Eagle Mine Wants Minerals Under Yellow Dog Headwaters!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:
Kathleen Heideman, SWUP president, president@savethewildup.org
Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP executive director, grassroots@savethewildup.org (906) 662-9987

Eagle Mine Wants Mineral Lease Under Yellow Dog Headwaters!

MARQUETTE – The Eagle Mine LLC, owned by multinational conglomerate Lundin Mining, is seeking a new mineral lease from the State of Michigan for 40 acres of land (NE 1/4 of the NE 1/4 of Section 8, T50N, R29W, Michigamme Township, Marquette County). The Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) announcement of Lundin’s mineral rights lease application was published on Sunday July 26th, 2015, commencing a legally-required 30-day public comment period.

The targeted land lies three miles west of Eagle Mine’s orebody, and south of the Triple A road. Ecologically, the land ranges from from jack pine and blueberry bushes to inundated wetlands known as the Andersen Creek swamp, critical headwaters of the Yellow Dog River. The DNR lease review acknowledges the Headwaters of the Yellow Dog (Andersen Creek) and noted the possible presence of endangered species and a special conservation area. DNR Fisheries staff recommended “Stipulation 15” be included, minimizing surface disruption. The lead agency reviewer removed Stipulation 15, which would require proper drilling and exploration protocol be followed and approved by the lessor (the state). Multiple reviewers noted the presence of Headwaters, but recommended a “development with restrictions” classification.

“This land is part of a sensitive wetlands complex of more than a thousand acres. Headwaters are where rivers are born! Headwaters are simply not compatible with sulfide mining,” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP president.

screenshot_MDEQ_NationalWetlandsInventory

Screenshot: Yellow Dog Headwaters, area of proposed mineral lease.
Source: MDEQ, National Wetlands Inventory data.

“Why does the State bother to write a land management plan for this section of the Escanaba River State Forest? Michigan regulators obviously believe that mining 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! What is the purpose of a public comment period, if no one at the DNR listens to public comments?” asks Gail Griffith, emeritus professor of Chemistry at Northern Michigan University and SWUP board member.

In 2014, Eagle Mine made a similar request, seeking mineral rights to a parcel of public land along the Yellow Dog River. Together, 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 Eagle Mine’s mineral lease request, stating, “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 sent out form letters, and approved the lease without notifying the organizations or individuals who 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 — including your backyard garden, the headwaters of rivers, or the park where your children play,” says Jeffery Loman, former federal oil regulator.

In 2006, the Superior Watershed Partnership (SWP) published the Salmon Trout River Watershed Management Plan which included the recommendation to “prohibit sulfide-based mining” (Page 41). “Since the Salmon Trout River and Yellow Dog River are both high quality systems and share a common watershed boundary the SWP recommendation to prohibit sulfide-based mining would hold true for both watersheds,” explained Carl Lindquist, executive director of SWP. “The potential impacts to groundwater, surface water and Lake Superior are simply too great.”

“When will Michigan realize that public lands belong to the public, not private corporations? Leasing this parcel would simply reinforce the perception that the DNR is acting as a land broker for Eagle Mine,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP executive director. “It is 1.5 miles from the McCormick Tract Wilderness and the Yellow Dog Wild and Scenic National River, and surrounded by historic sites like the Nels Andersen homestead, the Bentley Trail, and the Bushy Camp. Eagle Mine is targeting our communal history.”

“It’s no surprise that Lundin is seeking to lease more minerals,” says attorney Michelle Halley. “Save the Wild U.P., the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, and others have known that Eagle Mine is just the beginning of a regional mining development strategy. In the long term, the public will pay a high price for mining projects performed with inadequate permitting, monitoring and enforcement.”

“When Eagle Mine’s drill rigs go after new sites, they call it ‘progress.’ I call it Stage 4. When a cancer patient develops a malignant growth some distance from the primary tumor, we say the cancer is spreading, or metastasizing. It’s bad news, with a poor prognosis for the environment.” says Chip Truscon, SWUP board member.

Dave Allen, board member of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, expressed concerns about the pristine habitat found on these 40 acres. “We at UPEC are against this new mineral lease. The parcel contains Andersen’s Creek, headwaters of the Yellow Dog River, a rather precious stream and prime brook trout habitat, very rich in good macroinvertebrates — benthic bugs like caddis, flies, mayflies and others — and clean water.”

“Much of this land is relatively undisturbed conifer swamp and pristine shrub-sedge meadow,” says botanist Steve Garske. “These headwaters flow into the Yellow Dog River. If Lundin can drill and potentially locate a sulfide mine here, they can do it anywhere. We need to tell the DNR that headwaters are too special to be mined.”

“We urge concerned citizens to tell the DNR to deny this mineral lease application, or hold a public hearing! This proposal won’t stand up to environmental scrutiny. Headwaters should not be mined,” said Maxwell. Public comment is due by August 26th, and can be submitted by email to: Karen Maidlow, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, at maidlowk@michigan.gov, or mailed directly to Karen Maidlow, Property Analyst, Minerals Management, DNR, P.O. Box 30452, Lansing, MI 48909.

Yellow Dog Headwaters - Anderson Creek Panorama

Yellow Dog Headwaters, Anderson Creek Panorama. Photo by Steve Garske, 7-31-2015.

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.

Editors: the following maps are available for use with this press release:

Screenshot: Yellow Dog Headwater area of proposed mineral lease. (MDEQ, National Wetlands Inventory data).
Screenshot map link: http://bit.ly/1DtmS1W
Source: http://www.mcgi.state.mi.us/wetlands/

ArcGIS Map showing location of proposed mineral lease
http://arcg.is/1UqnIRl

ArcGIS Map (interactive map slideshow with detailed views)
http://arcg.is/1eTFFYo

Suggested caption:
Eagle Mine seeks minerals under Yellow Dog Headwaters. Eagle Mine LLC has applied to the State of Michigan to lease mineral rights under 40 acres of public land in the Escanaba River State Forest (NE 1/4 of the NE 1/4 of Section 8, T50N, R29W, Michigamme Township, Marquette County). This land is part of an extensive Headwater wetlands complex spanning more than 1,000 acres (see National Wetlands Inventory map layers).

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Will NPDES Permit for Humboldt Mill Pollute Wetland Mitigation Bank?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Proposed NPDES Permit Raises Alarming Wetland Implications

MARQUETTE —Grassroots environmental group Save the Wild U.P., reviewing the most recent permit modification request from Eagle Mine, has uncovered several changes with alarming wetland implications.

