Wednesday, March 21, 2018

NPS Notice of Availability of Final Isle Royale Environmental Impact Statement to Address the Presence of Wolves

Isle Royale wolf. (File photo © and courtesy Rolf Peterson)

Houghton -- The National Park Service (NPS) has proposed a project to introduce 20 to 30 wolves at Isle Royale National Park. The proposal is the preferred alternative in a Final Environmental Impact Statement that is available at : for the next 30 days.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement to Address the Presence of Wolves (plan/FEIS) evaluates whether and how to bring wolves to Isle Royale to function as the apex predator within a changing and dynamic island ecosystem. The NPS preferred alternative is Alternative B, which calls for the introduction of 20 to 30 wolves over a three-year period. The goal of this alternative is to provide an introduction of wolves that has the potential to become a self-sustaining population.

In addition to the online availability of the plan/FEIS at, a limited number of hard copies are available at park headquarters as well as public libraries in Houghton and Marquette, Michigan; Superior, Wisconsin; and Duluth, Minnesota.

After a waiting period of at least 30 days, the NPS will issue a Record of Decision that documents the final decision and sets out a course of action for the project.
Editor's Note: For background on Alternative B, click here to read our March 13, 2017, article on the public meeting held on Feb. 15, 2017, to discuss the four alternative actions (A, B, C, and D) proposed by the National Park Service (NPS) in their draft Environmental Impact Statement (draft EIS) to Address the Presence of Wolves on Isle Royale.


The City of Hancock will hold a Public Hearing at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 21, 2018, at City Hall in the Council Chambers, 399 Quincy St., Hancock, to consider public comments on the proposed exchange of the following real property:

CITY TO ACQUIRE: 1.29-acre parcel located in the NE ¼ of the SW ¼ of Section 23, T55N, R34W, located contiguous and North of the City’s Department of Public Works facility, 1601 Tomasi Dr., currently owned by Paul Tomasi.

CITY TO EXCHANGE: 1.29-acre parcel located in the SE ¼ of the SW ¼ of Section 23, T55N, R34W located on the West side of Portage Drive just North of 1626 Portage Drive (Edgewood Senior Independent Living Apartments) currently owned by the City of Hancock.

A copy of the map and exact legal description of the two exchange parcels is available during regular business hours at City Hall.

Mary Babcock
City Clerk

Monday, March 19, 2018

UPDATED: Nick Estes, Native American historian and activist, to speak at Michigan Tech March 20

Nick Estes, historian and indigenous rights activist from the Oceti Sakowin (The Great Sioux Nation), will speak at Michigan Tech on Tuesday, March 20. Click on poster for larger version. (Poster courtesy Indigenous Peoples' Day Campaign)

HOUGHTON -- Nick Estes, a historian and indigenous rights activist from the Oceti Sakowin (The Great Sioux Nation), will present "Resistance beyond Party Politics: From Standing Rock, to Black Lives Matter, to Palestine" at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 20, in Michigan Tech's Alumni Lounge, Memorial Union Building. He is presently an American Democracy Fellow at Harvard University.

Estes is also a co-founder of The Red Nation, a coalition of Native and non-Native activists, educators, students, and community organizers advocating Native liberation. According to their mission statement, they seek "to address the marginalization and invisibility of Native struggles within mainstream social justice organizing, and to foreground the targeted destruction and violence towards Native life and land."*

* Click here to read the full mission statement of The Red Nation.

UPDATE: Nick Estes' talk will be livestreamed. You can access the livestream here (Follow steps to launch it).

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Three women to announce run for Houghton County Commissioner March 17

From Houghton County Democratic Party:

HOUGHTON -- Melissa Davis, Gretchen Janssen, and Dr. Sharon Stoll will announce their candidacies for Houghton County Commissioner, District 2, District 4, and District 5, respectively, at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 17, 2018, at the Super 8 Conference Room in Houghton, Michigan. All three candidates will run as Democrats in the November 2018 election. The three candidates will be endorsed on March 17 by Scott Dianda, current Michigan State Representative for the 110th district and himself a candidate for the Michigan State Senate, and by other local office holders. This is the first time that three women have run for Houghton County Commissioner seats in the same election year.

