the DNR to deny the mineral lease request, stating that “metallic mineral lease of this land would serve only the short-term goals of industry (…) once again, the State of Michigan seems wholly incapable of serving the public trust.” In response, the DNR simply sent out form letters, and approved the lease without notifying any of the organizations or individuals who had requested a hearing.

“It’s outrageous but true: Part 632 doesn’t restrict one square inch of Upper Michigan from sulfide mining and mineral exploration — the one mine permitted under Part 632 is a failure — continuing to lease state lands to international mining companies serves no proper purpose. We are peaceful and respectful people but we are no longer victims. We aren’t afraid of anything. I’m asking the State of Michigan to extend some respect for our treaty rights — deny this leading request,” writes Jeffery Loman, former federal oil regulator and Keweenaw Bay Indian Community tribal member.

In 2006, the Superior Watershed Partnership (SWP) recommended to “prohibit sulfide-based mining” on the Yellow Dog Plains, and they continue to stand by that recommendation. “The potential impacts to groundwater, surface water and Lake Superior are simply too great,” says Carl Lindquist, SWP’s executive director.

“It’s no surprise that another Canadian mining company is seeking to lease minerals,” says attorney Michelle Halley. “Save the Wild U.P., the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, and others have known that Eagle Mine was just the beginning of a regional mining development strategy. In the long term, the public will pay a high price for mining projects performed without adequate permitting, monitoring and enforcement.”

 “The Upper Peninsula is under attack, due to poorly-unregulated incremental industrial expansion. It’s a feeding-frenzy. Mineral leasing decisions are being made behind closed doors, regardless of their environmental or cultural impacts, and the comments of concerned citizens are ignored,” says Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s executive director. “The public perceives that the DNR is acting as a land broker for industry, and approval of this lease will only reinforce that perception. We urge the public to join us in asking the DNR to DENY this mineral lease request from North American Nickel.” 

Public comment is due by October 12th. Comments can be submitted by email to Karen Maidlow, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, at, or mailed directly to Karen Maidlow, Property Analyst, Minerals Management, DNR, P.O. Box 30452, Lansing, MI 48909.


To raise awareness about the land threatened by this mineral lease request, Save the Wild U.P. will lead a hike to the site on Saturday, October 24th. Participants will visit Andersen homestead ruins and Andersen Lake, and hear a social history of the Yellow Dog Plains as recollected in the stories of Superior Heartland: A Backwoods History, by C. Fred Rydholm. Those interested in joining the hike can learn the details on SWUP’s facebook page, or by contacting Our meet-up site will be Big Bay Outfitters at 12 pm. Tickets for this special hike are $10; all proceeds benefit Save the Wild U.P.’s work.


Download event information:

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 or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with SWUP’s work at on Facebook at or on Twitter @savethewildup.

Editors: the following map is available for use with this press release —

“Mineral Lease Request – Andersen Homestead”
(Google Map, interactive)

“Mineral Lease Request – Andersen Homestead”
(Google Earth map, static)

North American Nickel, Inc, is seeking a new mineral lease for 320 acres of Public Land on the Yellow Dog Plains. Grassroots environmental group Save the Wild U.P. is urging the Michigan DNR to reject the mineral lease application, stating that it threatens to undermine critical habitat for the Kirtland’s Warbler, and a site of historical significance. The history of the area was well-documented by local historian C. Fred Rydholm, in Superior Heartland: A Backwoods History. The land is part of the Escanaba River State Forest and the Cedar Creek watershed.


Native Plants and Creeping Industrialization — What’s at Stake?


Threatened! Native Plant Hike Offered in the Michigamme Highlands

MARQUETTE —Grassroots environmental group Save the Wild U.P. invites concerned citizens and native plant enthusiasts to join them for a rare on-the-ground event on Saturday August 1, in the unpaved heart of Marquette County. Participants will learn about threatened and endangered native plants, and their reliance upon clean water and wild places.

