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 5: Duluth to Sandstone

Posted by: Paul Austin Updated: March 6, 2012 - 7:40 AM

The Seven Generations

Frank Moe recaps day five of his 350-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 our website.

"This morning saw another great rally in Duluth at the Willard Munger Inn. Before the crowd arrived, I had the chance to have breakfast with Will Munger Jr. and share stories about his father, a longtime Duluth legislator and hero of the conservation movement. Soon enough, buses filled with school kids arrived and mixed with the local supporters who came to see us off. I tried really hard to instill in the children the political ramifications of this trek and what we are fighting for, but I am not going to lie, speaking this close to a big collection of rambunctious dogs who we raring to go really made it hard to keep their undivided attention. The dogs were loving it, though, as they got all sorts of love to send them on their way.

With the Native American drum circle from Grand Portage sending us off from Grand Marais and then another from Fond Du Lac welcoming us into Duluth last night, it is clear that we have a great deal of support from the state's native people. And it only makes sense. There is a tradition in Native American cultures that calls for tribal elders to think of seven generations when they are faced with any important decision. It is a mode of thinking that could be really valuable to today's elected officials, but unfortunately, political thought in this day and age seems to extend only as far as the next election. The mining proposals we are faced with could really benefit from taking a longer view at the real consequences of the proposed actions.

These mining companies are attempting to entice the locals to support their efforts with the promise of a few hundred badly needed jobs. But the sample I have in my bag of the sulfuric acid that leaked into the Boundary Waters from a small mining test site is all the proof we need that there are long term consequences to these short term jobs. The ecological destruction is certain to impact the current generation, and no one is clear how many of the next six would also suffer for the mistakes of today. I understand that the job market is tough right now, and that it is easy to cling to any remedy, no matter how short term it might be. But if we really want to prosper as a people, we need to recognize that the 30,000 tourism-related jobs we already have are sustainable for generations. If we allow our lakes to become contaminated with acid and our landscapes to be ripped bare by mining ventures, the tourists will stop coming, and these once sustainable jobs will be gone almost as quickly as the mining companies once the final mineral deposit has been harvested.

If one wants to truly behold the beauty of Northern Minnesota, the early miles of the Minger Trail on the outskirts of Duluth are a great place to start. It climbs gradually out of the St Louis River Valley and enters the boreal forest. With the dogs running as well as they were today, we soon found ourselves leaving the boreal for a more mixed forest with an occasional farm dotting the landscape. We covered a lot of ground with a run of about 67 miles. I admit that I was starting to get tired as we moved into our seventh hour on the trail, but the dogs seemed as fresh as ever, and they were begging me to keep going. While I am the one getting all the credit, it is truly the dogs who deserve the praise for delivering these petitions to St. Paul.

This trip also would not be at all possible without my support crew of Mark Luttinen, Adam Harju and Jerry Vanek. They get up early every morning to help with the dogs, travel ahead and make sure that all road crossings are clear, and are up with me until the wee hours of the night helping get the dogs settled for the night. We're about two-thirds of the way through our 350 mile voyage, and while I am really tired after another long day, seeing the dogs for the first time each morning gives me that extra little shot of energy I need to get back on the trail."

 

Frank's Dog Spotlight:

Photo courtesy of Joi Electa from Silver Bay. joielecta.com

Photo courtesy of Joi Electa from Silver Bay. joielecta.com

“Wolf is not only one of the best all around dogs on my team, he is also one of my best friends. He always seems to have a positive demeanor, and while he prefers to be the lead dog, he will run his heart out wherever he is placed. His drive and energy make it hard to use him in the lead too much because he would wear out the rest of the team with his pace. We got Wolf and his brothers Rippie and Gnasher from a friend who had an abundance of puppies one year, and he instantly transformed our kennel from a mid-level pro racing operation to a top five placing kennel.”

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