Melissa Davis is known in the Houghton County community for her work as the Energy Manager of the Houghton Energy Efficiency Team (HEET). HEET helps residents of Houghton County address the energy issues in the Upper Peninsula and our high electric rates. Davis is also the President of New Power Tour, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to increase the use of renewable, water and energy-efficient technologies in the Copper Country. With the work done by HEET and New Power Tour, which included home winterization and connecting residents to rebates, local residential and business electricity and natural gas usages were decreased by nearly 13 percent each during a two-year period running from 2015 to 2016. For additional information, contact Melissa Davis at

Melissa will use her expertise and her commitment to the community to serve the residents of District 2, which includes Torch Lake, Schoolcraft, Osceola, Franklin, and Quincy Townships. Melissa and her husband are the parents of one son.

Gretchen Janssen has had roots in the City of Houghton since 1968. After graduating from Houghton High School, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising from Michigan State University and a Master’s in Education from Boston University. She has over 17 years of experience as a real estate professional with RE/MAX Real Estate in Houghton County and the surrounding areas.

Gretchen will apply her experience and knowledge on issues such as zoning, property taxes, and property ownership rights to the Board of Commissioners. Transparency of government is a priority for Gretchen and she welcomes the input of the constituents of District 4 in the City of Houghton on the county-wide issues that affect them.

Dr. Sharon Stoll was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula. After graduating from Northern Michigan University with a Bachelor’s in Human Physiology and Political Science, she went on to medical school at Michigan State and completed her training at the LaCrosse Mayo residency program in 2010. She has been serving the Keweenaw as a physician ever since the day she completed residency. She brings her energy and problem solving abilities, as well as an understanding of the healthcare needs of the community, to find solutions to issues confronting the residents of Houghton County, from the Houghton County Medical Care Facility to the County Jail.

Sharon is passionate about people and looks forward to serving the folks of the rugged and beautiful District 5: Chassell, Duncan, Elm River, Laird, Portage and Stanton Townships. Sharon, a mother of three, is a member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and the Red Jacket Cycling Club. She has volunteered in the medical tent at many area sporting events, founded a school garden, and served as a coach with the Copper Country Soccer Association.

(Inset photos of Melissa, Gretchen and Sharon courtesy Houghton County Democratic Party.)

Houghton County Master Plan Favors TEA Party: What you can do about it

Recently, there have been changes that favor TEA party positions in the county Master Plan.

Citizens are encouraged to read the proposed plan and make verbal comments along with submitting written comments at a Planning Commission Meeting at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 20, on the 5th Floor of the Houghton County Courthouse.

The plan is available to read online or download by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Letter: Will mining in the Porkies ever be "safe"?

[Editor's Note: Keweenaw Now received the following letter in February in response to our Feb. 12, 2018, article on Highland Copper's mining exploration in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, aka, the Porkies. See this featured article by clicking on the link in our right-hand column or click here. We regret the delay in posting this letter and other articles. Keweenaw Now's editor is experiencing temporary vision issues, making it difficult to post in a timely manner.]

Dear Editor,

The fact that the Mining Action Group of UPEC (Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition) was consulted before the Feb. 6 press release by the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) is good news for the public and our environment. They and Highland Copper Co. representatives went to great lengths to assure us they would be on their best behavior this year. The company will have its engineer with the drilling subcontractor; the former, we were told, has the authority to stop drilling should weather conditions lead to thawing of the ground. The DNR said it would have its personnel regularly checking that no new harm comes to the Porkies.

However, I'm left wondering whether the recent press releases from the DNR have been carefully designed to prevent future blow back against the DNR, the state agency that manages the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. When these damages were first investigated and reported, the public responded with outrage -- drilling in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness!? Everyone assumed that the Porkies were safe from mining activities -- unfortunately, that isn't true. Folks are shocked.

