Thursday, August 12, 2021
Posted by
Maren Viker

"I cannot count the number of times that Ely made me smile"

Green is my favorite color, in my head I could always picture that particular color: Pine and Cedar forests in a rainstorm. Never before have I seen it in the flesh. Ely knew I was coming

I drove up north in a rainstorm to do some work in the town as part of my political affairs internship. I remember coming around the bend on the highway after Tower, MN,  and seeing the deep green of the pines through the raindrops on the windshield. It made me giddy. There would be a number of experiences throughout my trip that would take my breath away like the pine trees did, making me thankful to be a part of this cause and community. 

During my several-day stint in Ely, I was fortunate enough to stay with The Schurkes, who run Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge and Clothing just beyond town. Although it was intended as a place to crash, I couldn’t wait until the day was done to head back to home base. I’d finish up emails with a sled dog’s head in my lap. I have not met a kinder family. They invited me not only to stay in their bunkhouse but welcomed me into morning coffee and family game night as well. When we would talk about my work with the campaign their love and respect for the land permeated the conversation.

Folks in town were lovely too. Whether it was the couple that I spoke to outside of our offices, or the family that chatted with me at dinner where I would have dined alone. There is a kindness, infectious in Ely. 

I cannot count the number of times that Ely made me smile, but there is one moment of disbelief that sticks with me strongly. After a half-day of work, one of our outreach directors, Levi Lexvold, and I, strapped up a canoe and made the drive to Birch Lake, the intended site for the Twin Metals Sulfide mine project. We drove part of the rugged road before portaging the canoe down to a backcountry campsite where we launched. Out on the water, Levi mapped the mine plan for me: processing plant here where you see these pines, toxic tailings mound 50ft above the tree line there. Surrounded by pines, mossy rock outcroppings, and scurrying fish, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. 

With the still water reflecting the blue sky, I felt my heart sink at the prospect if the lake’s beauty alone was lost, not to mention in the 1000 lakes in the BWCA, then North to Quetico and West to Voyageur. Here in front of me was a place I had only gotten a taste of. What Twin Metals proposes to do is take that chance away from millions of Americans by leaching toxic chemicals into the air, land, and water that we cherish. 

They say the mine will be done safely. It will not. They say the project is necessary. It is not. They say the town will be better off. It will not. As Minnesotans and Americans, we are lucky to experience this land, but that privilege also comes with a charge to protect it. Never will it be justified to sacrifice millions of acres of pristine, unique land to this toxic industry. Not everyone may have a personal connection to the land we seek to save, but everyone can do something about it. Contact your reps, donate, have conversations with friends and family. Together, we may just be able to Save the Boundary Waters.