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Great Lakes Article:

Northeastern Minnesota Environmental News Briefs

By Craig Minowa


For more information about local environmental organizations, issues and events, go to www.


Spirit Mountain Retains Its Soul

            What do you do with an old growth forest/Anishinabe burial ground? Logically, you clear the trees, lay some turf and build a golf course. At least that’s the threat Spirit Mountain has faced for the last 6 years. But now we’re getting down to the wire. Monday night the Duluth City Council voted 5-4 NOT to approve work permits for the proposed development of a golf course and hotel on Spirit Mountain. 65 people spoke at the meeting and around 200 citizens rallied outside City Hall before the meeting to protest the golf course—downright inspiring.

            Unfortunately, Mayor Doty is likely to ignore his constituents and disrespect the Council by vetoing their vote. The Council will then have a chance to veto his veto, or the work permits will be approved by default Aug. 1 (and another old growth forest/sacred Native American site/potentially powerful tourist magnet will be lost forever).

The Council needs 6 votes to be able to do override Doty’s veto. Unfortunately, at this point, there are only 5 councilors who’d vote to override Doty’s veto (Stewart, Stover, Gilbert, Ness and Bergson). There’s no way in heck Councilors Stauber or Stenberg will vote against the golf course, as they were both Chamber of Commerce backed candidates during the last election---and the Chamber is in love with the whole golf course idea. Councilor Atkins won’t vote against the golf course either, as he was Chamber backed AND received over $1,000 in donations for his campaign from Spirit Ridge LLC.

            Here’s the simple truth, the future of Spirit Mountain rests in the hands of Councilor Ken Hogg. Oh, the pressure! The tricky thing is that Hogg may be running for Mayor in a year, and he’s smart enough not to want to create any waves in either direction. So he’s been trying to stay neutral on this issue. But what every voter needs to realize, is that if Hogg chooses not to vote in either direction, it’s the same thing as voting FOR the golf course. Without that 6th vote, the permit is approved by default.

In other words, we have less than 3 weeks to show Councilor Hogg that we support him in his decision to vote against a project that, first and foremost, is illegal; a project that will take money away from Duluth’s municipal golf courses (which are already suffering); a project that certainly won’t be able to compete with the new Cloquet golf course (conveniently situated next to a casino ); a project that will give Duluth a horrible reputation for not respecting Native Americans or the natural environment; and a project that will suffer a worse economic fate than Giants Ridge, while leaving the side of a sacred mountain permanently scarred, along with the hearts of Hogg’s constituents.

Now I’m going to make this one easy for you. I know you feel intimidated writing a letter to the City Council (and you shouldn’t—Councilor Hogg is a very nice and understanding fella). So I’ve set up a quick and easy, fax form online for you. Now I don’t want to hear you bitching about how our treasured Spirit Mountain was gutted for a doomed project, unless you actually do something to prevent it from happening (then you can bitch all you want).

This is your opportunity to express your support for a smart decision. Heck, if you actually want the golf course, change the online letter to show your feelings. I don’t care! Just let Hogg know what the people want. After all, his job is to serve as the voice of the people. Even if you’re a tourist, you should let your opinion be known—do you vacation here because you’re sick of the 200 golf courses in the Twin Cities, or because Duluth holds a natural beauty unlike anywhere else in the Midwest?

This should’ve been a referendum during the last election, but, hey, no sense regretting. It’ll take you 2 minutes to input your info, change or maintain the letter and click ‘send’. If you don’t have internet access, call me, and I’ll do it for you. (I’m only doing this, because I’ve fallen madly in love with you). I’M SERIOUS, GET OFF YOUR DUFF AND DO SOMETHING!!!!! My number: 940-7186. The online fax website:  Councilor Hogg’s email is, his phone number is 727-4780, and his mailing address is 1001 Bong Blvd. 55811. Don’t get down on the guy. He’s done nothing wrong----be supportive of the fact that HE’S ABOUT TO DO SOMETHING INCREDIBLY RIGHT. And when he does, he’ll be one step closer to sitting in the Mayor’s chair.


Eco-Quote of the Week

            But the tiger you see madly pacing its cage is nevertheless preoccupied with something that a human would certainly recognize as a thought. And this thought is a question: Why? “Why, why, why, why, why, why?”

            Quinn- Ishmael


Facts About the Weather

It’s been wet as heck across MN and WI, but most of the rest of the country is experiencing severe drought. Interestingly enough, this is exactly what global climate change models have predicted for years. Even Bush has finally acknowledged the Greenhouse Effect as an undeniable truth. Although an individual weather disaster can not be pegged strictly on global climate change, this summer’s statistics are already scaring the boogoolies out of me. Check it out:

-According to climatologists at the National Drought Mitigation Center in Nebraska, 40% of the U.S. is currently undergoing drought conditions.

-The worst drought in my lifetime was in 1988, when only 36% of the nation had drought conditions. By the end of that summer, the dry weather resulted in major financial losses, including $40 billion of federal farm subsidies from weather related crop losses. The U.S. is already dryer than that, and we still have the two hottest months to go.

-80% of North Carolina’s streams are running at less than 10% of their normal flow.

-Nevada’s Lake Mead has dropped 20-30 feet in the last few months. 2001/2002 travel guides advertise it as having a 550 mile long shoreline. That shoreline has now been reduced to around 50 miles.

-This spring was the driest in 107 years of data-gathering in Colorado, and the second-driest in Arizona and Southern California.

-Nebraska just weathered the hottest and driest June on record. New England, New York and New Jersey, are in the midst of their hottest years in recorded history.

-The 15 hottest years in the earth’s recorded history have taken place since 1980.