Native plants and creeping industrialization — what’s at stake? Search for the answers, and plants, on this unique botanical hike in the Michigamme Highlands, led by botanist Steve Garske, along with Kathleen Heideman, SWUP president, and Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s interim director.

Hikers will explore two remote sites threatened by the route of the twice-defeated but still controversial County Road 595: public land located near the Yellow Dog River floodplain, and wetlands of the Mulligan Creek, deep in the Michigamme Highlands.

“We’ll visit two key sites along the proposed mining haul road, traversing an amazing variety of natural habitats, from open rock outcrops and northern hardwood forest to upland white pine and cedar. We’ll see a stand of old-growth hemlock, red oak and white pine, jack pine plains identified as Kirtland’s warbler habitat, and riparian wetlands. This area is the heart of Michigan’s moose range,” says Garske. “Along with great views and surprising botanical diversity, we’ll get a taste of what the timber and mining industries are planning for this still-isolated and wild area.”


Mulligan Creek, deep in the unpaved Michigamme Highlands.

At the Yellow Dog River site, the State recently leased the mineral rights to Eagle Mine. “Mining-related activity on this land poses a direct threat to the Yellow Dog River: land disturbance, groundwater impairment, surface water pollution, you name it. Given the river’s proximity, this land is absolutely too sensitive to allow mining development,” says Cynthia Pryor, watershed resident and dedicated environmental watchdog.

Both the Yellow Dog River site and the Mulligan Creek site would be directly impacted by the controversial 595 road project, which threatens to rip open the wild heart of Marquette County, pushing another paved ‘’county road project’ through 22 miles of remote wild lands, stream and river crossings, wetlands, wildlife corridors, etc. The Marquette County Road Commission’s lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was filed July 10th, 2015, based on the EPA’s decision to protect Marquette County’s vital watersheds and wetlands from destruction.

According to Heideman, “A majority of local residents have never visited this area, and may not appreciate the beauty of Marquette County’s interior. We need to share the beauty of our wildest places and fragile wetlands, frequented by moose and eagles and wolves — and threatened by incremental industrialism, resource extraction and reckless development. We invite folks to experience these ecosystems first-hand, and learn what could be lost if the CR-595 highway was ever allowed to go through,” says Heideman.

This unique event is jointly sponsored by Save the Wild U.P, Northwoods Native Plant Society and the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve. The meetup site is Big Bay Outfitters, located at 308 Bensinger in Big Bay. Participants are urged to arrive early to carpool and consolidate vehicles; the group will leave Big Bay promptly at 12:30pm.

Note: the botanical hike will require some bushwhacking. Wear footwear suitable for wetlands, or pack extra socks and shoes. Pack plenty of water, bug dope, a bag lunch and snacks, and dress appropriately for a good long hike on a U.P. summer day. Optional: rain gear (depending on weather), camera, binoculars, hand lens, or field guides. Following the event, there will be an optional campfire on the Yellow Dog Plains — bring extra food (supper) if you plan to stay for the evening’s social hour.

To take part in this hike, contact, or call (906) 662-9987, or see the facebook event page:

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 or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with SWUP’s work on Facebook at or on Twitter @savethewildup.

Threatened (legally protected) with a status of "imperiled" in Michigan.

Linear-leaf gentian is threatened (legally protected) with a status of “imperiled” in Michigan.

Join SWUP’s Wild Summer Events!



Save the Wild U.P. Announces Calendar of Wild Summer Events

Marquette — Grassroots environmental group Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) has announced a series of “wild events” for the coming summer. Save the Wild U.P.’s guided outdoor programs are perfect for nature-lovers, concerned citizens, history buffs, hikers, artists and budding environmental activists.

“These are awe-inspiring experiences, intended to lead folks off the beaten track, and out into the Wild U.P.,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s interim director. “With each event, we’re highlighting the intrinsic value of wild and scenic places, clean rivers, and undisturbed wetlands. Folks can check Save the Wild U.P.’s facebook page to learn about about additional events, including summer speakers and concerts.”