Earlier this year, there was an exhaustive permit review process for a draft of the same NPDES permit, which authorizes Eagle Mine LLC – Humboldt Mill’s industrial wastewater discharges. At a well-attended Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) public hearing in January, concerned citizens raised serious and substantial objections concerning the addition of a second wastewater discharge point, “Outfall 002,” and expressed outrage over a new pipeline which pumps wastewater a half mile from the Humboldt tailings pit, to the edge of the Escanaba River. MDEQ approved the permit three months ago. On July 2, MDEQ announced it was proposing to the modify permit — again.

If approved, the newest permit modification will authorize the creation of “Outfall 003,” a third pipe from which the mill’s “treated and untreated” industrial wastewater discharges pour into the environment. According to a statement on the MDEQ website, the permit revision comes “in response to citizen concerns.”

“That’s ridiculous,” says Kathleen Heideman, SWUP president. “Citizens remain deeply critical of the MDEQ’s previous permitting decision, allowing degradation of the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River. We asked EPA Region 5 to veto that NPDES permit, in fact, because it was so deeply flawed. Now they’re already revising it. Adding a third discharge point does not address citizen concerns about environmental degradation. The pollution remains unchanged. MDEQ is supposed to be protecting the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River as a coldwater trout stream.”

The MDEQ’s public notice announcement states, “The only change to the permit is to add another outfall location, 530 feet west of their original outfall. Both outfalls discharge to the same wetland.”

The statement is misleadingly oversimplified. While Outfall 003 would be only 530 feet west of Outfall 001, the route taken by the wastewater will be strikingly different. “Wastewater discharged from Outfall 003 would enter the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River at a location at least a mile upstream from Outfall 001. In short, Eagle Mine’s total environmental footprint is expanding again,” says Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s interim director.

Humboldt-NPDES-outfalls-and-impacts-700px

1 = Outfall 001
2 = Outfall 002
3 = (proposed) Outfall 003
4 = Humboldt Wetland Mitigation Bank
5 = Humboldt Tailings Disposal Facility (pit)
(*) = asterisks indicate Middle Branch of the Escanaba River.
Note: according to the MDEQ’s Steve Casey, “the dominant flow path has historically been along US-41 to Wolf Lake Road” via culverts and ditches (red line), but recent culvert changes in this area have removed impediments to flow, enabling the proposed (pink) flow path.

“Calamitous violations of clean air and water catch our attention, but the more common damage wrought by a thousand small cuts becomes routine and acceptable. That’s the modern way of doing ourselves in: slowly, progressively, inattentively,” says Jon Saari, SWUP’s vice president.

The path of the wastewater raises the most troubling aspects of the proposed permit. The addition of Outfall 003 would divert a portion of the mill’s wastewater to a new location. It will be dumped into a poor-quality cattail wetland adjacent to the Humboldt Pit, a site already polluted by historic mine tailings discharge. From there, the wastewater will flow north, passing underneath US-41 through a culvert before entering the Humboldt Wetland Mitigation Bank property, en route to the Escanaba river.

“Wetland mitigation banks are supposed to replace functional wetlands destroyed by development. Owners of such banks are given credit for restoring functional wetlands.  I find it incredible that this mitigation bank will be allowed to receive wastewater from the Humboldt Mill,” says Gail Griffith, emeritus professor of Chemistry at Northern Michigan University and SWUP board member.

“This whole thing is highly unusual. I spoke to a staffer from Michigan’s Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, someone familiar with NPDES permitting requirements and regulations concerning wetlands preservation, and they could not think of another situation in which a wetland mitigation bank would be allowed to intentionally receive wastewater discharges from a mine’s tailings facility,” says Heideman.

The Humboldt Wetland Mitigation Bank, registered with the State of Michigan, and owned by local aggregate company A. Lindberg and Sons, has the stated goals of “Water Quality Improvement, Flood Storage, and Wildlife Habitat.”  “It seems like this permit modification is being done for the benefit of channeling Eagle Mine’s wastewater into Lindberg’s wetland mitigation bank. According to the permit files, Lindberg is also the contractor designing and constructing this outfall. Isn’t that a conflict of interest on several levels?” asks Maxwell.

“Obviously, we have real concerns about the current and future biological integrity of this wetland mitigation bank. Comparing the Eagle Mine’s water balance diagrams, it’s clear that the underlying hydrology was misinterpreted. Previously, this area received groundwater that escaped through the unconsolidated north wall of the Humboldt Pit. After Eagle Mine reinforced the pit wall with a bentonite dam, the hydrology changed. Now the wetland mitigation bank needs water, so Eagle is proposing to intentionally divert some industrial wastewater in their direction? The proposed discharge plan is illogical at best — illegal at worst,” says Heideman.

Under Michigan law, R 281.954, Rule 4, “(1) A mitigation bank is a site where wetlands are restored, created, or, in exceptional circumstances, preserved expressly for the purpose of providing compensatory mitigation in advance of the unavoidable loss of wetlands authorized by the act. A mitigation bank shall be maintained in perpetuity. (2) The objective of mitigation banking is to provide for the replacement of chemical, physical, and biological wetland functions (….) Single function, low quality wetlands, such as wastewater ponds, will not qualify as mitigation sites.”

MDEQ, in issuing the current NPDES permit, granted Eagle Mine an exemption to the Clean Water Act’s critical antidegradation policy, based on the mine’s claim that water quality degradation in the Escanaba River watershed is necessary to accommodate “economic and social benefits” in the area — a claim debated by many local residents, environmentalists, and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, which views degradation of the watershed as a threat to treaty-protected resources.

“Humboldt Mill’s NPDES permit authorizes discharges that will, in the short term, degrade water quality in the Escanaba watershed. But it would be manifestly unreasonable, and clearly contrary to Michigan law, for the MDEQ to allow these industrial wastewaters to enter a state-registered wetland mitigation bank,” says Marquette attorney Jana Mathieu.

“Mitigation banks are required to be protected from contaminants, reviewed for biological integrity, and maintained in perpetuity. Anything less would be contrary to the administrative code which governs wetland mitigation banking,” according to Heideman.

“I can’t believe the laws (regulating wetland mitigation banks) intended for the landowner to dig out sand and gravel for commercial sale, let the hole fill with water, including contaminated water seeping from an old tailings basin, and wastewater discharges from the processing of copper-nickel-sulfide ore at Humboldt Mill, let whatever aggressive, weedy invasive plants that are around move in, put up “no trespassing” signs and call it wetland mitigation. Is anybody monitoring this? Something’s gotta be wrong,” says Steve Garske, botanist and SWUP board member.