The Porcupine Mountains are iconic in the minds of Michigan citizens, but the DNR suggests that copper mines and wilderness areas are compatible. The message from DNR seems to be "Don't worry, the Porkies will retain a pristine surface even if Highland Copper Co. is blasting copper underneath the Park."

Is the DNR trying to convince the public that they want this mine? Mining impacts will include light pollution, mine waste, water quality concerns, vibrations, noise, dust, ore trucks, mine waste permanently stored along the shoreline of Lake Superior, and more. The Copperwood Mine would be across the road from the Porkies -- maybe literally underneath our hiking boots. Who wants that?

Horst Schmidt, President, Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Rozsa Gallery exhibit "Always Room for Rain" continues through March 31; reception with artists March 2

Art by Raquel Alvizures of Guatemala. (Photo courtesy Rozsa Center) 

HOUGHTON -- "Always Room for Rain," the spring exhibit at  the Rozsa Center Gallery, featuring work by artists Ross Chaney (Santa Fe, NM) and Raquel Alvizures (Guatemala), continues through March 31. A reception with both artists will be held at 5 p.m. Friday, March 2, with an artist talk at 5:30 p.m. that evening. Gallery hours are M-F 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. and Saturdays 1 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Ross Chaney (b. 1972, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA) lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Raquel Alvizures (b. 1973, Mataquescuintla, Jalapa, Guatemala) lives and works in Guatemala City, Guatemala. The exhibition of their work is curated by Lisa Gordillo, Assistant Professor, Department of Visual and Performing Arts at Michigan Tech. Gordillo was attracted to the way each artist uses color, texture, and line to express ties to their cultures and to the stories that shaped them. Gordillo also felt that the stories each artist draws from for inspiration are particularly important to share with our region.

"Their work makes a very strong pairing," she says. "It’s my hope that this exhibit will result in many good conversations."

Mr. Chaney is an accomplished visual artist, with works of art in the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Native Art in Santa Fe, NM. His works are influenced by time in Asia and by his Asian and Native American (Osage) ancestry.

Art by Ross Chaney of Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Photo courtesy Rozsa Center)

The exhibit showcases his recent works on paper and canvas with Sumi ink and acrylics. The works are mostly non-objective; their free and fluid use of color and texture recall geographical maps and the policies of westward expansion through manifest destiny which influenced his circumstances growing up.

Chaney’s free and liberal use of color is reminiscent of the beadwork Ross grew up seeing on the Osage reservation in Oklahoma. The colors, often polar opposites, compete with each other creating clashes of conflict on the canvas. The heart of the artwork deals with issues and ideas about the human capacity for empathy and Ross’s belief that empathy and healthy boundaries are key to humans’ connection with society, and the world at large.

Ms. Alvizures lives and works in Guatemala City, Guatemala. She grew up in rural Mataquescuintla, in the outskirts of an agricultural town. Her geometrically abstract and patterned paintings aim to express the vibrancy and mystery of the stories of her culture.

Ms. Alvizures will use part of her time on campus to create a mural for the Rozsa Center. The public is welcome to visit with the artist between March 5 and March 9 in the North Mezzanine of the Rozsa Lobby, as she paints the mural. 

The artists’ visit is supported in part by the Michigan Tech Visiting Women and Minority Lecture Series, which is funded by a grant to the Office of Institutional Equity and Inclusion from the State of Michigan's King-Chavez-Parks Initiative. Both artists will spend time with the community during their visit.

The reception and exhibit are free and open to the public, and the show will remain open through March 31.

For more information please contact A-Space gallery director Lisa Gordillo, Assistant Professor, Visual and Performing Arts, 906-487-3096,

Friday, February 23, 2018

Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra to present "Carnival of the Animals" Feb. 24 in Rozsa Center

The Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra will present "Carnival of the Animals" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, in the Rozsa Center. (Poster courtesy Rozsa Center)

HOUGHTON -- The Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra will present "Carnival of the Animals" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, in the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts.

