Paul Austin

Paul Austin is the director of Conservation Minnesota, a statewide non-profit. In that role, he gets to hear and share Minnesotan’s stories about our lakes, lands and way of life. Paul’s past lives include election as a small town mayor, serving at the US Agency for International Development, and managing a small marketing firm. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife, two small children and one very large dog.

Day 4: Two Harbors to Duluth

Posted by: Paul Austin Updated: March 5, 2012 - 9:56 AM

The wisdom of Judge Miles Lord

Frank Moe recaps day four of his 260-mile sled dog adventure to raise awareness about sulfide mining pollution. Keep tabs on Frank’s progress by following Conservation Minnesota on Twitter, Facebook, or on CM's website.

 

"After four snow-filled days on the trail, we pulled into Duluth's Lester Park tonight greeted by a drum circle from the Fond Du Lac band of Ojibwe and a few hundred supporters.  The local media was also out in force to cover our visit. As the size of the groups that are greeting us swell, it is becoming increasingly clear that our message is taking root and people are growing increasingly excited to hear what we have to say.

 

As we left Two Harbors this morning, there were six to eight inches of fresh snow, and we managed to beat the plows to most of our early-day road crossings, which made for even easier running.  We seriously couldn't have asked for better trail conditions thus far.  And we picked up the pace a little bit today, as the dogs began to sense that we were nearing Duluth, which is the traditional finish of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Race.  They were rewarded with a warm reception from the crowd that showed up to great us, and the tribal drummers who heralded our arrival.

 

As we looked out over Lake Superior today, it was hard not to think of Judge Miles Lord and his landmark 1974 decision that finally put an end to the mining industry's idea that they were above government regulation.  Here was Reserve Mining, a company that employed nearly 3,000 Iron Rangers during the middle of a national recession where unemployment numbers were eerily similar to those found today.  Judge Lord was swayed by arguments that dumping 47 tons of mine tailings into Lake Superior every minute was having a negative impact on the health of the lake, the air and the people who lived nearby.  When he asked a Reserve Mining's Chairman if they could simply pollute less, he was met with a defiant response suggesting that no one had the authority to make him clean up their act.  This infuriated the judge, who quickly signed an order that shut down the mining operation putting 3,000 people out of work and killing off a twelfth of the nation's iron ore production.

 

Judge Lord's ruling then was ground breaking. But it's lessons seem to have been lost on the line-up of giant corporations who are salivating at the chance to extract rare metals from the ground in Northern Minnesota, even if it means that sulfuric acid may flow freely into Lake Superior and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It is my hope that this trip will remind all Minnesotans about Judge Miles Lord and how he took a principled stand in favor of the environment over a giant corporation's unbridled quest for profit.

On Monday the quest continues with a morning send off at the Munger Inn in Duluth and then the dogs and I will head off with the goal of reaching Pine County by nightfall.

 

Frank's Dog Spotlight:

Esther is today's dog of the day.  A veteran of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Race, she is mostly brown and abundantly blessed with love, energy and confidence.  But she also is quick to join the chorus when it becomes clear to the other dogs that I am taking too long on the trail chatting.  She loves to run, and almost seems to believe I don't remember this fact if we stop for even a minute.

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