Save the Wild U.P. requested a site visit to review the Humboldt Wetland Mitigation Bank, but has received no response from the bank’s sponsor, A. Lindberg and Sons; MDEQ’s Water Resources Division declined to facilitate the site visit.

No public hearing has been scheduled. SWUP encourages concerned citizens to submit written comments, or request a public hearing for further review of this proposed permit modification and related environmental impacts. “Mine permitting keeps getting streamlined for the benefit of industry, while concerned citizens find the process time-consuming and opaque. Before the ink is dry on a permit, it is being revised, with additional loopholes and leniencies inserted. It is up to concerned citizens to follow every revision, ask questions, and loudly demand that due process be followed,” says Maxwell.

Public comment is due by August 3, 2015. Written comments should be submitted to the MDEQ’s Samuel Snow, by email: snows2@michigan.gov or by mail to: Samuel Snow, Permits Section, Water Resources Division, Department of Environmental Quality, P.O. Box 30458, Lansing, Michigan 48909.

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 or follow SWUP on Facebook at facebook.com/savethewildup or Twitter @savethewildup.

Editors: the following photos are available for use with this press release.

Aerial photograph showing the location of Humboldt Mill’s tailings pit, discharge points, and environmental footprint. Sizes available:  700 px wide or original, 4608 px wide.

Suggested Caption:
1 = Outfall 001; 2 = Outfall 002; 3 = (proposed) Outfall 003; 4 = Humboldt Wetland Mitigation Bank; 5 = Humboldt Tailings Disposal Facility (pit); (*) = asterisks indicate Middle Branch of the Escanaba River. Note: according to the MDEQ’s Steve Casey, “the dominant flow path has historically been along US-41 to Wolf Lake Road” via culverts and ditches (red line), but recent culvert changes in this area have removed impediments to flow, enabling the proposed (pink) flow path.

 

Big Holes in Mining Exploration Regulations?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Big Holes in Mining Exploration Regulations?

MARQUETTE — Lundin Mining, parent company of Eagle Mine, recently announced exploration results for the orebody known as “Eagle East,” which is located outside the current footprint of the mine and said to contain “high grade massive and semi-massive copper-nickel sulfide mineralization.” With the current Eagle orebody located just below the Salmon Trout River and “Eagle East” exploration approaching the Yellow Dog River, environmental groups are speaking out about renewed concerns regarding ground and surface water contamination, the creeping industrialization of the Yellow Dog Plains, undisclosed exploratory drilling, trash left by exploration contractors, and the threat posed by acid mine drainage (AMD).

AMD is a dangerous byproduct of sulfide mining. Sought-after minerals such as copper, nickel, lead, cobalt, silver and zinc are embedded in sulfides; the process of extraction brings the sulfide-rich rock into contact with air and water, resulting in sulfuric acid. AMD could devastate watersheds like the Salmon Trout or the Yellow Dog, as it has historically devastated watersheds in coal mining regions, and in hardrock mining districts throughout the Rocky Mountains.

In Michigan, mineral exploration is regulated under Part 625, which establishes the protocol for adherence to environmental protections during the exploration phase. According to the state’s “Typical Metallic Mining Exploration Flowchart,” much of the mineral exploration process occurs before any permits are required, allowing industry to perform much of the exploration process without regulatory or public scrutiny.

Companies currently conducting exploratory drilling on the Yellow Dog Plains do so with impunity. According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), “(E)xploration companies are extremely secretive about their projects. All information regarding exploration drilling is considered proprietary under Part 625.” According to the MDEQ, “Most metallic mineral exploration occurs in an area exempt from acquiring a Part 625 permit.”

The lack of oversight has real consequences. Following a phase of surface and seismic mineral exploration in 2014, performed by Lundin Mining contractors who pulled miles of geophysical survey cables through the landscape, piles of PVC pipes were left abandoned in forests, ravines, and swamps, a plague of plastic ribbons fluttered from trees, and ATV tracks cut through wetlands.. Members of the public – including adjacent landowners and and watersheds – learn of exploration drilling sites only when the drill rigs appear, bringing 24-hour drilling noise, or leaving behind pools of drilling fluid.

“Given the new Wild West mining camp vibe, who is monitoring the work of Lundin’s numerous contractors?” asked Alexandra Maxwell, Save the Wild U.P. interim director. “What enforcement tools are in place to guarantee adherence to environmental safeguards, as specified under Part 625? Is anyone really checking the situation on the ground? It appears that Lundin’s contractors don’t even pick up their trash when they finish a project.”

While Lundin is quick to promote the potential “Eagle East” discovery to its investors, they insist that it is too soon to consider any environmental concerns. Eagle Mine’s spokesman Dan Blondeau has stated, “We’re very early in the exploration stage for this area. It’s too early to tell if this will materialize into anything significant. It’s too early to talk mining or permitting.” According to the MDEQ’s mineral exploration flowchart, however, drilling is actually one of the final stages of exploration.

According to Kathleen Heideman, SWUP president, “Lundin’s new orebody appears to be comprised of copper-nickel-platinum-palladium, all wrapped in a matrix of massive hype. Investors, beware! No word on how much uranium-vanadium-arsenic this orebody will contain — but the Yellow Dog River will be directly threatened. This is nothing to celebrate.”

“If mined, this orebody puts Lundin in a position to contaminate the Yellow Dog River. Rio Tinto had made a big public relations effort to assure citizens that their mining was going to leave a small footprint and would NOT contaminate the Yellow Dog River watershed — just the Salmon Trout River. Now by “discovering” a so-called new deposit they are incrementally expanding their footprint and clearly violating their promises,” said Michael Loukinen, SWUP advisory board member, filmmaker, and retired professor of Sociology at Northern Michigan University. “I fear that this will not be the first discovery of new deposits but the beginning of a pattern of new environmental losses.”

“In 2004, the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve (YDWP), Concerned Citizens of Big Bay, all but one of the townships of Marquette County, and the Marquette County Commission petitioned the State of Michigan to require that a full Hydrologic Assessment of the Yellow Dog Plains be done, by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) — *before* any mining activities took place on the Plains. That did not happen,” said Cynthia Pryor,YDWP board member. Now, more than ever, there needs to be a third party hydrologic assessment of the Plains and the only party qualified to do an unbiased assessment is the USGS. They are already involved in surface water monitoring on the Plains, so let them do their job and give us, the people of the State of Michigan, the straight story about the cumulative impact of these sulfide metallic mines on the Yellow Dog Plains.”

