The White House called, and Susan Schurke wasn’t quite sure what to do.

Schurke’s Wintergreen Northern Wear, a 30-year-old manufacturer of polar expedition-worthy winter outerwear in downtown Ely, Minn., had been invited to Washington as part of a “Made in America Product Showcase,” the caller said in mid-July.

She was honored — proud to be chosen for the outdoor clothing the business makes and the jobs it provides. But she was also a bit conflicted: As an environmentalist and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness enthusiast, she didn’t want to offend customers by participating in an event with an administration seen as unfriendly to public lands.

Schurke and her husband, Paul, decided to go and try to respectfully use the opportunity to highlight how much outdoors businesses and public lands contribute to the economy.

Last Sunday, they set up a display in the East Wing of the White House featuring their clothing along with a prominent sign with an American flag saying “America’s Public Lands Build Business!”

The couple hoped to talk to President Donald Trump directly during the Monday event. They planned to thank him and talk about protecting public lands that the outdoors industry depends upon. The Trump administration has come under fire after the U.S. Department of Interior decided to reinstate two long-expired mineral leases near the edge of the BWCA for copper sulfide mining.

The Schurkes didn’t get a chance to talk to the president directly — he spoke to the business owners from all 50 states as a group — but Paul Schurke did raise the public lands issue with both the U.S. Labor and Treasury secretaries, who each stopped by the company’s display.

Later, Susan Schurke was invited to appear on the Fox Business Network. She told the “Making Money” show host Charles Payne that she would like to see Trump “give more attention to the public lands and protection for these areas where the outdoor industry is growing so rapidly.”

In the end, she said she was proud to highlight products made in the U.S.

“We were accomplishing something important to us both ways — the made in America and protecting the public lands,” she said. “I tried to do everything in a respectful way.”

 

@pamlouwagie