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Great Lakes Article:

Local Environmental News Briefs

By Craig Minowa

For more information about area environmental organizations issues and events, go to

Diary of an Environmentalist Gone Mad 07/29/2002

            The trees in “my” yard keep telling me to relax. I don’t know how to do that. We were raised to work, to produce, to be successful. They have it easy: absorb nutrients from the soil, the wind and the sun and spend the rest of their time just swaying---just relaxing. Me, on the other hand, I can’t stop producing, like a workhorse, and consuming, like diesel truck. I guess I’m like my dad, in that way. And he was like his dad, and so on and so on. But I’ve got a new role model. It’s a 29 year old birch tree.

Craziest Environmental Tidbit of the Week

Researchers at Britain’s Meteorological Office said this week that 2002 is shaping up to be the hottest year on record. A while back, a United Nations panel of 250 scientists from around the world have created potential computer models for global climate change, and so far we’re keeping pace with their “worse case scenarios”. According to Briony Horton, of the Meteorological Office, those worse case scenarios “would cause major problems of melting icecaps and tremendous flooding," If 2002 continues as predicted, this will be #1 in the top ten hottest year ever recorded, with the other 9 hottest years having occurred since 1990.

Eco-Quote of the Week

“We are not interested in changing minds. Minds have always followed the passions of the heart. We are interested in opening hearts.”

Ken Carey- The Third Millennium

Local Home Depot Breaks Environmental Laws

The 13 Home Depot stores in Minnesota, including the Duluth location, were recently fined by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) for mismanagement of toxic pollutants within the stores. The original fine was recently increased, due to an MPCA inspector spot checking the Duluth location and finding they still weren’t operating up to environmental codes, despite the initial fine.

Apparently the stores were allowing fluorescent tube bulbs to leak toxic mercury gases into the shopping environment. According to the MPCA press release, these pollutants “can cause neurological damage in fetuses and young children”. In addition, the stores weren’t following state laws regarding lead-acid batteries. Supposedly the stores are now operating up to code.

Diary of an Environmentalist Gone Mad 08/01/2002

            So I’ve got a boy cat and a girl cat. Both are “fixed” (like they were ever broken), but Boy Cat keeps trying to make love to Girl Cat. She just gets pissed, but he’s just looking for a little pleasure in what can often be a sterile world. I recognize this in our human genes. It’s far too familiar, and I can’t help but feel like it’s an example of how evolution hasn’t completed its job yet. We are far from perfect. If I was the God of Natural Selection, we’d all be making love a whole lot more frequently.  There’d be a lot more harmony on this planet if all the Boy Cats didn’t feel so frustrated and all the Girl Cats didn’t look so irritated.

Polls Show Golf Course Idea Sucks

A recent poll on offered further verification of citizen sentiment towards Spirit Mountain and the proposed golf course. 72% of voters said there should NOT be a golf course built on our area old growth forest on Spirit Mountain. Interestingly enough, a similar poll was held by KDLH last summer, and there is very little variance between these two surveys. The KDLH poll found 76% of voters were opposed to the golf course. Despite what the overwhelming majority of people want, Mayor Doty and his Big Business friends are now working with the state of MN to greenlight this ecological atrocity. This is not a democracy.

A group of passionate local folk are organizing and training citizens for peaceful intervention on the Spirit Mountain issue. More info--Joel Kilgour  (724-2054). You can also donate to the Spirit Mountain Legal Defense Fund by calling that same number. In the meantime, the bulldozers are getting tuned-up to dig up the ashes of the Anishinabe people buried on that sacred land.

Related Eco-Facts

---An acre of trees can store 2.6 tons of carbon each year. This can compensate for automobile fuel use equivalent to driving a car between 7,200 and 8,700 miles.

---An acre of trees can remove between 287 and 651 tons of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone and partriculate matter per year.

---An acre of trees will provide about 2.8 tons of oxygen per year. This is enough for 14 people.

---Trees can reduce runoff as much as 40% and reduce the costs of treating stormwater runoff by decreasing the volume of water handled during periods of peak rain events.

State Undergoes Record Environmental Cutbacks

            The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is being reduced on record levels, due to recent legislative cutbacks. Cutting environmental programs is pretty typical when there’s a Republican ruled government, but current reductions are setting new landmarks. The DNR is currently being forced to cut over $13 million. 108 jobs will be lost, as well as cutbacks in the Parks and Recreation Department and reduced camping opportunities in the state.