Save the Wild U.P.’s 2015 Summer Events Calendar
Available in PDF format:

2nd Annual Grassroots Organizing Bootcamp — Marquette
May 23 and May 24, 9:30am – 5:30pm each day
Become an environmental advocate for your community! This year’s 2-day Bootcamp agenda is packed with engaging information — 9 special guest speakers covering 13 critical topics, including wolves, local geology, the hydrology of the Salmon Trout watershed, indigenous environmental movements, and the regional fight to protect Lake Superior from the dangers of sulfide mining. Weekend wraps up with a guided geology hike around Presque Isle. Lunches are provided, but space is limited. ENLIST NOW:, or call (906) 662-9987.

Guided Hike in the Caving Grounds — Negaunee
May 28, 6pm
Join SWUP for a guided walking tour of the “Caving Grounds” of Negaunee’s Old Town district. Experience ghostly neighborhoods and sunken streets, learn about early iron mining methods, hear stories recorded by Negaunee residents, and see first-hand the social cost of mining: undermined homes and struggling economies. Meet at 6pm Old Town Park in Negaunee. RSVP appreciated:

Guided Hike to Pinnacle Falls — Yellow Dog Plains
June 24, 12:30pm
Enjoy a guided hike to Pinnacle Falls on the Yellow Dog River, truly one of the wild gems of Marquette County. Your guides Cynthia Pryor and Kathleen Heideman will share stories of ecology, geology and local history. Learn how the Yellow Dog River was named, and threats from sulfide mining just upstream. Pack a bag lunch for a group picnic at the falls, bring bug spray or netting, hiking shoes and a camera. Meet at Big Bay Outfitters (Big Bay). Plan to arrive early — group will leave at 12:30pm. SAVE YOUR SPOT:, or call (906) 662-9987.

Attention ARTISTS and HIKERS!
Wildcat Canyon Creek Hike — Michigamme Highlands
July 15, full-day outing
Get off the map – start seeing wild places! Save the Wild U.P. and Painters on the Loose will guide a caravan of visual artists, hikers and environmental activists deep into the rugged, unpaved heart of Marquette County. Our special destination will be Wildcat Canyon Creek, which lies in the path of the defeated but still-controversial 595 road proposal. Artists will set up their easels, while others enjoy a rugged group hike along the Wildcat, which includes delicate waterfalls. To join this special event, please contact by July 12, so carpooling and caravan arrangements can be made in advance.

Threatened & Endangered: Native Plant Hike — Michigamme Highlands
August 1, 12:30pm
Native plants and creeping industrialization — what’s at stake? Search for the answers on this unique botanical hike in the Michigamme Highlands, led by botanist Steve Garske. We’ll explore two remote sites threatened by the route of proposed CR-595: lands near the Yellow Dog River and Mulligan Creek. Sponsored by the North Woods Native Plant Society, Save the Wild U.P. and the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve. Meet-up at Big Bay Outfitters (Big Bay). Plan to arrive early — group will leave at 12:30pm. FULL DETAILS:, or call (906) 662-9987.

Explore Marquette’s lost “Great Swamp” — Marquette
August 22, 3pm
What happened to Marquette’s “Great Swamp”? Join historian Jon Saari for a slideshow explaining how the city’s historic wetlands were drained, filled and lost to residential and industrial development. After the lecture, we’ll follow Jim Koski and Jon Saari on a colorful walking tour to see evidence of the lost swamp! Sponsored by Save the Wild U.P. and the Marquette Regional History Center. Special location: event starts at 3pm in the Wildcat Room of the Superior Dome. RESERVE YOUR PLACE:, or call (906) 662-9987. Suggested donation of $5 for Marquette Regional History Center.