Eagle East

Eagle Mine’s environmental impacts continue to expand. Aerial photograph taken on June 19, 2015 shows: 1. Salmon Trout River, Eagle orebody and Main Vent Air Raise, 2. Eagle Rock and mining portal tunnel, 3. Eagle Mine surface facility, and 4. new drilling rigs, logging and mineral exploration in what Lundin is calling the “Eagle East” area.

 

“This is by-the-book mining boom hype,” said Heideman. “Mining companies create a bunch of hullabaloo about their ‘discoveries’ years before a permit is negotiated, or a single dollar of ore is removed from the ground. Meanwhile, the mining company will be working hard to extract big dollars from investors — at the expense of the wild Upper Peninsula.”

“The mine’s industrial wastewater discharges at Eagle mine are presenting to the surface,” said Jeffery Loman, former federal oil regulator. “Soon there will be undisputed evidence that Lundin is violating the Clean Water Act. When people across the U.P. finally realize our water is at risk, Eagle East will go South.”

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 or follow SWUP on Facebook at facebook.com/savethewildup or Twitter @savethewildup.

Editors: the following photos are available for use with this press release.

Aerial photograph showing Eagle East mineral exploration footprint
Sizes available: 1500 px wide or original, 4608 px wide
Suggested caption:  ”Eagle Mine’s environmental impacts continue to expand. Aerial photograph taken on June 19, 2015 shows: 1. Salmon Trout River, Eagle orebody and Main Vent Air Raise, 2. Eagle Rock and mining portal tunnel, 3. Eagle Mine surface facility, and 4. new drilling rigs, logging and mineral exploration in what Lundin is calling the “Eagle East” area.”

Trashing the Yellow Dog Plains

Eagle Mine TWIS blue styrofoam (windblown trash)
Lundin Mining exploration trash: PVC pipes (view 1)
Lundin Mining exploration trash: PVC pipes (view 2)
Lundin Mining exploration trash: PVC pipes (view 3)
Mining exploration trash left in ravines (view 4)
Mining exploration trash left in ravines (view 5)
Yellow Dog Plains: drilling oil in sand pit (Kennecott). Photo courtesy of Shawn Malone/ LakeSuperiorPhoto

 

Join SWUP’s Wild Summer Events!

Featured

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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: http://bit.ly/1IQp2tz

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: rsvp@savethewildup.org, 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: rsvp@savethewildup.org.

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: rsvp@savethwildup.org, 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 rsvp@savethewildup.org 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: rsvp@savethwildup.org, 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: rsvp@savethwildup.org, 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 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.

 

2015 SWUP Summer Fellows Program

Save the Wild U.P. is kicking off their 2nd annual SWUP Summer Fellows program! This is a dynamic boots-on-the-ground initiative, designed to educate the next generation of environmental leaders. SWUP’s unique, interdisciplinary 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. Fellows gain experience as participatory researchers and civically-involved community members. Academic credit and limited competitive stipends are available.

This year’s Fellows program will focus on critical issues related to the controversial County Road 595 proposal. We’ll begin with an intensive two-day forum on sulfide mining, geology, Upper Peninsula mining history, mining legislation, wolves, hydrology and environmental advocacy—just to name a few 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. The SWUP Summer Fellows program runs from May 20th through the first week of August. We are looking forward to a great program and will keep you updated on associated lectures, public hikes and outings throughout the summer!

Unified Opposition to Graymont ‘Land Transaction’!

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Unified Opposition to Graymont ‘Land Transaction’

MARQUETTE — Tribal officials, clergy, local residents and leading environmental organizations of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan have joined forces to deliver a letter to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), outlining their collective opposition to the Graymont ‘Land Transaction.’

In a unified letter of opposition sent to the DNR’s Director Keith Creagh on Friday February 27th, they urge him to reject the Graymont land sale “which threatens to sacrifice public lands for the benefit of a foreign mining company, at the bargain price of a few hundred dollars per acre.”

Graymont, a Canadian mining company, first submitted an application to purchase over 10,000 acres of public land from the DNR in November of 2013. Graymont intends to construct surface limestone quarries and, eventually, an extensive underground mine. These lands are currently open to the public for hunting and recreational trails, supporting wildlife, and managed for timber — contiguous forest lands considered some of the most productive forest land in the Eastern Upper Peninsula.

The area under consideration includes fragile wetlands and critical ecosystems. These public lands support unique hydrology and biodiversity, including “karst” habitat identified in Michigan’s Natural Features Inventory, limestone features (cliffs, pavement, sinkholes, caves) and special ecologies uniquely adapted to limestone: bats reliant on limestone caves, globally-rare “alvar” plant communities, and limestone wetlands critical to the endangered Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly, termed “one of North America’s rarest dragonflies” by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The collective letter of opposition is signed by individual citizens as well as major groups, including the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, Friends of the Land of Keweenaw’s Board of Directors, the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, the Central U.P. Group of the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club, Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, Concerned Citizens of Big Bay, Save the Wild U.P., the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Students for Sustainability of Northern Michigan University, Northwoods Native Plant Society, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizens Against the Rexton Project, Concerned Clergy of Marquette, the Marquette Unitarian Universalists Social Action Committee and multiple individual property owners in Trout Lake, MI.

In the letter, the groups enumerate serious environmental and economic concerns, including “…the displacement of existing limestone quarrying jobs, and the loss of sustainable, long-term jobs in the forestry and tourism sectors.” In addition, “the sale of these lands interferes with Indian tribes’ rights by having an adverse impact on fishing, hunting and gathering activities of tribal members under the 1836 treaty.”

meme-Graymont-simplemessage

“Graymont recently revised the land transaction for the umpteenth time, increasing their proposed royalty payments to 18.75 cents per ton — but only for a short duration,” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP’s president. “That’s a pittance in comparison to current market values and contemporary royalty offers. It all adds up to nothing, really.”

“These are serious and unresolvable objections,” said Alexandra Maxwell of Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP), who helped organize the collective letter of opposition. “Our message to Director Creagh is simple: don’t make this deal.” According to Maxwell, Save the Wild U.P. has been following the developments of this project since Graymont submitted its application; SWUP and other groups have consistently attended public meetings and submitted commentary critical of this potential land sale. “Now a majority of environmental organizations and concerned citizens throughout the U.P. have reached a clear consensus–the Graymont project must be stopped.”

