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 6: Sandstone to North Branch

Posted by: Paul Austin Updated: March 7, 2012 - 11:01 AM

Help When Help Is Needed

Frank Moe recaps day six 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.
 
"Today we crossed the 300 mile mark on our trip, and while most Minnesotans reveled in the unseasonably warm weather, our travels were slowed a bit by the rapidly dissipating snow. By the time we reached North Branch tonight, the dogs, the sled and I were all soaked to the bone. But despite the growing lack of snow, the dogs remain very excited to be out on the trail doing what they love. And while we had no real public events planned for the day, with every passing town we are seeing more and more people coming out to cheer us on as we pass through. We got an unexpected break today in Pine City as the trail which was supposed to cross a frozen lake brought us to the edge of a lake that was decidedly not frozen. While I was feeding the dogs an extra serving of soup to keep them hydrated, a local resident made a call to the president of the local snowmobile club who came out and gave us some advice on how to get back on track.
 
This has really been the story of the trip. Whenever we needed help, it came.
 
And this is the lesson that has us hoping that the state's elected officials will do the right thing and stand up to the powerful allure of quick income from mining jobs that will decimate northern Minnesota's tourism economy. The new breed of mining that is being discussed right now is unlike any that has ever been tried in this state before. Sulfide mining extracts copper, nickel, and other metals from sulfide ores. But unlike Minnesota's traditional iron ore mining, when rain falls on iron ore tailings, the most toxic byproduct is rust. When rain falls on sulfide ore tailings, the result is toxic sulfuric acid. This acid leeches into the soil and flows into our lakes and rivers. There are major multi-national corporations proposing to do this sort of mining in locations mere miles from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, as well as in an 800 acre wetland near Hoyt Lakes that lies in the Lake Superior watershed. There are 30,000 people in Northern Minnesota who make their livings off the tourism industry. Is it really worth risking our pristine lakes and wilderness for a few hundred temporary jobs that will only last as long as these companies can profit from our lands? And in places where this has been tried, the industry has a terrible track record of bankrupting whatever shell corporation they created to run the mine, and skipping town before cleaning up the toxic messes they leave behind. Just like me earlier in the trail, today all the people of Minnesota need help. And it is up to the legislature and the Governor to provide it by standing up to these companies and saying that even in a tough economy, we will not trade everything that makes this state special for a few temporary jobs.
 
Tomorrow should be a shorter day, but as we get closer and closer to the cities, the logistics become more complicated. We're anticipating some colder weather, but still not cold enough or snowy enough to give us a clear path of snow straight to the capitol. Speaking of which, we are slated to arrive at the state capitol at 11 a.m. on Thursday morning. We will have all sorts of musicians and speakers, starting at 10:30, to talk about this important issue, and then I plan to deliver the petitions opposed to this mining, all 10,000 of them, to the governor's office. We'll be arriving on the front lawn of the capitol, and I would encourage anyone who is reading this to come down and check the event out. If you don't do it for me, do it for the dogs who are the true stars of this show."
 
Frank's Dog Spotlight:
"Nita is the daughter of two of my older dogs, Fly and Tina, and is easily the fastest dog in the kennel. When we need to pick up the pace or finish a race strong, I always put Nita in the lead and she never lets me down. She is a vocal leader who is not afraid to chew out any dog that isn't pulling its own weight. She also likes to bark at other dog teams as we pass them. Come to think of it, she really just likes to bark at just about any provocation, real or imagined."
 
 

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