Summer events are offered in conjunction with Save the Wild U.P.’s Summer Fellows program, a dynamic, on-the-ground initiative designed to educate a new generation of environmental leaders. SWUP’s unique, interdisciplinary fellowship  program educates students on U.P. mining history, the hazards and risks associated with sulfide mining, industrial threats to wild places, and practical and effective ways for citizens to “be the change” they wish to see in the world.

Save the Wild U.P.’s 2015 Summer Fellows program is focussed on critical issues related to the controversial County Road 595 proposal. The program begins with an intensive two-day forum on sulfide mining, geology, Upper Peninsula mining history, mining legislation, wolves, hydrology and environmental advocacy, and other topics. Throughout the summer, fellows will learn from experts in their fields, while advocating for environmental justice and transparency in corporate and government relations. Students participate in hikes, lectures and community education on the most pressing issues facing the Upper Peninsula’s 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 or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with SWUP’s work at or follow SWUP on Facebook at or Twitter @savethewildup.


Poets of the Wild U.P.!



MARQUETTE, MICH— Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) invites the public to celebrate “Poets of the Wild U.P.” with a poetry reading featuring Milton Bates, Janeen Pergrin Rastall, Kathleen M. Heideman and Russell Thorburn. SWUP’s literary event, scheduled for Thursday, April 2 from 7-9pm at the Peter White Public Library’s Shiras Room, will lend a uniquely environmental emphasis to National Poetry Month. The reading is free and open to the public.

“Our goal in sponsoring this reading is to highlight the special connection between yoopers and the environment, through the work of four 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 interim director.

The U.P.’s environment figures differently in the work of each poet.

“There’s a strong spirit of place, an identification with wildness and struggle, at the heart of our stories,” says Jon Saari, emeritus professor of History at Northern Michigan University. Saari, whose wife Christine is a poet and artist, serves as Save the Wild U.P.’s vice president.

“For me, ‘Saving the Wild U.P.’ means naming, cherishing, and protecting what makes the Upper Peninsula of Michigan such an incredible place, our creative culture, our clean water, and our wild lands,” says Kathleen Heideman, SWUP’s president. “When I consider the beautiful work of our local artists creating pottery, landscape painting, woodworking, etc., their material connection to place is obvious at a glance. Poets are really doing the same thing — using woods, water and rocks to create our work.”

“Poets of the Wild U.P.” will be the third literary event hosted by SWUP. Last year’s “Putting the Wild into Words” poetry competition drew submissions from across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Last April’s poetry reading in Marquette, which featured Russell Thorburn along with the winning poets, attracted a standing-room-only audience.

National Poetry Month, founded by Academy of American Poets, is the world’s largest literary celebration, involving millions of readers, teachers, students, librarians and authors and celebrating the critical role of poetry in our lives each April.

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 or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with Save the Wild U.P.’s work or follow SWUP on Facebook at or Twitter @savethewildup

Biographical info for POETS OF THE WILD U.P. participants:

Milton Bates was the winner of Save the Wild U.P.’s “Putting the Wild into Words” 2014 poetry contest. He taught English literature for thirty-five years at Williams College and Marquette University. During that time he was also a Guggenheim Fellow and a Fulbright lecturer in China and Spain. He has published half a dozen books on subjects such as the poet Wallace Stevens, the literature and film of the Vietnam War, and the natural and human history of the Bark River Valley in Wisconsin. On retirement he and his wife moved to the Upper Peninsula, which provides material for many of his poems.

Kathleen M. Heideman will receive the City of 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 landscape and environmental concerns, her work has garnered recognition from the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, the Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Bush Foundation. She’s a curious woman.

Janeen Pergrin Rastall lives in Gordon, Mich, population 2. She is the author of the chapbook “In The Yellowed House” (dancing girl press, 2014). Her poetry has appeared in several publications, including The Midwest Quarterly, Midwestern Gothic, Border Crossing, The Michigan Poet, and Dunes Review. She has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes.

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.”