The DNR will be accepting written comment from the public concerning the newest revision of the Graymont proposal through March 19th. “We strongly urge folks to review the facts,” said Maxwell, “and then write directly to Director Creagh, asking him to reject the Graymont land deal. Concerned citizen still have time to protect their public lands, in their own words.”

Written commentary may be submitted to: DNR-GraymontProposalComments@michigan.gov

Comments can also be mailed to the Roscommon Customer Service Center, ATTN: Kerry Wieber, 8717 N. Roscommon Rd, Roscommon, MI 48653.

“A foreign mining company wants to buy 10,000 acres of our public land?” said Heideman. “By my calculation, that’s ten thousand great reasons to reject the deal.”

The group’s letter can be viewed or downloaded here:  Letter of Unified Opposition to Graymont Land Transaction

meme-Graymont-whatsatstake

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Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots environmental organization dedicated to the preservation of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s unique cultural and environmental resources. For more information or to schedule an interview, contact info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987.

 

Political grandstanding on behalf of CR 595

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Save the Wild U.P. opposes political grandstanding on behalf of CR 595

MARQUETTE – Grassroots environmental group Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) expressed disappointment over the recent flurry of “Resolutions” sponsored by lawmakers in support of the Marquette County Road Commission’s lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). SWUP opposes House Resolution 13, House Concurrent Resolution 1, and Senate Resolution 9 (pending).

According to SWUP, these resolutions, drafted in support of the Road Commission’s lawsuit against the EPA, are an attempt to resurrect the previously defeated County Road 595. The 595 route would have cut through the Dead River and Yellow Dog Watersheds, the Mulligan Creek headwaters, Voelker Creek, Wildcat Canyon and more, on its way from Eagle Mine to the Humboldt Mill.

“The EPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) all objected to the construction of this road, as did area residents and property owners who want nothing to do with mine traffic passing their isolated and serene camps,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP interim director.

“Suggesting that a few resolutions will “make the EPA back down” is ludicrous,” said Gail Griffith, retired professor of Chemistry at Northern Michigan University and SWUP board member. “This is exactly why the Environmental Protection Agency was founded: ‘To protect human health and the environment.’ This requires the EPA to make difficult decisions — including saying ‘no’ when special interests, corporate lobbyists or politicians promote projects that would benefit industry at the expense of our environment.”

“Our state government is not supposed to be a corporate-errand boy. I expect politicians to participate in democracy and represent the will of the taxpaying citizens who elected them, not the international corporations that mine our lands and pollute our water,” said Alexandra Maxwell, Save the Wild U.P.’s interim director. “But let’s be honest — these resolutions are the political equivalent of a group selfie — politicians trying to get their names mentioned to convince the folks back home they’re supporting jobs.”

“We must trust that as a federal agency, the EPA won’t be pushed around by corporate bullies — whether the bullies are big oil companies polluting our coastlines, global mining companies who’d profit from tearing apart our wild lands, poorly informed politicians, or a grudge-bearing road commission,” said Kathleen Heideman, Save the Wild U.P. president. “The EPA shouldn’t rubber-stamp anything. They should protect our environment, period. Save the Wild U.P. affirms the decision of the EPA, and we will continue to oppose any action that threatens the clean water and healthy watersheds of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.”

“This blatant attempt to pressure the EPA to approve a mining haul road through the MIchigamme Highlands is despicable,” said Steve Garske, biologist and SWUP board member. “When the permit for Eagle mine was approved, then-owner Rio Tinto agreed to haul the ore to a point north of Marquette, where it would be transferred to a rail line. If Eagle Mine had been held to their word, these transportation issues would have been put to rest long ago.”

County Road 595:  "Bad idea, wrong place."

“The CR 595 project was destined to fail. And it did fail,” said Jeffery Loman, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community tribal member and former federal oil regulator. “Now some politicians want us to believe that their proposed resolutions will result in the building of this mine haul road. Did Congress create the environmental law that the EPA is responsible for enforcing with some provision that says ‘follow the law until some politicians want you to ignore it in order to support their friend’s businesses’? It’s insulting, really.”

“Our local politicians in Lansing seem to think that issuing wetlands permits is a question of cheering loudly rather than following exacting regulations and rules. They tried the same political full court press two years ago. It was a failing strategy then and deserves to fail again. They should do their wetlands homework,” said Jon Saari, SWUP’s vice president.

Save the Wild U.P. demands full disclosure and transparency concerning the recent decisions of the Marquette County Road Commission, which is attempting to circumvent federal regulations. Private interests are trying to undermine hard-won environmental protections for clean water and wetlands — federal regulations intended to protect our drinking water and our trout streams. Save the Wild U.P. urges citizens to fully consider the long-term implications of the CR 595 proposal, and question the motivations of any elected officials who support this lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency.

Save the Wild U.P. was formed in 2004 to protect the U.P.’s unique communities, lakes, and lands from the hazards of sulfide mining, which threatens to contaminate the Lake Superior Watershed with acid mine drainage.

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Justifications questioned as Road Commission sues EPA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Save the Wild U.P. questions justifications as Road Commission sues EPA

MARQUETTE – Grassroots environmental group Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) has serious objections to the narrative being created by politicians surrounding a lawsuit brought against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by the Marquette County Road Commission (MCRC). In 2013, the EPA denied the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) authority to issue permits that would allow construction of the proposed CR 595, an industrial haul-road for Eagle Mine. This decision was based on the potential for great harm to existing wetlands and vital watersheds.

“The MCRC says their road project was not properly considered by the EPA, but nothing could be further from the truth. How many times will they try to push this idea down the public’s throat? Multiple federal agencies reviewed this project and outlined their objections. Those objections still stand. As concerned citizens, we outlined our objections too — nothing has changed. The 595 road remains a terrible idea for the environment, as well as taxpayers,” said Gail Griffith, emeritus professor of Chemistry at Northern Michigan University and SWUP board member.

“We’re talking about the wild heartland of Marquette County, a remote and ecologically sensitive area. When I traveled the entire proposed route in 2009, I saw hundreds of narrow-leaved gentian plants growing along the northern end,” said botanist and SWUP board member Steve Garske. He believes the EPA made the right decision. “This gentian is locally common around the Yellow Dog Plains but rare in Michigan — it occurs in only three counties in the state.” He also documented two populations of the rare Farwell’s water milfoil along the route.