One of the great zoological works in the orchestral canon, "Carnival of the Animals," by Camille Saint-Saëns, includes humorous depictions of elephants, donkeys, lions, hens, roosters, tortoises, kangaroos and the famous "swan" for solo cello.

This concert also features two Russian masterworks: Dimitri Shostakovich’s "Festive Overture" and Modest Mussorgsky’s "Pictures at an Exhibition."

Tickets are $19 for adults, $6 for youth and no charge for Michigan Tech students with the Experience Tech Fee. Tickets are available online, by phone at 487-2073, in person at the Central Ticketing Office in the Student Development Complex or at the Rozsa Center Box Office the evening of the performance. The Rozsa Box Office opens two hours prior to performances.

This concert is sponsored by a gift from John and Biruta Lowther.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Peace activist Rev. Sharon Washington Risher to speak at Rozsa Feb. 21

HOUGHTON -- With the latest horrific mass shooting in Florida just last week, and the national outrage ongoing over more senseless gun violence in yet another of our schools, nothing is more relevant than a discussion with peace activist Reverend Sharon Washington Risher. Risher was catapulted into the limelight after the Charleston, South Carolina, shooting at the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015. Her beloved mother -- the church’s sexton -- Ethel Lee Lance, was killed along with eight others, including two cousins and a childhood friend. Since that horrific tragedy, Sharon has been very outspoken about the nation’s gun laws and is one of the national spokespersons for the grassroots advocacy groups Everytown and Moms Demand Gun Sense. The Rozsa Center and Michigan Tech's Center for Diversity and Inclusion, as a part of the Van Evera Distinguished Lecture Series and the Visiting Women and Minority Lecture/Scholar Series, have partnered to present a lecture by peace activist Sharon Washington Risher at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 21, at the Rozsa Center. This lecture is free and open to all; however, tickets are required.

Audiences nationwide are saying that Reverend Risher’s talks are incredibly powerful, emotional, riveting, raw and authentic. Each of her talks covers her personal experience losing loved ones to gun violence, race, racism and hate in America, as well as the path to forgiveness and an offering of hope for tomorrow.

Tickets are available by phone at (906) 487-2073, online at, in person at the Central Ticketing Office in the Student Development Complex, or at the Rozsa Box Office the evening of the lecture. Please note the Rozsa Box Office only opens two hours prior to performances.

Inset photo: Rev. Sharon Washington Risher. (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Updated: Copperwood Resources to resume winter copper exploration at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park; settlement reached with DEQ on 2017 erosion damage

This photo taken in the winter of 2017 shows Gypsy Creek downstream, east of one of Copperwood Resources' 2017 drill sites inside Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. When snow melted last spring, erosion into a wetland and ditch leading to a tributary to Gypsy Creek led to the work being halted in April. Copperwood is now resuming exploratory drilling in the park. (File photo © and courtesy Steve Garske) 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported on Feb. 6, 2018, that it has issued a use permit to Copperwood Resources Inc. -- a subsidiary of Highland Copper -- to resume its winter exploration of a 1-mile section of the westernmost portion of Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.

Work is being done in this part of Gogebic County to see if the eastern extension of a mineral deposit first explored in the 1950s might feasibly be mined, which would enlarge the mining company’s Copperwood Project beyond its currently permitted boundaries.

This map shows the location of test holes planned for exploration this winter. Click on map for larger version. (Map courtesy Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

Drilling and testing will determine hydrologic and geologic composition of the bedrock beneath the surface. Work on these sites is scheduled to be completed over the next month and a half.

"This use permit will allow Copperwood Resources to resume work begun last winter at the park," said Doug Rich, western U.P. district supervisor for the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division. "However, this winter’s exploration will be scaled back from the mining company’s original plans."

Copperwood, Michigan DEQ reach settlement on April 2017 erosion damage

In January 2018 the DNR, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Gogebic County Road Commission reported that the DEQ and Copperwood Resources had reached a settlement addressing work-related erosion which occurred during spring break-up in April 2017, along Gogebic County Road 519 at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.