Thursday April 2, 7-9pm
Peter White Public Library, Shiras Room
217 N Front St, Marquette, Mich. 49855
Free and open to the public



Concerns raised about proposed discharge permit for Eagle Mine’s Humboldt Mill


Concerned citizens from across the U.P., residents of Humboldt township, members of the grassroots organization Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP), members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC), and others gathered at the Westwood High School in Ishpeming on Tuesday night, to discuss a draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit for Eagle Mine’s Humboldt Mill.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) held the Public Hearing to discuss a proposed “reissuance” of an expired NPDES Permit, which originally authorized Eagle Mine’s Humboldt Mill to discharge wastewater into a wetland located between the Humboldt Pit and US-41.

During the hearing, residents raised serious questions and provided critical feedback to the MDEQ. Many believe that draft permit will degrade water quality in the Escanaba River. Unresolved environmental issues plague Humboldt Mill. Tailings produced by Eagle will be deposited into an existing pit, adding to legacy contamination. There is an ongoing investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the mill’s status as a Superfund site. An additional outflow pipe was recently built between the tailings pit and wetlands of the Escanaba River without permits or public involvement.  Residents are especially alarmed by increased discharges— 2.8 million gallons per day (MGD), compared with 0.82 MGD in the first permit. The new discharge pipe (“Outfall 002”) will handle 50% of that discharge.

“As we learned at the State hearing Tuesday night, in addition to problems like flooding the private property of nearby residents, MDEQ’s proposed NPDES permit for discharges at the Humboldt Mill is inconsistent with federal law and it fails to protect the Escanaba River Watershed that once was cherished fishing ground,” said former federal offshore oil regulator and KBIC tribal member Jeffery Loman. “I intend to hold the EPA accountable for these failures. The EPA is responsible for overseeing the Clean Water Act and they are the trustee for treaty-protected tribal resources at stake here.”

During the hearing, Steve Casey, MDEQ’s District Supervisor of Water Resources, seemed uncertain as to why baseline environmental assessment were needed for a wetland receiving NPDES discharges, or why “additive impacts” (such as legacy pollution of wetlands and sediment scouring) must be calculated before a NPDES permit is granted. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “Agencies have an obligation to evaluate waters in terms of how they interrelate and function as ecosystems rather than as individual units, especially in the context of complex ecosystems where their integrity may be compromised by environmental harms that individually may not be measurably large but collectively are significant.”

“The MDEQ was obviously unprepared for the level of precision shown in the commentary at this public hearing. But our community has been tirelessly committed to protecting our land and water from mining interests for more than ten years now. We know that regulators aren’t enforcing the rules and are instead relaxing them to benefit multinational mining companies — threatening our clean water as well as our democratic process,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s Interim Director.

Residents voiced concerns over numerous changes (deemed “Insignificant Changes” by MDEQ staff) which have allowed Eagle Mine to radically change plans for Eagle Mine and Humboldt Mill, violating Michigan’s Nonferrous Mining Regulations. Under Part 632, Eagle’s permits require amendment. There was no public input or environmental impacts assessment for construction of a pipeline terminating at the newly-constructed “Outfall 002” — this significant structure and related wetland impacts were deemed “insignificant” — yet the draft NPDES permit will authorize use of the outfall, a clear violation of due process. The public was not notified when the location of Humboldt’s Water Treatment Plant (WTP) was switched, and the draft permit fails to mention the WTP’s treatment capacity, 1.44 MGD.  Given the WTP’s design flaws, up to 50% of Humboldt’s wastewater discharges may bypass the treatment plant, sending the mill’s tailings water directly into the environment. “Environmental concerns and due process concerns are one and the same,” said attorney Jana Mathieu.

Richard Sloat was angered by the permit’s failure to require stream monitoring or discharge monitoring.  “Water temperature data is not being recorded for the Escanaba River. This pipe will discharge ‘treated or untreated’ waste into that river. There is only one instance of a recorded temperature at the water treatment plant, documented because of a contamination leak in September, when the wastewater temperature reached 78.1 degrees — they want to discharge warm water into the Escanaba River, a cold-water fishery, in September?!”