The proposed road would have cut through the Dead River and Yellow Dog Watersheds, the Mulligan Creek headwaters, Voelker Creek, Wildcat Canyon and more. “I know the Wildcat Canyon area… it is a treasure of streams, rocky ledges and deep woods that would be destroyed if used as a corridor for a haul road,” said Lynn McGlothlin Emerick, a longtime Upper Peninsula resident.

Wildcat Canyon Creek crossing, along the proposed 595 route, which would require 22 stream and river crossings.

Wildcat Canyon Creek crossing, along the defeated CR 595 route.

“The EPA, The U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers (USACE), and the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) all objected to the construction of this road, as did residents and property owners in the area who want nothing to do with mine-traffic passing their isolated and serene camps,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP interim director.

“595 would irreversibly impact high quality wetlands at the headwaters of several watersheds and foreseeably lead to additional roads that would open up one of Michigan’s last remaining wilderness areas to resource exploitation,” according to Jessica Koski, Assistant Mining Technician of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC). “Michigan’s economy depends on tourism dollars from hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation businesses enabled by wetlands. Yet, wetlands are on the frontlines of development and their preservation is vastly underappreciated. Michigan has already lost more than half of its original 11 million acres of wetlands due to filling and draining.”

In recent weeks, the Road Commission has been seeking resolutions from local townships, county boards, and U.P. politicians, to back up their claims of ‘overwhelming support’ for 595. Demonstrated support has actually been lukewarm, despite much political drum-beating. The Marquette County Board failed to support the MCRC’s lawsuit, and half of the county townships are opposed. Northern Michigan University’s Board of Trustees – dedicating five minutes to discussion of the agenda item – voted to offer a resolution of support for County Road 595, but it should be remembered that the Trustees are political appointees.

In response to doubts regarding the costs and possible repercussions of the lawsuit, a group was formed to fund the litigation and inspire public support: Stand U.P., a 501c4 organization described as a ‘local non-profit, non-political group’ created to allow citizens to contribute money to fund the lawsuit. Formed at the request of Senator Tom Casperson, Stand U.P. will be able to accept unlimited corporate funding without disclosure and in turn, can support, endorse, and communicate on behalf of candidates.

“It undermines democracy. This so-called nonprofit will be siphoning corporate dollars to manipulate a public agency — the Marquette County Road Commission — into doing the bidding of special interests,” said Alexandra Thebert, former executive director of Save the Wild U.P. “Special interests are trying to tell us this lawsuit is a David versus Goliath battle, but a quick look at abandoned downtowns across the U.P. and the piles of mining waste across our landscape reveals the true Goliath — multinational companies getting rich off our labor and resources while leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for environmental and economic destruction.”

“The people in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan aren’t stupid,” said Jeffery Loman, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) tribal member and former federal oil regulator. “They know what Stand U.P. is. It’s a comedy act.”

“Let’s be honest. The plan for 595 collapsed under the weight of its own inadequacies, and now there’s no mining money left on the table to pay for it. This is a zombie road,” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP’s president. “This is a dead idea, dug up by politicians who want to frame the EPA as a ‘big bad federal agency’ that only cares about wetlands and clean water. Our elected officials are comparing the ‘freedom to burn wood to heat our homes’ with the ‘freedom to build roads.’ Freedom to build more roads? Our county doesn’t have enough money to fix potholes and rusty bridges and keep our existing roads plowed, so it’s outrageous to talk about funding another Road to Nowhere.”

Kennecott proponents first dreamed of a ‘South Road,’ a napkin-drawing which soon became the “Woodland Road,” backed by private developers, including Eagle Mine, who stood to gain financially from a new route into the wild interior of Marquette County. But when the Woodland Road was rejected by the EPA, USFWS and USACE, Kennecott withdrew their application in May of 2010, citing “environmental obstacles imposed by federal regulators coupled with the uncertain timelines and cost.”

The Marquette County Road Commission (MCRC) persisted, however, changing the name of the project to County Road 595, citing the public’s need for recreational and emergency vehicle access. In written comments objecting to the 595 proposal, the USACE stated “there are no references to the need for a north-south connector west of the Basin, in county planning documents or resolutions prior to 2010.” Clearly, this was still a haul road, dressed up as a county project.

“The Road Commission’s lawsuit against the EPA is being pushed by a consortium of private interests — logging, aggregate and real estate — that would benefit financially from County Road 595 being built,” according to Catherine Parker. “The suit is also about egos and the mistaken view that incremental ‘development’ does not equate with ultimate destruction.”

“Having sifted through years’ worth of letters, reports, and communications between various regulators, I can say with certainty that this project is far worse than most people realize. The Army Corps of Engineers, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan DEQ and Michigan DNR, along with the EPA, all had serious concerns that could not be resolved. Field staff in our state agencies did not support construction of 595 — only the political appointees at the top did so,” said Catherine Parker. “Let them sue. Perhaps EPA will revoke the state’s somewhat dubious wetlands permitting authority as a result.”

“The lawsuit being brought against the EPA by the MCRC is shocking and feels more like a child’s tantrum than anything that has legitimate standing in a court of law,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s interim director. “The EPA’s objections to the construction of this road were valid and protective of one of the region’s most important headwaters .”

Save the Wild U.P. demands full disclosure and transparency concerning the recent decisions of the Marquette County Road Commission, which is attempting to circumvent federal regulations — and the will of the people. Private interests are trying undermine hard-won environmental protections for clean water and wetlands — federal regulations intended to protect our drinking water and our trout streams. Save the Wild U.P. urges citizens to fully consider the long-term implications of the CR 595 proposal, and question the motivations of any elected officials who support this lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency.

Save the Wild U.P. was formed in 2004 to protect the U.P.’s unique communities, lakes, and lands from the hazards of sulfide mining, which threatens to contaminate the Lake Superior Watershed with acid mine drainage.