Deputy Commissioner Steve Morse said of the cuts, “It’s gut-wrenching. Historically, Minnesota has done a good job looking long-term,'' Morse said. "I'm concerned that is unraveling.” The DNR is also expecting cutbacks for fiscal years 2004/2005 with a possibility of  a 10 percent budget reduction, which would mean $30 million in cuts for each of the next two years.

Another Local Environmental Treasure Under Attack

The Skyline Harbor Airport on Park Point is looking at expanding, again, and area residents aint too happy ‘bout it.  The airport would like to cut into the Minnesota Point Pine Forest to build new hangars, expand tarmacs, and install fencing. Opponents of the expansion say Park Point needs to be preserved, as it is the longest natural fresh water sand spit in the continental US (seems like a good reason).

Kinnan Stauber of the Park Point Community Club said of the proposal “This forest resource means more than just old trees. It is an incredible birding area, has the only beach grass on Minnesota's Lake Superior shoreline, and also represents the extent of the original shoreline prior to dredge-filling operations. Once this forest habitat is gone, it cannot be replaced, and this area will be disrupted indefinitely.” To get involved, contact Kinnan at 722-6255.

Don’t Swim In There!

According to a new Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report, U.S. beach closures from pollution increased an alarming 19% last year. Duluth’s immediate area beaches (Park Point, Pike Lake, and Twin Ponds) received excellent grades for monitoring of pollution related health risks (the water is checked weekly), and warnings are put out as needed.

Northland beaches that received poor grades for monitoring in the NRDC report (having little or no monitoring of contamination) include Babbit Beach, Carey Lake, and McCarthy State Park Beach. Barkers Island Beach fell somewhere in between the previously listed categories. More info: call the Environmental Association for Great Lakes Education 218-940-7186.

Diary of an Environmentalist Gone Mad 08/04/2002

I got a weird message from the prairie behind my house the other night. They said they need land for habitat more than I need a lawn for aesthetics (only 1% of native long-grass prairie left in MN). I agreed and made a pact with the field. Two days later, I fell blind again. Like I always do. I had forgotten my promise to the prairie. I pulled out the mower and started chopping. Suddenly, I see a beautiful snake squirming in the grass, so I stop and bend over to say ‘hi’. It’s then that I notice its brains are gushing out of its head. I had accidentally run it over with the mower. I cried as it bled and had epileptic fits on my lap. Now that snake and my son live together on the sun. The mower hasn’t come out since.

Did Wisconsin Hunters Die From Deer Brain Disease?

Remember the horrifying scenes of “rabid” cows suffering from Mad Cow Disease overseas just a couple of years ago? Well Wisconsin is now seeing a similar epidemic move through its deer population. Among deer and elk, the disturbing illness has been taking the form of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).  Thousands of the state’s deer have recently been killed, in an attempt to contain this fatal neurological disorer, and scientists fear it may be contagious to humans. In fact, the potential for humans to contract the disease is so great, Wisconsin wildlife managers are seeking to eradicate deer in three counties, by shooting some 25,000 deer.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently announced it is investigating the deaths of Wisconsin hunters who have died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare neurological disorder that has been tied in Europe to eating meat from cattle infected with Mad Cow Disease. In response, the Bush Administration has said it will test nearly a million deer for CWD in the nine states where the epidemic exists (that includes Minnesota).

Mad Cow Disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) is the same strain of disease as CWD. The disease was initially spread by feeding cattle the left-over slaughter remains of other cattle. So far, 125 people have died horrifying deaths in Europe by eating meat contaminated with the disease. The toll it will take on the U.S. is uncertain. For more info, go to

Upcoming Local Eco-Events

- Saturday August 10 (9am), Skyline Planning and Preservation Alliance Interpretive Hike along Kingsbury and Knowlton Creeks. Meet at Beaner's Café in West Duluth. More info: Nancy Nelson 728-1002

-Sunday, Aug. 11 (4-8pm) Duluth Public Policy Alliance Annual Picnic. Public is welcome. Potluck, music, speakers, fun. Chambers Grove Park, Fond Du Lac. More info: Barb Olsen Browne 349-6681

-Saturday, Aug.17 (11-3) Midsummer Organic Food Festival. Free and open to the public. Organic food and farmers, great music, door prizes, farm animals, kids activities, and more. At the Whole Foods Co-op parking lot 1332 E. 4th St. More info: Dianna von Rabenau 728-0884

-Saturday, Aug. 17 (9-3) Sugarloaf Interpretive Center Anniversary Party. All public welcome. $5/person. Food, interpretive hikes, environmental speakers, info tables, music and more. At the Sugarloaf Interpretive Center9096 Highway 61, Schroeder, MN. More info: Terri Port-Wright 879-4334.








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