“I find it outrageous that MDEQ and Eagle Mine failed to consider the environmental impacts of increased discharges — 240% more! — authorized by this permit!” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP president. “No baseline information was provided, either for the wetland or the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River. Eagle Mine’s original permit failed to evaluate these sites, and now they want to dump wastewater into unassessed ecosystems! No wetland hydrology or biology data was included in the draft permit, so there’s no way to calculate the risks, and the certain degradation that will result.”


Water quality will clearly be undermined by this permit, a violation of the Clean Water Act, but Eagle Mine is seeking an exemption in its Antidegradation Demonstration, stating that the lowering of water quality is necessary for “important social and economic development in the area” — however the Humboldt Township Board announced during Tuesday night’s hearing that they were unanimously opposed to the permit. Concerned citizens and representatives of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) raised objections to Eagle’s Antidegradation Demonstration, collectively requesting updated and comprehensive proof of the social and economic benefits.

Residents are concerned about the enormous increase in discharge — from 0.82 to 2.8 million gallons per day (MGD). Both mass limits and concentration limits for pollutants have been increased, allowing more pollution of wetlands, and the Escanaba River. The first NPDES permit allowed discharge from only a single pipe (“Outfall 001”).

Pollutant limits are substantially increased for multiple parameters, according to the draft NPDES permit. Below are two tables showing increased limits for quantity (Figure 1) and increased limits for concentration (Figure 2):


Attorney Michelle Halley, who has worked extensively on Eagle Mine issues, said, “This NPDES permit allows discharges  to the Escanaba River that do not protect the fishery. Because of that, it violates the Clean Water Act.”

“It is important to remember that ore being processed at the Humboldt Mill comes from Eagle Mine, containing valuable copper and nickel — along with dangerous sulfides, salts, and a long list of toxic metals,” said Maxwell. Water monitoring at Eagle Mine has documented more than 100 exceedances of groundwater discharge limits since the permit was issued in 2007, including serious exceedances of arsenic, copper, lead, molybdenum, silver, and vanadium —  and uranium levels in water at the Eagle Mine facility have risen to 103 ug/L, more than 3 times higher than the EPA’s Maximum Concentration Level.  Since uranium monitoring was not included in Eagle Mine’s permit, the mine claims that no permit violation has occurred.

To protect aquatic life, conservative water quality standards should be calculated for all potential contaminants. The draft NPDES permit fails to list limits for many contaminants, including: Aluminum, Antimony, Barium, Boron, Calcium, Chromium, Fluoride, Iron, Lithium, Magnesium, Molybdenum, Potassium, Silver, Sodium, Thallium, Tin, Titanium, Strontium, Sulfate, Vanadium, and Uranium.

“The problem really boils down to a regulatory process focused on permitting rather than preventing pollution,” said Steve Garske, SWUP Board member and western U.P. resident. If contaminants are present in the ore from Eagle Mine, it is reasonable to expect they will also be present in Humboldt Mill’s tailings. It is unclear why discharge limits at the mill do not reflect known contaminants from the mine, and all legacy contaminants previously found in testing of the Humboldt site.

At the hearing, MDEQ’s Steve Casey provided a brief update on Eagle Mine’s Groundwater Discharge Permit, which was considered deeply flawed by concerned citizens.  Casey acknowledged Eagle’s ongoing vanadium exceedances, shared some theories as to why contaminant levels might be increasing in the groundwater — and confirmed that MDEQ has still not approved Eagle Mine’s Groundwater Discharge Permit, which expired two years ago. “You cannot understand the impacts of this endeavor until you understand the water,” said Cynthia Pryor, watershed resident and longtime community watchdog. “Neither the mining company nor MDEQ understand how hydrogeology functions at the Eagle Mine and at the Humboldt Mill.”


View Save the Wild U.P.’s written comments re: Proposed NPDES Permit, MI-0058649submitted to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency on January 16, 2015 (PDF)