Carlos Bertoni and Tom Repaal of Highland Copper discuss remediation efforts in August 2017. (Photo courtesy Michigan DNR)

Representatives from the DEQ and Copperwood Resources recently signed an administrative consent order, a legal settlement addressing damages without conveying admissions of violations of law, which included a $25,000 fine.

Since March 17, 2017, work had been ongoing within a 466-foot road right-of-way (233 feet on each side of the road) owned by the Gogebic County Road Commission. Work was halted April 4 after Highland Copper officials were informed of several potential erosion issues on the county property. A contract drilling company was part way into drilling their last scheduled test core hole.

Steve Casey, U.P. district coordinator for the DEQ’s Water Resources Division in Marquette, said the mining company continued test drilling operations during spring snowmelt, in and around wetlands, without first obtaining the necessary wetlands or soil erosion and sediment control permits. The resulting work damaged wetlands and resulted in a discharge of muddied water from the site.

Highland Copper maintained they didn’t anticipate the spring warm-up and didn’t know that much of the land was wetland until they received a report from their consultant, King and McGregor. This April 2, 2017, photo shows how their contractor had turned a half mile of snowmobile trail into a muddy mess. (Photo courtesy Mining Action Group)

"They made the unfortunate decision to continue drilling during snowmelt last spring, resulting in rutting in wetlands and soil erosion from their drilling site," Casey said. "Once this mistake became evident, they have been models of cooperation, restoring the relatively minor damage to wetlands and stabilizing the site against further erosion."

Had the ground been frozen and snow covered during these activities, likely there would have been no erosion or wetland disturbance and no need for wetlands and soil erosion permits, Casey explained.

Members of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition’s (UPEC's) Mining Action Group (MAG) -- a watchdog group monitoring mining activities in the region -- alerted the DEQ and the media to the erosion. MAG’s alarming photographs of the damage (see above) were quickly picked up by the media, and brought to the attention of the Michigan DEQ. The DEQ promptly sent staff from the Marquette office to the site on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. The company was required to suspend work that day, and soon after were issued a Violation Notice by the DEQ.*

UPDATED: The company was cited for allowing muddy runoff to reach Gypsy Creek, on the southern end of drilling site. However, much of the mud flowed north along the ditch and down the wide ravine of the Presque Isle River, where it was deposited on the floodplain of the river, within the Park (north of the drilling site), as pictured here in September 2017. (Note: We have corrected this caption, which previously identified this as a photo of Gypsy Creek. It is the floodplain of the Presque Isle River.) (Photo courtesy Mining Action Group)

Given the incident, members of the coalition said they have deep concerns about the Copperwood Project.

"Their Copperwood mine project sits on the shore of Lake Superior, and now they are taking steps towards mining under the west end of the Porkies as well, so the stakes are extremely high," Steve Garske, a UPEC board member said.

Carlos Bertoni, vice-president of exploration at Highland Copper, said the mining company is moving forward, with an assessment of the feasibility of the Copperwood Project anticipated this summer.

"Our team has learned a great deal from this incident and future work will continue to be done under strict compliance with current environmental legislation and best practices," Bertoni said. "We remain committed to developing the Copperwood Project, thus creating new economic opportunities for the western Upper Peninsula."

In April 2017, the DEQ issued an order requiring the mining company to stabilize the site and restore the wetlands.**

Copperwood Resources employed Coleman Engineering Co., an Upper Peninsula firm, and Michigan wetland specialists King and MacGregor Environmental, to work on getting short- and long-term erosion control measures in place. That work continued throughout the summer.

This Aug. 8, 2017, photo shows a catch basin in between Gogebic County Road 519 and an old snowmobile trail, where springtime erosion had occurred. The basin is intended to block water and silt from entering a nearby tributary to Gypsy Creek. With remediation efforts complete, the biodegradable holding structures were removed. This photo shows the site from the snowmobile trail, looking toward County Road 519. (Photo courtesy Michigan DNR)

"Going into winter, the site was stable. An area of the snowmobile trail near the northern boundary of the drilling area was graded to remove ruts, after it dried out in late summer," Casey said. "Vegetation in that area is not as thick as it is over the rest of the site. It will be monitored by Copperwood Resources, the DEQ and Gogebic County going forward."

