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.

A Man, His Dogs, and Minnesota’s Future

Posted by: Paul Austin Updated: July 23, 2014 - 10:56 PM

As the Executive Director of Conservation Minnesota, I have had the opportunity to work with dog sled musher, former state legislator and former board member of Conservation Minnesota, Frank Moe.  Dave Dempsey wrote a review of Frank’s new book Sled Dogs to Saint Paul and I wanted to share it with you. 


By Dave Dempsey

Once in a while, a book comes along that speaks from Minnesota’s heart and helps us understand why we care so much about protecting our homeland.

This year, that book is Sled Dogs to Saint Paul, authored by Frank Moe.  It’s the story of a man from northern Minnesota who becomes enchanted with the world of sled dogs and the gorgeous wilds in which they race.  The book is no environmental manifesto but does link the sense of place that comes from living amidst the north’s beauty with the imperative to stop destructive mining proposals.

A longtime resident of Minnesota’s north, Moe is a former two-term member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, where he championed conservation.  He is a candidate for the job of Cook County Commissioner.

In Sled Dogs to Saint Paul, the 48-year-old Moe is passionate about his canines.  “Our dogs are so dear to both my wife Sherri and I,” the author says.  “They’ve become the focus of our lives.  Talking or writing about the dogs is to talk about my life, my feelings and history.  The dogs are how I experience the world most of the time now.”

Moe says his relationship with the dogs is more than a window into the wild, it's a window to the world.  “Having 40 sled dogs dictates where we live, what I do with most of my time.  My father-in-law raises cattle.  He will only come visit us for a day or two at a time.  He says he worries about the cows when he's away and is only really happy when he's on the farm with them.  When we got sled dogs I came to understand what he means.”

The climax of the book takes place in 2012, a 362-mile journey by sled and dogs from Grand Marais to the State Capitol to dramatize the threat of sulfide mining.  Braving unusually warm winter conditions but bolstered by the encouragement of fellow Minnesotans, Moe is persistent, presenting 13,000 petition signatures opposing sulfide mining to a reluctant Governor Dayton.  Many more people are ready to sign petitions and pitch in to protect Minnesota from sulfide mining, says Moe, “when they’re presented with all the information about sulfide mining, who really benefits and what the cost will be for us, polluted water and the cost of having to clean up the mess, literally forever.”

He believes the trip to St. Paul galvanized supporters of sustainable northern Minnesota communities, changing the conversation from "how can we protect our water from the worst of this sulfide mining pollution?” to “we can stop it."  

He acknowledges the need for jobs in northern communities but says destructive sulfide mining is not the answer. “Communities that have depended for generations on the boom-and-bust cycle of mining will only grow sustainably when they diversify their economies.  Those of us on the North Shore, who are mostly dependent upon tourism and recreation for our economies, only stand to lose if sulfide mining becomes a reality in Minnesota.”

Right now Moe’s thoughts often turn to the next winter season of racing. “Our dogs are lounging the summer away under the trees.  Fall training will begin in September and then we'll begin training for next winter's races.  We'll be running the Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon again along with a few others in the region.”

Moe’s dogs have joined him in parades and campaign events around the county.  “I end up talking more about the dogs than politics, which I don't mind at all,” he says.

The book is available at:

http://www.culicidaepress.com/cp/frankMoeSDTSP.html

Quotes from book:

“Most people who celebrate the summer solstice are happy that it signifies the formal beginning of summer, the longest day of the year;  another two months or more of warm, mostly sunny days.  For me the solstice means the countdown to winter, halfway from the last snow to the next.”

“What I had envisioned being a rally against sulfide mining had become something far greater;  a celebration of our home, Lake Superior and the lakes, forests and rivers that surrounded its shore.”

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