Notice: I've taken a part-time job, and it's definitely affecting my blogging time. I'll continue to add content here as often as possible. Pertinent guest posts are always welcome.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Opinions on Taconite Mining in Wisconsin

{EAV_BLOG_VER:dd07b9f10488db83} just ignore this verification code for Empire Avenue, please

taconite mine tailings
taconite mine tailings in Minnesota (photo by jhy)

received from Mike Stafford, President, Heritage Chapter of the NCTA

The proposed mine along the Heritage section of the North Country Trail appeared to be on hold a few weeks ago when GTAC stopped public-view pursuit of it. Now that the recall elections are mostly complete it appears that the state senate is again ready to consider relaxing current environmental protection laws to shorten and hasten the regulatory approval (per Senator Fitzgerald in an interview this morning). The North Country Trail Association does not take a position on whether the mine should or should not be approved. However, as individual volunteers, I ask that you consider joining me in asking your legislator to at least respect the environmental and regulatory laws that are currently on the books. These laws and regulations were a long time in development. Certainly laws can and should be changed with careful and thoughtful consideration, but it seems inappropriate to quickly and drastically change laws to relax regulations at the request of one special interest.

You may have already seen this, but below is a letter from a former mine supporter describing how and why he changed his mind regarding the mine. Charles Ortman runs a business in the area and was willing to step forward and make the statements below:

I don't take pleasure in delivering the following news. I was initially a strong
advocate of the Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) mine.

Fortunately I don't like to make decisions before informing myself. So after three months of digging I sadly report the following to you. If you are skeptical of my data I encourage you to go to the Iron Range and check for yourself every one of my claims. I would be happy to be wrong.

GTAC will make our fish inedible (fisherman take heed), kill our wild rice (duck hunters and ricers take heed), sterilize our rivers and lakes (water enthusiasts take heed). Have I got your attention? Good because its all true.

Even though taconite mining is not sulfide mining it still creates a sulfide and mercury pollution cycle. This cycle is unequivocally incompatible with fresh water. When sulfates enter the water they are acted on by a sulfide eating bacteria that turns mercury into methyl-mercury. This is the kind of mercury that gets transferred up the food chain and accumulates in the tissue of fish. It is the kind of mercury that turns into "do not eat fish from this body of water" warnings.

"Do not eat fish from this body of water" are the warnings you will be seeing on fish in the Chequamegon Bay and rivers affected by the GTAC pit mine. High sulfate levels and mercury is what killed over 100 miles of the St. Louis River to wild rice and is responsible for the inedibly high levels of mercury in the fish. High sulfate levels are slowly poisoning lakes and waterways throughout the Iron Range and it is caused by taconite mining.

Taconite tailings ponds on the Iron Range that are leaking (and they all leak, even the best of them) have been draining into the Partridge River for years. There are sulfates and mercury in this leakage. Once a river's sulfate level reaches a certain point, somewhere around 10 parts per million, the sulfate-eating bacteria get going and part of this byproduct is the methyl-mercury that gets into the fish and hydrogen sulfide which prevents wild rice from growing.

What we have now in the Penokees is a fish and wildlife factory as well as a water purification system that you couldn't buy for any amount of precious
metals under it.

Citizens of Ashland and the surrounding community, don't trade the golden goose for a mercury egg! Demand your local and state politicians put an end to this
water killer right now. Demand that GTAC pack up the boring equipment and move along. We prefer our clean water.

Charles Ortman
Can you help to join the fight to let the legislators know that the existing mining laws need to be enforced? A letter that you can use is attached. Please personalize the letter if you wish. If you don't know your Senator or Assembly person, use this link to find who they are: Wisconsin Legislators

Protecting the Northwoods is something we all need to participate in. Please take time to send your legislator an message via email, fax or hard copy. They need to hear from you.

Thank you in advance for helping to protect the Northwoods.

Michael J Stafford, President Heritage Chapter of the NCTA

This segment is on NCTA map WI-01

See Heritage Chapter of the NCTA

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tom Gilbert Honored on Retirement

Tom & Jan Gilbert
Tom & Jan Gilbert (photo by JHY)

by JHY

Although Tom Gilbert officially retired from his post as National Park Service Superintendent of the North Country National Scenic Trail in May, the association had not had a chance to honor him until the recent annual conference.

First, Tom was presented with a bronze plaque from Bill and Donna Menke. Bill had worked with Tom as the NPS Trail Manager for a number of years. The plaque reads, "Tom Gilbert in recognition and appreciation of his outstanding contributions and dedication to the North Country National Scenic Trail. National Park Service Superintendent 1981-2011." Bill instructed Tom to think of where along the trail he would like to see this placed, and Bill will do his best to arrange that.

