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Great Lakes Article:

How You Can Save Spirit Mountain

 (and other local eco-news tidbits)


By Craig Minowa

Article courtesy of the Northland Reader
June 15, 2001


Saving a Mountain

The plan to turn the largest Old Growth forest of its kind in MN into a golf course and hotel is still underway.  Despite strong local opposition, developer Kent Oliver has already begun applying for permits---the last step needed in the process before the destruction of Duluth’s Spirit Mountain begins. According to Nancy Nelson of the West Skyline Planning and Preservation Alliance, the long time leader in opposing this potential ecological atrocity, if all goes as the developers plan, trees will start falling in late summer.

GOOD NEWS: Grant funding has now been approved for a coalition of local environmental organizations to do a mid-summer plant survey of the Spirit Mountain area, with the help of local volunteers. Gary Walton, the botanist who was hired by the developer to do the initial plant survey, says there’s an 80% chance that threatened species, like goblin fern and various moon wort, can be found on the proposed development site in late July this year. Anytime these threatened species are discovered, the MN DNR is required by law to either stop the development or drastically alter the plans.
     “The original plant survey was done quickly in the early spring during dry years, when these plants can’t be found,” said Walton. “Spirit Mountain has all of the characteristics that would provide an ideal habitat for these threatened plants and with enough volunteers in the field, there’s a very good chance we will find some.”

Did someone say volunteers? Heck yeah. Talk about a perfect opportunity for folks in Duluth (that means you, buddy) to get outside and literally save their own backyards. This thing will be like an elaborate Easter egg hunt.  Walton will show you pictures of what to look for, and you’ll get on your hands and knees and start searching. Imagine the feeling of being the person who stumbles upon this threatened plant, triggering a process that could ultimately lead to saving 400 acres of Old Growth Forest, diverse wetlands, a trout stream and sacred Native American Vision Quest lands.

Walton says he’s going to need a whole lotta volunteers, and you don’t have to have any experience. You can volunteer for a day or for the whole 10-day survey (July 28-August 6).  If there was ever a perfect time to get involved, IT IS NOW! Call me at 726-1828 or Nancy Nelson at 728-1002 or sign up to volunteer online:


More Mountain News

From Nancy Nelson: On June 25 the City Council will be dealing with Spirit Mountain. The developers are trying to quietly get approval of the work permits for the golf course/hotel without the public realizing what's going on.  So, on June 25, in addition to discussing the Gilbert/Stewart/Stover resolutions related to Spirit Mountain, it is likely that there will also be a new resolution. 




Local Organization Coordinates Major International Protest

A global protest against Starbucks Coffee, scheduled to take place on June 25th and 26th, will be the largest protest of its kind. The Organic Consumers Association, based out of Little Marais, MN, has been coordinating this campaign for several months. Protestors will be demanding that the company remove the controversial recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) and other genetically engineered ingredients from its brand-name beverages, baked goods, chocolates, and ice cream; start brewing and seriously promoting Fair Trade, shade-grown, and organic coffees as its “coffee of the day”; and improve the wages and working conditions of farm workers on the coffee plantations of its suppliers in Guatemala, Mexico, and other nations.

A smaller nationwide protest was held on March 20th of this year, but Starbucks has offered little more than lip service to concerned consumers about its products since then.  Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the Organic Consumers Association, stated, “Vague promises and half-measures are not enough. Starbucks must either give in to the demands of consumers and public interest groups around the world for a non-genetically engineered product line, Fair Trade coffee, and social justice, or else they run the risk of further damage to their reputation and bottom line.”  Meanwhile, coffee farmers around the world are having a difficult time putting food on the table as a result of record low coffee prices—Starbucks, on the other hand, recently reported record profits.

Here in Duluth, protestors will be gathering outside the Barnes and Noble/Starbucks location on Miller Hill at 4 PM on the 26th of June. For more info, go


Wetlands or Trailer Park?

A new proposed project is looking to develop a trailer park on a high quality Lake Superior wetland along the North Shore. According to Tony DeFalco of the National Wildlife Federation, the development would destroy rare wetlands in Cloud Bay (situated between  Grand Marais and Thunder Bay). “The proposed project will destroy habitat and impair water  quality,” said DeFalco. For more info and/or to send your comments to decision makers, go to


A Republican With a Good Idea (yeah, it’s true)

With the illusion of an energy crisis wreaking havoc on the decision-making faculties of the majority of US citizens and politicians, there has been an incredible amount of talk about drilling for oil and gas in the Great Lakes.  Although this is already done in some areas on a limited scale, the Bush Administration is giving oil moguls ever-increasing reason to salivate over the thought of black oil spewing forth from these blue waters. 

But get this- Wisconsin Republican Senator Robert Cowles is seeking support for a new bill he has introduced that would completely prohibit drilling beneath the Great Lakes (by the way, Cowles also recently voted with democrats on banning the use of cyanide in WI mining practices. He’s a rare breed---a republican with strong environmental ethics). Joining his ranks is WI’s Atty. Gen. James Doyle, who recently called on Republican Gov. Scott McCallum to build an alliance with other Great Lakes governors to enact a drilling ban."While I believe passing a state law to ban drilling is critical, even if Wisconsin passes a law, we would remain at risk from other states' actions," Doyle said. "What we need is a regional approach to protecting the Great Lakes." Gov. Ventura has made few public statements regarding his opinions of these matters but has made it clear to concerned citizens and environmentalists, alike, that he is deeply bummed about the cancellation of the XFL football league.


Human Rights vs. Environment

For decades opponents of the environmental movement have tied ecological preservation with a certain anti-human sentiment. Not so, says the United Nations (UN) Commission on Human Rights, which recently concluded that “Everyone has the right to live in a world free from toxic pollution and environmental degradation.” In other words, to be pro-environment, is to be pro-human rights. In a statement from the UN Environment Program, "Environmental conditions clearly help to determine the extent to which people enjoy their basic rights to life. It is time to recognize that those who pollute or destroy the natural environment are not just committing a crime against nature, but are violating human rights as well."  Coincidentally, the U.S. was voted off the Commission on Human Rights on May 3.

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