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TIMELINE – COVERAGE OF THE COUNTY ROAD 595 ISSUE


4-22-10 “Mine Opponents Comment on Woodland Road Plan” (Save the Wild U.P.)
http://savethewildup.org/2010/04/mine-opponents-comment-on-woodland-road-plan/


1-18-11 “Kennecott Abandons Woodland Road” (ABC-10)
http://abc10up.com/kennecott-abandons-woodland-road/


8-29-12 “Strong Public Opposition to CR 595 at Hearing” (Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve)
http://www.yellowdogwatershed.org/blog/strong-public-opposition-to-cr-595-at-hearing/


8-30-12 “EPA notes CR 595 objections: wetlands impact central to federal concerns” (The Mining Journal)
http://www.miningjournal.net/page/content.detail/id/579258/EPA-notes-CR-595-objections.html


9-11-12 “Reps push EPA on CR 595”  (The Mining Journal)
http://www.miningjournal.net/page/content.detail/id/581667.html


12-5-12 “EPA drops one objection to CR 595 proposal” (TV6)
http://www.uppermichiganssource.com/news/story.aspx?id=833953


12-6-12 “EPA Partially Removes Objection to CR 595” (Lake Superior Community Partnership)
http://marquette.org/epa-partially-removes-objection-to-cr-595/


1-7-13 “County Road 595 Kicked to the Curb” (Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve)
http://www.yellowdogwatershed.org/blog/county-road-595-kicked-to-the-curb/


3-17-13 “D.C. hearing to address CR 595 roadblocks” (The Mining Journal)
http://www.miningjournal.net/page/content.detail/id/585411.html


3-1-14 “Specter of CR 595: Will the Zombie Rise Again?” (Jon Saari, UPEC Newsletter)
http://www.upenvironment.org/newsletters/UPEC_2014_SpringNewsletter.pdf


7-8-14 “CR 595 – Under Construction?” (Save the Wild U.P.)
http://savethewildup.org/2014/07/cr-595-under-construction/


8-1-14 “DEQ investigating road work: Environmental groups concerned…” (The Mining Journal)
http://www.miningjournal.net/page/content.detail/id/602472/DEQ-investigating-Plum-Creek-road-work.html


12-26-14 “State lawmakers discuss future of County Road 595” (TV6)
http://www.uppermichiganssource.com/news/story.aspx?id=1141395


12-29-14 “County not suing EPA over 595, reps say they’d back litigation…” (The Mining Journal)
http://www.miningjournal.net/page/content.detail/id/611220/County-not-suing-EPA-over-595.html


1-22-15 “Road Commission prepares for lawsuit against E.P.A.” (TV6)
http://www.uppermichiganssource.com/news/story.aspx?list=194550&id=1153222


1-28-15 “Marquette County Board, residents, environmental groups oppose Road Commission vote to sue EPA over CR 595; lawsuit funding sources undisclosed” (Keweenaw Now)
http://keweenawnow.blogspot.com/2015/01/marquette-county-board-residents.html


2-4-15 “(Ishpeming) Council to consider supporting CR 595” (The Mining Journal)
http://www.miningjournal.net/page/content.detail/id/613351/Council-to-consider-supporting-CR-595.html


2-4-15 “Michigan lawmakers sponsor resolutions supporting County Road 595” (TV6)
http://www.uppermichiganssource.com/news/story.aspx?id=1159366


2-6-15 “Boards and townships still split CR-595 while elected reps support EPA lawsuit” (TV6)
http://www.uppermichiganssource.com/news/story.aspx?id=1141395


2-9-15 “Environmentalists call lawsuit against EPA ‘child’s tantrum’” (ABC-10)
http://abc10up.com/environmentalists-call-lawsuit-against-epa-childs-tantrum/


2-11-15 “County Road 595 suit, project gaining favor” (The Mining Journal)
http://www.miningjournal.net/page/content.detail/id/613735/County-Road-595-suit–project–gaining-favor.html


2-3-15 “Stand U.P. group raising funds for County Road 595 lawsuit” (The Mining Journal)
http://www.miningjournal.net/page/content.detail/id/613283/Stand-U-P–group-raising-funds-for-County-Road-595-lawsuit.html

SWUP Urges DNR Director: Reject Graymont Proposal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Save the Wild U.P. Urges DNR Director: Reject Graymont Mining’s Proposed Land Transaction

MARQUETTE — Following yesterday’s meeting of the Natural Resources Commission meeting in Lansing, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Keith Creagh announced his approval for a massive exchange of mineral rights — totaling 1,700 acres — for the benefit of Graymont, Inc., a Canadian limestone mining corporation.

“We are disappointed by the DNR’s approval of the mineral rights exchange,” said Kathleen Heideman, president of grassroots environmental group, Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP).

“Upper Michigan environmental organizations, including SWUP, have submitted extensive written comments, outlining our serious objections to the Graymont proposal, including the exchange of mineral rights. This DNR decision fails to serve the DNR’s mission of conservation, protection, and public enjoyment of public natural resources. It benefits a foreign mining company at the expense of Michigan’s environment,” according to Steve Garske, biologist and SWUP board member.

On February 6th, the DNR received yet another revision of Graymont’s ever-shifting proposal. No decision has been announced regarding Graymont’s proposed land transaction, which remains open for public comment until March 19th, when a decision will be announced at the meeting of the Natural Resources Council in Roscommon, MI.

“The Graymont proposal has become an administrative circus,” said Jon Saari, vice president of SWUP. “First introduced in 2012, the proposal gets revised a bit every time objections are raised, including most recently a week before a decision was to be made by the DNR Director! How are we in the public supposed to comment on this moving target? Which proposal? The original one? The final one? The final final one? This is no way to conduct public business. It is a joke. The Graymont proposal should be thrown out for toying with the DNR and the public.”

“Save the Wild U.P. renews our call for Director Creagh to reject Graymont’s Land Transaction,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP interim director. “Public lands must be managed and conserved for public benefit.”

Still pending, the Graymont land sale threatens to sacrifice public lands for the benefit of a foreign mining company, at the bargain price of a few hundred dollars per acre, although a majority of the citizens and taxpayers in the affected areas are vehemently opposed to the Graymont sale.

“The Graymont Proposal makes no sense, economically,” says Maxwell. “Does the DNR have qualified mining staff involved in evaluating this proposal? Graymont promises that a handful of mining jobs would be created, but residents believe that any short-term economic gain is far outweighed by the loss of existing, sustainable, long-term jobs in forestry and tourism sectors.”

The Graymont proposal includes lands currently open to the public for hunting and recreational trails, lands supporting wildlife, and managed for timber — contiguous forest lands, considered “some of the most productive forest land in the Eastern Upper Peninsula” by the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition.