Copperwood to resume exploration with three test holes in park

The mining company is expected to drill three test holes (S5-05b, S5-06 and S5-09) on DNR-managed state park land west of Gogebic County Road 519 (Section 5, T49N R45W, Wakefield Township, Gogebic County).

DEQ's Steve Casey said recently that Highland Copper has applied for a wetlands permit for work related to the exploratory drilling in the state park.

"DEQ staff is processing the application and will monitor all aspects of compliance with environmental laws if this project proceeds, including working with Gogebic County to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to control soil erosion," Casey said.

UPDATE: This map accompanies Copperwood Resources' wetland permit application. It shows Section 5 sites for 2018 winter drilling and wetland impacts. The yellow line is the state park boundary, indicating DNR surface rights. Click on map for larger version. (Map courtesy Michigan DEQ)

The three drill sites were among 12 expected to be explored last winter when work was interrupted by warm weather after only four were completed.

DNR permit provisions to protect park surface features dictated work could only be done when the ground was frozen, preferably with at least a foot of snow cover.

"Conditions of the DNR use permit will again require several important provisions be followed to prevent or reduce surface disturbance to park lands," said John Pepin, DNR deputy public information officer. "This exploration effort will not be occurring in the wilderness section of the park, but in an area where several historic impacts have occurred, including logging and a narrow-gauge railroad."

Other protective provisions include using existing roads to access sites when possible, using tracked vehicles and removing all drilling mud from work sites. The DNR will receive daily updates on the project.

Once the three sites are completed within the park, Copperwood Resources does not plan to drill the remaining five sites from its initial Section 5 exploration plan.

Additional activity outside park lands

Outside DNR-managed park lands, some additional drilling work is scheduled to be completed this winter.

Two test holes (18_03 and 18_10) will be drilled from Copperwood Resources lands located west of the park, along the border of Section 5.

The Gogebic County Road Commission recently issued a permit to allow Copperwood Resources to finish work at three sites (18_11, 18_12 and S5-13) begun last winter.

A drilling rig arrives and is set up at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in February 2017. (Photo courtesy Copperwood Resources, Inc.)

This exploration is occurring within a strip of road commission property -- a 466-foot right-of-way -- along either side of Gogebic County Road 519, which bisects Section 5.

"This winter, we will be reaching sites directly from County Road 519 to help protect sensitive areas," said Justin van der Toorn, exploration manager of Copperwood Resources Inc. "We are taking other measures, including drilling smaller diameter test holes, that will speed the exploration process."

Boring depths will range from roughly 150 feet to 1,000 feet below the surface. Test holes are immediately filled with cement once drilling cores are removed.

Darren Pionk, Gogebic County Road Commission engineer-manager, said the agency will not allow the drilling of any holes in the right-of-way without frozen ground or near the spring thaw period.

The road commission permit also requires all work, and access to sites, be conducted in upland areas with no impacts to wetlands.

Future Efforts

If Copperwood Resources eventually decides to extend the Copperwood Project, the copper deposit would be accessed from outside the park boundary, without disturbance to park surface features.

Any potential mining of the minerals would require a separate regulatory process through the DEQ. Copperwood Resources would have to amend its existing permit.

"The DNR will ensure there would be opportunity for public review and comment before any mining would occur on minerals beneath the park," Pepin said.

The mining company plans to complete its feasibility study of the project later this year.***

Editor's Notes:

* See the Mining Action Group's Sept. 8, 2017, article, "Setting the Record Straight on Highland’s Drilling in the Porkies." Note: We have corrected the caption
** See our April 7, 2017, article, "State, county officials address citizens' concerns about erosion from Highland Copper mining exploration along CR 519 in Porkies."

*** For more information on the Copperwood Project visit