Issues & Action
||Sulfide Mining in Northern Minnesota. Sulfide mining is being proposed for several locations in the St. Louis River watershed, as well as locations just south of the Boundary Waters which would drain into the BWCA watershed. It is a form of mining new to Minnesota, which involves extracting copper, nickel, and trace amounts of gold, cobalt, platinum, and palladium from sulfide ore bodies. The photo (left) was taken along the Spruce Road, just a couple miles from the BWCAW and near the South Kawishiwi River and Birch Lake.
It shows acid mine drainage oozing from a site that was explored for ore 36 years ago. The leakage contains copper, arsenic, and other metals. For more information on the Spruce Road drainage, please click here. To see this drainage site on a map, click here and look for the red pin.
Upon exposure to air and water, sulfide ore produces sulfuric acid, which can leach out toxic metals and drain from mining sites into ground water, streams, and rivers. High levels of of this drainage harm fish and other aquatic organisms.
Another byproduct is sulfates. There is a correlation between high sulfate levels and the degradation of wild rice beds on the St. Louis River. The state limit for sulfate in river water is 10 milligrams per liter, but under pressure from mining companies and allied economic interests a bill (H.F. No. 1010) was introduced in the Minnesota House of Representatives to raise the limit to 250 milligrams per liter. Ultimately, the legislature voted to suspend the sulfate standard until a new study could be performed, putting Minnesota’s waters and wild rice at risk.
As a member organization of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, Duluth Audubon supports MEP’s position that current standards for sulfates in our watersheds should be maintained. For MEP’s full position statement on this issue, please visit their sulfide mining page.
Update posted 2/10/12: The opening date of Polymet's Hoyt Lakes mine has been pushed forward to 2014 at the earliest, due to the company's failure to meet EPA standards in its environmental review. Click here for the full story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Wetland Conservation: Substituting Cash for Regulation
The following text was provided courtesy of Audubon Minnesota.
The legislature is sending mixed signals about wetland protection. Bills proposing rollbacks in state protection for wetlands are advancing, yet a bill proposing to spend $65 million (combined state and federal investment) for permanent wetland protection on private land under the RIM Reserve program, that works to restore wetlands, has gained important support.
Which way will the Minnesota legislature go – rollbacks or more protection? Does the Governor care enough about wetlands to oppose rollbacks to our 20 year old state wetland law, and support investments in permanent wetland protection (he left RIM Reserve out of his legislative proposals?)
More confusing than ever, Senator Dahms is chief author of both the RIM Reserve investment bill (SF 1795/HF2229) AND the bills which roll back protection for wetlands found on farmlands and in shore land protection areas throughout the state (SF 2042/HF2393 and SF 2072.)
Why do we care about wetlands?
- Sandhill Cranes, Mallard Ducks, Sedge Wrens and dozens of other species depend on them;
- Wetlands filter and purify surface waters and recharge ground water;
- Floodwaters are held and released slowly, decreasing downstream flooding; and
- Wetlands are complex ecosystems home to many unique plants, insects and animals.
Audubon has gathered signatures of 53 environmental and conservation organizations across the state in support of the RIM Reserve investment. We stand ready to mobilize these groups to help us oppose any wetland rollbacks, as well.
What You Can Do: Click here to find out who your legislators are. Ask them to support RIM Reserve, and oppose rollbacks to our state wetlands laws.
Those of you who have a Facebook account – send the Governor a message on Facebook (he reads his own account). Tell him which species of birds you enjoy that depend on our wetlands.
Photo of Northern Leopard Frog courtesy of Wikipedia.
Tar Sands Oil and the Proposed Keystone Pipeline
Map by Norman Einstein, showing
tar sands production area. Image from Wikipedia Commons.
|North American birds are about to lose a vast swathe of habitat. According to a recent New York Times article, Canada plans to double its tar sands oil production over the next decade. In the process it will cut down about 740,000 acres of boreal forest, one of the world’s most important ecosystems. More than half of America’s waterfowl and songbirds travel to the boreal forest each spring to nest. This forest sustains 80% of North America’s waterfowl species, 74% of its loons, 63% of its finch species, and 53% of warbler species during breeding season.
Birds such as Swainson’s Hawk and Blackpoll Warblers migrate from South America to nest in the region. Upon arriving in former habitat, they will increasingly find denuded land, toxic and leaking tailings ponds, open pit mines, polluted water, and refineries.
Syncrude Mildred Lake Plant. Photo by TastyCakes; courtesy of Wikepedia Commons.
The U.S. currently gets about 10% of its oil from the tar sands. To increase this percentage, TransCanada Corporation is proposing to build a pipeline from the Tar Sands to Houston. A stretch will run through Nebraska's Sand Hills, the largest and most complex wetland ecosystem in the United States. Located on the central flyway, it is an important stopover for migratory birds, including Whooping Cranes, and it is a nesting area for Sandhill Cranes.
Furthermore, the pipeline‘s proposed path through Nebraska’s portion of the Ogallala Aquifer raises serious concerns about the consequences of a toxic spill into a critical regional water source.
For more information, see Audubon Magazine's article "Crude Awakening;" to see a slide show of the oil sands operations, please click here.
How to help: Contact President Obama and urge him to deny TransCanada’s permit. Ask your legislators to make the same request.
Update posted 1/18/12: President Obama temporarily rejected TransCanada's permit application for the Keystone XL pipeline, stating that more environmental review was necessary before making an informed decision. The full story is available here.
Join Audubon Minnesota's Environmental Issues Commitee
This hard-working group of Audubon members from across the state represents – to decision-makers at the local, state and national level – the best interests of our bird species throughout the year.
The EIC discusses and decides on actions Auduboners take to speak for our birds – and is open to participation by all Audubon members in Minnesota.Please email Don Arnosti if you’d like to join the group! Experts and novices alike are welcome, mentored and supported. All views and talents are respected and needed.
We converse with email, in conference calls and in face-to-face meetings. Presently, we are deliberating on Audubon’s priority initiatives for the coming year. Topics include wetland protection, clean water, wind power, a statewide crane protection plan, getting lead out of outdoor sports, mineral leasing in Minnesota, and many other ideas.
EIC recommendations will be available at our 2011 Annual Bird Celebration for informal discussion and feedback before they are sent to the Audubon Minnesota Board for a final decision before the holidays.
Please indicate your willingness to speak for our birds by joining the EIC today! Questions? Send Don an email.
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Audubon's Action Network. We know that lawmakers care about your views and opinions. As a constituent, you have a unique ability to convey your concerns about issues affecting birds, wildlife and their habitats. The only way we’ll be successful in our conservation efforts is with your help.
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||Legislative Priorities for Bird Conservation
Defend Minnesota's birds and their homes! Learn about Audubon Minnesota's priorities for bird conservation here.