Tom Gilbert receives a gift guitar
Tom Gibert (left) receives a guitar from Bruce Matthews (photo by JHY)
The staff of the NCTA then gave Tom a new guitar. Although we haven't often seen Tom play, it's known that he likes to play and sing for his own relaxation.

Finally, with the help of contributions from a number of sources, the Gilberts were given a lifetime membership in the North Country Trail Association. Now that Tom is a private citizen he can become a member.

Since Tom is the only Superintendent the NCT has ever known, this transition really leads the trail into a new era. Pam Schuler, formerly with the Ice Age Trail, has been appointed to serve as Superintendent in an interim capacity.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Images of Dayton 2011

North Country Trail 2011 Dayton Conference logo
Dayton Conference logo

by jhy

The 2011 Annual Conference in Dayton, Ohio, is over... one more for the books. It was an interesting experience going to a city instead of a small trail town. Dayton is a great place for trails of all kind, and our location, Wright State University, was a good venue.
Clifton Gorge
Clifton Gorge wall (photo by jhy)

The weekend was filled with great outdoor activities. Pictured above is a limestone wall from Clifton Gorge seen on one of the many hikes offered. Others chose historic and cultural opportunities, such as visiting the Air Force Museum or taking a ride on a recreated canal boat.

banquet table
Saturday evening banquet (photo by jhy)

Great meals were provided to satisfy us in the evenings. Saturday's speaker was Bart Smith (Walking Down a Dream), who has hiked and photographed all eleven National Scenic Trails. In addition, the auction raised over $6000 toward the Land Trust fund.

The torch was passed to the Chief Noonday Chapter, who will host next year's conference near Battle Creek, Michigan.

See North Country Trail Association

Friday, August 12, 2011

Arlen Matson Receives Lifetime Achievement

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NCTA President Larry Hawkins (left) presents award to Arlen Matson (photo by jhy)

by jhy

Day two of the North Country Trail Association Conference in Dayton, Ohio, was filled with morning workshops and seminars, afternoon hikes, tours, and trail work opportunities, and the annual awards ceremony in the evening. Many awards were given which will be covered in detail in the next issue of North Star. However, a highlight each year is to see who will be the recipient of the one Lifetime Achievement Awards. This recognizes outstanding service to the NCTA for more than a decade.

This year, Arlen Matson, of the Grand Traverse (Michigan) Hikers Club Chapter received the award, for 18 years of trail building, local administration and record keeping, and a clear vision of the local segment being part of a larger entity. Arlen thanked those who had mentored him and read a poem about enjoying nature and appreciating the Creator.

The list of past recipients was read, and a large number of those people were present. They were asked to come forward for a group photo.

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some past Lifetime Achievement Award Winners L-R: Bill Menke, Tom Gilbert, Arlen Matson, Jim Sprague, Dave Cornell, Al Larmann (photo by jhy)

Other past recipients not present include: Emily Gregor, John Leinen, Rod MacRae, Gene Elzinga, Wes Boyd, Derek Blount

See North Country Trail Association

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Larmann & Leinen Receive New 10K Hour Award

alt text
Al Larmann (photo by jhy)

by jhy

On the opening day of the 2011 North Country Trail Association annual conference in Dayton, Ohio, the National Park Service presented awards for hours of volunteer service. Such awards begin at the 100-hour level, and have previously extended to 2500 hours of work for the trail. Various levels result in receiving a pin, water bottle, twill shirt, free NPS pass, fleece vest, or fleece shirt.

This year, two additional levels were added. At the 4000-hour mark, recipients receive a Presidential Service pin and a letter from the President of the United States. A 10,000 hour award has also been added, and already two NCT volunteers have accomplished this amazing feat. They are John Leinen of Minnesota, and Al Larmann of New York. Larmann was present to receive his personalized plaque.

Volunteer service to the trail can include anything from the nitty-gritty of trail building to planning, doing promotion or paperwork, legislative advocacy, or just about anything that is an asset to the trail effort. The National Park Service, the managing agency for the NCT, wants volunteers to know how much they are appreciated, and provides these awards.

See North Country Trail Association

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Kekekabic Trail Club to Consider Becoming NCT Chapter

Kekekabic Trail Guide
Kekekabic Trail Guide

via email from the Kekekabic Trail Club

Given the history and value of the KTC, we are considering options for the future. One option being considered, in order to provide more resources and networking for the KTC, is to become a chapter of the North Country Trail Association. This is an important decision and we want to have your input to the final decision. Our member meeting is Wednesday, Aug. 24, 7 p.m. Make contact for more information.

Matt Davis, Regional Trail Coordinator for MN & ND, North Country Trail Association will meet with us to provide information about being a chapter of the NCTA.

Feel free to share your thoughts with Mark or Terry, about the future of the KTC.

We have a new Kek Trail Guide, but are currently out of copies. More will be printed, with revisions, later this summer.

Contact Terry Bernhardt
or Mark Stange