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 7: North Branch to Stillwater

Posted by: Paul Austin Updated: March 8, 2012 - 7:38 AM

We're almost there

Frank Moe recaps day seven 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 CM's website.

"It is really hard to believe that tomorrow morning we will come pulling up to the steps of the state capitol. We've covered well over 300 miles thus far, and the dogs are running like they are just starting to get warmed up.  Today was a shorter day, but also one of our more difficult on the trail.  While our early days running through the woods up north provided us with an abundance of snow, yesterday's near 60 degree temperatures have left our patches of snow few and far between. And now that we are in the metro area, the trails themselves are becoming more and more interesting.  Today in Forest Lake we had to traverse a shopping mall parking lot. It was a new experience for all of us. 

When it comes to new experiences, the focus of this trip is to talk about sulfide mining which would also be a new experience for all Minnesotans. But it is hardly a new technology.  Indeed, sulfide mining has been done around the world, and its results are very consistent.  The multi-national corporations always seem to turn big profits, they always leave behind a toxic mess and they always find some method of bankruptcy protection for the shell corporation in charge of the mines that leaves the state and its taxpayers on the hook for the cleanup.  

There are a few things Minnesotans need to know about the companies that are asking the legislature and governor to let them mine sulfide metals from the edges of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Glencore, which wants to mine in a wetland in the Lake Superior watershed near Hoyt Lakes, has brought aboard Tony Hayward as their "Executive expert in charge of environment and safety"  Why does the name Tony Hayward ring a bell?  He is the former BP executive who was at the helm when the BP oil spill occurred in the Gulf of Mexico.  He famously told reporters after the spill that he, "Wanted to get his life back."  Apparently overseeing mining in Minnesota is part of this plan.  And another major project, the Twin Metals mine that would be located a few miles from the BWCAW, has recently retained URS Consulting to do their environmental impact study.  URS is the company that was in charge of inspecting both the 35W bridge and the Sabo pedestrian bridge when they each collapsed.  Maybe bridges isn't their thing, and they will have better luck in the mining business.  

These mines are very predatory as they are coming into an economically depressed region of the state and making all sorts of promises about the jobs they will create.  And I have no doubt that, were they allowed to proceed, they would create jobs.  But for how long?  And are we really willing to risk the pristine nature of the Boundary Waters and the safety of Lake Superior which is still recovering from the Reserve Mining fiasco for a decade of employment?  Tens of thousands of Minnesotans currently make their livings off the tourism trade in Northern Minnesota.  I have to believe that the tourism industry will suffer greatly if suddenly our land is ripped bare and our lakes contaminated with runoff sulfuric acid from mines run by people with the worst possible track records. 


It is important that our legislative leaders and our governor take a long hard look at these mining proposals, and what they would mean to the average Minnesotan.  That is why I have been on my dog sled for the past week, and that is why I will be in the Governor's office tomorrow to deliver petitions from 10,000 Minnesotans who oppose the idea of sulfide mining in our recreational nirvana.  If you want to check out the festivities, there will be live music and speakers starting at 10:30 on the lower mall in front of the state capitol, and, provided we don't hit any snags, I hope to pull up on the capitol lawn right around 11 a.m.  I encourage everyone to come out to hear what we have to say, meet the dogs (who are the true stars of this trip) and, if you are so inclined, sign a petition to tell our leaders that we won't trade short jobs for long term destruction of our wilderness."

 


Frank's Dog Spotlight: 

 

Tina is Acorn and Winnie's daughter and the most social of any of our dogs.  She loves attention but is also the one to bark the loudest when dinner is on the way.  When I pull the hook and get the dogs going, she is always off like a shot, and she will pull as hard and as fast as any dog we have.  A few years back, we decided to have a litter of pups with Tina and Fly.  Expecting five, she brought us ten, and every last dog from that litter has been a great dog for us."

 

 

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