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 8: Stillwater to the State Capitol

Posted by: Paul Austin Updated: March 14, 2012 - 2:18 PM

A Promise Kept

Frank Moe arrived at the steps of the State Capitol today after a 350-mile sled dog voyage that started in Grand Marais to raise awareness about sulfide mining pollution. 

"Well, we did it.  After eight days and 350 miles on the trail, I pulled up to the steps of the state capitol this morning just as Larry Long was playing his newest song, Generations 2 Come, which he wrote specifically about this issue and this trip.  As a shameless plug for my good friend Larry, you can listen to the song on his website.  

In our travels, we experienced all sorts of weather, from deep, fresh snow in the north woods to dry trails cleared by the 60 degree temperatures that beat us to the Twin Cities by a few days. We also experienced the amazing support and hospitality of friends new and old all along the trial.  We spoke with snowmobilers who were unaware of plans to mine so close to the Boundary Waters, many of whom would later appear at our events along the way.  And we had people at random spots all along the trail come out to cheer us on as we came through.  All this love and support really did help drive home exactly why we were doing this. The people of Minnesota are beginning to catch on that these mining proposals will trade a decade of profits for generations of environmental devastation, and it is a trade that no one who lives here should want to make.  


These multi-national mining corporations are preying on us in northern Minnesota because they know we are desperate for an economic kick start and more jobs. They were probably also hoping that a guy like me wouldn't hop on his dog sled and shine a spotlight on the strings that are attached to the proposals they are offering.  In every other place that these companies have tried to do this sort of mining, they have done extensive harm to the environment, and without fail, they have snuck out of town before the bill arrives for the cleanup.  They create shell corporations to run the mines, and conveniently go bankrupt before the state can recover any of the costs of cleanup. One of the companies with a proposal has hired the BP executive who was at the helm in 2010 when oil started spewing into the Gulf of Mexico to be their safety and environmental consultant. Another has hired the company charged with safety inspections on the 35W and Martin Sabo pedestrian bridges at the time of their collapse.  It would be funny if it weren't so truly scary.  

This mining would create extreme amounts of sulfuric acid which would leach into the soil and watersheds and these proposals are all located dangerously close to the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior.  We need jobs, but the price they are asking us to pay is much too steep.  Currently tens of thousands of people work in Minnesota's tourism industry, and it is estimated that 200,000 people visit the Boundary Waters each year.  It stands to reason that were the waters to become contaminated with sulfuric acid, both of these numbers would drop rather substantially.  And then the ripple effect would hit the towns that depend on tourism and extend out from there.  We need jobs, but not like this.  


There were hundreds of people waiting and cheering on the capitol steps when I arrived, and from the podium, I renewed my promise to march inside to the Governor's office and personally deliver the petitions to Governor Dayton.  As soon as I arrived, his staff offered to take the petitions to him, but I declined their kind offer, so that I could keep my promise to deliver them to the Governor myself.  A short time later, the governor came out, warmly greeted me, and accepted the signatures of the 13,000 Minnesotans who joined our campaign against sulfide mining.  

Our fight against sulfide mining can not end today.  I plan to head back north this afternoon, and after a hot shower, a warm meal and a good night's sleep, I'm going to get back to work finding new and more ingenious ways to convince the state not to accept the terrible offer the mining companies are making to the residents of Minnesota.

Thanks to everyone who helped support this trip along the way.  The dogs and I had an amazing time, and through all the public events, trailside chats and media attention, I know that our voice on this issue has been heard loud and clear. Now we need to make sure that our elected officials take our message to heart.  Our future prosperity depends on it."

 

 

See more pictures from Frank's Trip on Conservation Minnesota's Facebook Page.

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