Eco-Fact of the Week

            When G.W. Bush was Governor of Texas, some conservative groups were allowed to force rewrites in certain school textbooks. In one environmental textbook, the following was added : "In the past, the earth has been much warmer than it is now, and fossils of sea creatures show us that the sea level was much higher than it is today. So does it really matter if the world gets warmer?" (source: New York Times 7/4/2002)


Planning an Outdoor Adventure? See It Before It’s Gone

            The Natural Resources Defense Council has an amazing new tool on its website ( that allows travelers to find some of the best outdoor adventures in the U.S. What’s unique about this traveler’s guide is that it highlights pristine wilderness areas that are about to be destroyed by Bush’s new oil/gas drilling policies.

For example, Wyoming’s pristine wilderness is now averaging 11 new oil wells EVERY DAY. Colorado’s San Juan National Forest will soon be home to over 200 new coal-bed methane wells. And traveler’s photos taken at Utah’s Arches National Park will soon have a backdrop of oil rigs. If you’re interested in absorbing the nation’s natural beauty, yee best do it ‘fore it’s gone.


Modern Civilization Expiration Date: 2050

Last Tuesday the World Wildlife Fund released a report using global scientific data to show we either need to inhabit another Earth sized planet by 2050, or we’re simply going to run out of critical natural resources. The report reveals that over a third of the natural world has been destroyed in the last three decades. In that short time, freshwater ecosystems have declined by 55%. Shockingly, the report shows Americans consume twice as many resources per capita as citizens of the UK, and 24 times the amount of some Africans. The full report will be presented at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg next month, the most important environmental negotiation in a decade. World leaders fear this meeting may be a bust, as Bush is unlikely to attend.


Local Toxic Waste Problems: Put In Your Two Cents

            Are you sick of having to deal with the toxic waste dump along Duluth’s lower St. Louis River? Well you finally have a chance to do something about it. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is looking for citizen input to assess the environmental damage that has taken place on and near this 255 acre Superfund site. The land and water was illegally contaminated by 4 companies from 1904 until 1962, and they’re responsible to help with the clean-up. The MPCA says this public feedback and damage assessment will determine the clean-up plan, as well as any compensation issues that may have arisen.

Speaking of the dire need for citizen input, John Guenther, Regional Administrator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and Lead Authorized Official for the natural resource damage assessment said, "People who live and work along the Lower St. Louis River, and especially those that enjoy fishing, boating, and seeing the many different kinds of plants and wildlife, know first-hand the incredible resources the river has to offer. These individuals and groups, such as the St. Louis River Citizens Action Committee (SLRCAC), are very important to help make sure the trustees are working in the right direction to restore natural resources at the site."

To see the current clean-up plan, go to More info?  Lynelle Hanson at the SLRCAC: 733-9520 or MPCA’s Anne Perry Moore 723-2356.


Home Hazardous Waste Eco-Facts

-Americans throw away enough used motor oil each year to fill 120 supertankers.

-One gallon of used motor oil can contaminate 1 million gallons of water. 


Upcoming Local Eco-Events

July 12 (5-7pm): Meet Sierra Club’s national president Jennifer Ferenstein! A reception will be held in the Fireside Room at Bennett's on the Lake ( Fitger Building, 600 E. Superior Street in Duluth .)  Come and learn of new directions for the Sierra Club, meet friends from the Arrowhead environmental community, and enjoy hors d'ouevers and a cash bar. More info? Contact Glenn Maxham 727-4554.


July 13 (9am): The Skyline Planning and Preservation Alliance would like to invite you for a free interpretive hike at Bagley Nature Center. Meet at Bixby's Bagels. More info? Call Nancy Nelson at 728-1002.


July 16 (10-11:30 am): “Bugs  and Slugs”- Hartley Nature Center invites parents and preschoolers (age 2-5) to explore the amazing world of insects at Hartley Park - meet in the main parking area off Woodland Ave. For info and registration, call 724-6735.


July 16 (7pm): If you don’t already know, they’re planning to build a Wal-Mart on the North Shore. Obviously, Wal-Mart isn’t the devil, but planting one on the awe-inspiring shores of the Gitche Gummee is a hellish idea. This is the snowball that will start an avalanche of homogenized suburban development along the shore. Say ‘good-bye’ to the pristine beauty of the North, and say ‘hello’ to urban sprawl.  But wait, there’s a new eco-superhero group on the scene, and they need your help. Our hero is known as L.I.V.E. (Local Initiative for a Vital Economy), and they’re ready to stand up to this modern-day Goliath. LIVE is holding a meeting for local citizens and organizations to discuss ways of preventing the growth of a “Big-Business retail tumor” on our eco-utopian North Shore. The gathering will be at the Labor Temple, 2002 London Road, Hall "B."  More info? Contact: Laurie Johnson at 728-5174.


July 18 (10-11:30am): “Bugs  and Slugs”- Hartley Nature Center invites parents and preschoolers (age 2-5) to explore the amazing world of insects at Kingsbury Creek. - meet at the Zoo parking lot near the playground. For info and registration, call 724-6735.


July 24: Today is the registration deadline for the annual St.Louis River canoe trip and picnic. The actual adventure will be held August 17 from 10am to 2pm. More info? Contact Lynelle Hanson at 733-9520.


July 27 (11-2pm): Alden Lind Memorial at the home of Patsy Munger Lehr, 1121 S. 70th Ave. W., Duluth. Come to honor Alden Lind, one of the region’s all time greatest environmental super heroes. More info? Call 624-4050.


July 28-30:  The Demise of Democracy- Come see mega-stars like Paul Wellstone and John Stauber talk about the rise of corporate power, simple living, environmentalism and the future of capitalist-based democracy. More info? Contact the Institute for a Sustainable Future at 525-7806












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