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Greg Seitz

He writes about conservation and the outdoors.

Calling on the Land of 10,000 Artists

See America

In a throwback to a Great Depression-era effort, the See America project is encouraging artists and designers to create posters for all of America's National Park units. Minnesota is home to six such places, but is under-represented so far.

Designers and artists are all too often asked to work for free these days, so it's worth noting that See America isn't one of those times: by contributing a piece of artwork to the project, artists receive 40 percent of revenue from sales after costs.

So far there are two posters in the collection for Minnesota park units: Voyageurs National Park and Pipestone National Monument. Both are well designed and reflect the unique character of the parks. Both are also by overseas designers (one from India, one from New Zealand). It would be great if people more familiar with our state's landscapes, identity and history shared their own interpretations. (There are also posters for the interstate North Country National Scenic Trail and the Mississippi River, but neither include Minnesota imagery.)

The original See America project was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal program, addressing unemployment while showcasing the nation's natural beauty. The new See America, organized by the Creative Action Network in partnership with the National Parks Conservation Association, seeks to do the same in a day when the federal government doesn't have the ability to pay artists.

"We have always been inspired, since we started doing this kind of work by the New Deal Arts Project, the WPA, and that era in our history when the government was putting artists to work,"  Max Slavkin, CEO of The Creative Action Network, told Fast Company magazine.

Here are the National Park units in Minnesota:

Learn more and submit your artwork here.

No Margin for Error in Mining

Flowing WaterThe PolyMet environmental impact statement which has been discussed around Minnesota the past couple months is based on bad data, the Timberjay newspaper reported this week (Star Tribune story here). It significantly underestimates the amount of water flowing through the mine area, which means big parts of the document are likely incorrect, and might mean another year of work and a third draft of the study is needed. 

You could almost hear heads spinning across the state at the news that this long-awaited second version of the company’s environmental impact statement is seriously flawed. 

PolyMet can’t get its impact study right in two attempts and millions of dollars, but the company says it will get essential environmental protection right on the first try. There is no margin for error with mining pollution – one mistake and contaminants could flow from into nearby lakes, rivers and wetlands. 

Once pollution reaches water, it’s almost impossible to contain it. Folks in Charleston, West Virginia, have been dealing with water that is dirty and smelly and of questionable safety after a chemical spill upriver on January 9th. 

In Grantsburg, Wisconsin in 2012, a sand mining company incorrectly built a wall around a holding pond and ended up dumping harmful sediment into the St. Croix River for five days. 

There are few second chances with mining mistakes. Preventing pollution means doing it right the first time and every time.

The latest news about PolyMet must be a shock to everyone following the issue. Whether an Iron Ranger looking for a job, a resident worried about their drinking water, wild rice or fishing lake, or an investor at big PolyMet investor Glencore, it is universally hard to believe that after all this waiting, we might need to wait again.

But they say the third time’s the charm.