The targeted area also includes fragile wetlands and critical ecosystems. These public lands support unique hydrology and biodiversity, including protected karst habitat identified in Michigan’s Natural Features Inventory. Karst landscapes include limestone features (cliffs, pavement, sinkholes, caves) and special ecologies uniquely adapted to limestone: bats reliant on limestone caves, globally-rare “alvar” plant communities, and limestone wetlands supporting the endangered Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly, termed “one of North America’s rarest dragonflies” by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Graymont proposal area

Graymont proposal area

Graymont proposal area

Graymont proposal area

Graymont proposal area

Graymont proposal area

Graymont proposal area

Graymont proposal area

In opposing the proposed sale of lands to Graymont, Save the Wild U.P. affirms the conclusion of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition: “We can see absolutely no justification for the State to even consider the sale of such a large and important parcel of public land to a mining company, or any other private entity for that matter (…) this sale will undermine the public’s confidence in the ability of DNR to manage our public lands for the benefit of all citizens of this state.”

Save the Wild U.P. collectively voices our opposition concerning this unprecedented, environmentally-destructive sale of publicly held lands. The proposed sale would fail Michigan’s taxpayers, tribes, and the Eastern Upper Peninsula’s growing sustainable forest and tourism economies, and especially Michigan’s environment, including critical habitat and endangered species. We urge the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to reject the Graymont Proposal “Land Transaction” as being inconsistent with the DNR’s mission, and a bad deal for Michigan.

The public is urged to submit written comment to: DNR-GraymontProposalComments@michigan.gov

Comments can be mailed to the Roscommon Customer Service Center, ATTN: Kerry Wieber, 8717 N. Roscommon Rd, Roscommon, MI 48653.

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 or to schedule an interview, contact info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with Save the Wild U.P.’s work at savethewildup.org or follow SWUP on Facebook at facebook.com/savethewildup or Twitter @savethewildup

meme-Graymont-whatsatstake

County Road 595: A bad idea in the wrong place

Featured

By Jessica Koski*

Proposed Marquette County Road 595 would irreversibly impact high quality wetlands at the headwaters of several watersheds and foreseeably lead to additional roads that would open up one of Michigan’s last remaining wilderness areas to resource exploitation.

Wetlands are a foundation of our nation’s water resources and are one of the most biologically productive ecosystems on Earth, rivaling that of tropical rainforests. Vital to the health of waterways, wetlands recharge groundwater, absorb floodwaters and filter pollution. They provide essential wildlife habitat, agricultural resources (berries, wild rice), timber production and economic activities. Michigan’s economy depends on tourism dollars from hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation businesses enabled by wetlands.

Yet, wetlands are on the frontlines of development and their preservation is vastly underappreciated. Michigan has already lost more than half of its original 11 million acres of wetlands due to filling and draining.

Aerial view of Mulligan Creek, showing the Snowmobile Trail #5 crossing, proposed route of County Road 595. Photo by Jeremiah Eagle Eye.

Before:  Aerial view of Mulligan Creek, showing the Snowmobile Trail #5 crossing, proposed route of County Road 595. Photo by Jeremiah Eagle Eye.

 

 

After:  Mulligan Creek fragile wetlands were degraded by Plum Creek Timber's illegal "road improvements" along the 595 route, as documented in 2014.

After: Mulligan Creek fragile wetlands were degraded by Plum Creek Timber’s illegal “road improvements” along the 595 route, as documented in 2014.

From an Ojibwe standpoint, many culturally significant plants, foods and medicines occur in wetlands and within the County Road 595 project area. These resources are an essential part of Ojibwe lifeway; and tribal rights of access, collection and use are guaranteed through treaties signed with the United States.

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

Protected: Narrow-leaved gentian is threatened (legally protected) with a status of “imperiled” in Michigan. Found along the proposed 595 route.

Last month, the Marquette County Road Commission voted to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its “arbitrary and capricious” objection to County Road 595 over two years ago. In reality, the MCRC failed to submit an application consistent with federal Clean Water Act requirements.**

In EPA’s objection letter, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was given detailed requirements to address inadequate wetland minimization and compensation plans, and 30 days to satisfy the objection or deny the permit. MDEQ denied the permit, although the process could have transferred to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers authority.

Prior to a decision, EPA heard directly from the public in Marquette on August 28, 2012. Many citizens expressed concerns in opposition to County Road 595, contrary to many government officials.

Wildcat Canyon Creek crossing, along the proposed 595 route, which would require 22 stream and river crossings.

Wildcat Canyon Creek crossing, along the proposed 595 route, which would require 22 stream and river crossings.

The lawsuit’s price tag is $500,000 and road construction is estimated to cost $80 to $100 million, without additional maintenance costs. Eagle Mine says they won’t fund the lawsuit or road. Taxpayers are promised they won’t foot the bill. According to local officials, state Sen.Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, is a driving force behind the lawsuit and an assembly of secret private funders.

Casperson’s road rage is currently attempting to amend Michigan’s Constitution to rob the state’s Natural Resources Trust Fund for timber and mining infrastructure. This is contrary to the opinion of Michigan’s Attorney General and the original intent of the Fund since 1976 to support environmental preservation and enhance outdoor recreation benefits for the public.

Recent Eagle Mine trucking accidents are undeniably a public safety concern. However, even if MCRC is successful, it would be years before County Road 595 could be a reality. Are there alternative actions to more immediately protect the public from ore trucks? Yes.

In June 2013, the Marquette City Commission asked MDEQ to require Eagle Mine to amend its Environmental Impact Assessment regarding transportation. MDEQ denied the request claiming the city is not within the mine’s “affected area.”

Marquette County could object to MDEQ’s unwillingness to enforce the state mining rules. Part 632 states that an EIA shall define the affected area. Because the company significantly changed transportation from rail to truck after receiving a mining permit, the people of Marquette County were never rightfully provided an opportunity during the permitting process to weigh in on transportation impacts and the now inaccurate affected area.

Eagle Mine can also go beyond regulatory requirements and implement best practices. In fact, their original permit included hard cover trailer tops, but switched to soft cover tarps for easier loading and unloading. Is a convenience for Lundin Mining Corp. more important than public safety?

The company could also reconsider its original rail option. This would create jobs, alleviate stress on public road infrastructure and better protect public safety and the environment.

Rail probably could have saved much wasted investment and headache for the local community. Also, imagine if as much political support and energy exhausted into County Road 595 went toward a truck bypass around the city.

Ultimately, local officials are empowered with zoning and ordinance authority to establish more stringent conditions for how, when and where heavy ore trucks travel through the city.

Eagle Mine ore trucks

Note: author Jessica Koski is a member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC). She is an alumna of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and currently serves as Mining Technical Assistant for the KBIC. This article appeared in the Marquette Mining Journal on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015. It is reprinted here with the author’s permission.