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The Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forest is dedicated to the protection and preservation of the natural and cultural resources of The Cloquet Valley State Forest and promotes responsible enjoyment of this unique treasure.




Proposed leasing in the Arrowhead?


A large swath of lands including a significant portion of the Cloquet Valley State Forest is being offered by the DNR for mineral lease.   You can view all of the lands here :

Much of the land is in the watershed of the Cloquet River and the St. Louis River, these watersheds have been studied recently.   A recent economic ecosystem report has been done, that can be found here : Earth Economics, St. Louis River Project When commenting on the proposed leasing it is wise to give full consideration to the economic value to humans provided by the intact and functioning, lands, wetlands and watershed. While most people recognize that the lands and waters have value beyond economic value to humans, the hard data provided in this study balance similar data put forward by corporate interests in support of mining proposals.

Click here to see the Full size map of the proposed leasing area in the CVSF


One great letter by a local resident :

I am writing to voice my opposition to the DNR mineral leases being issued in the Cloquet Valley State Forest.

This is a pristine area not a great deal unlike the boundary waters area. In addition, this is a fragile area that currently offers many recreational opportunities to residents of the state. By allowing leases and eventually exploration (without any necessary additional public input) damage to the area is juxtaposed to the value that being out in nature provides the residents of this state.

 Although this initial leasing does not necessarily include exploration – it could down the road without any additional input from the residents of this area. Exploration can involve using Forest access roads which have not typically been designed to be used by pickup trucks, but could be used for this purpose. Heavy trucks would be allowed to use local roads without any additional revenue to the township to maintain these roads.

 It does not seem reasonable for the DNR to raise money for the state at the expense of the residents of the Cloquet Valley State Forest without any additional compensation and consideration for these residents.


LeaRae Keyes

Public input will be accepted from June 22, 2015 through August 21, 2015.
By US Mail: Minnesota DNR
Division of Lands and Minerals
Attention: Metallic Minerals Lease Sale
500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155-4045
By Email:
Subject: Metallic Minerals Lease Sale
Please copy your comments to the Governor and the other members of the Executive Committee comprised the Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State and State Auditor and Attorney General, the leasing decision is in their hands . 

Office of the Governor & Lt Governor
116 Veterans Service Building
20 W 12th Street
St. Paul, MN 55155
Contact Form :
Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson 1400 Bremer Tower 445 Minnesota Street St. Paul, MN 55101
Rebecca Otto Office of the State Auditor
525 Park Street - Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103
Office of the Secretary of State Administration
180 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, MN 55155-1299

Valuation research has recently been completed inclusive of this area that can be found here : FDL Earth Economics, St. Louis River Project

Protect what you love.  Speak out for the entire Arrowhead Region.
State mineral leasing would give mining companies the power to condemn surface lands owned by private landowners, whether or not they want to sell to mining companies.  After leasing the state has made in effect a promise to support mineral exploration on the lands, and it is the legal duty of the EPA and DNR to facilitate corporations meeting the legal requirements to obtain permits to mine.   The surface owner’s rights are in most regards subservient to the mineral rights.   Leasing is the point at which the balance strongly shifts from surface to mineral estate.  Property values are degraded by large heavy industry nearby.   There is less of a market for a home or cabin that may have to move or that may be next to loud, dirty industry.   Where leasing is proposed elsewhere significant concern has been raised. Mining companies are paying attention to where it will be “easy” to get a foothold. Landowners fight leasing While other areas are raising millions and seeking help from Congress to protect their treasured portions of the Arrowhead, its important to let mining companies know that the people here care about the region also.

Exploratory drilling for copper, nickel, palladium, titanium and other minerals creates noise and both air and water pollution.  The Duluth Complex lands are sulfide bearing lands, mining here is even riskier than that done on “the range” where mines leak toxins right now.  The sulfide, when exposed to air and water turns into sulfuric acid (acid mine drainage) and such drainage can impact surface and ground water.  There is debate about the amount of sulfide, about the amount and duration of impact of exploration and of mining on surrounding waters, but without a doubt, this type of mining is the most polluting industry in the United States. MIT Reference    

This mineral leasing would open up huge areas of the watersheds of the Cloquet River and St. Louis River, Lake Superior, Rainy River inclusive of the Boundary Waters and Mississippi River to potential sulfide mining, mining in our sulfide bearing lands.   Much of the land in the CVSF is state owned, county managed land, with significant portions “School Trust” lands, which are far less protected than lands in the National Forest or Boundary Waters.  In recent years protections have been removed from our state lands by legislators.  There are already plans being put forth by mining companies indicating they will transport waste south of the Laurentian Divide to appease those who see some areas and waters as more valuable. 

Mining in our region would impact people separated from financial benefit by both time and distance.   Mines in sulfide bearing lands leach toxic waste for hundreds of years, the waste accumulates in fish and other animals, wild rice growth is impeded.

The value of the watershed is being explored.   A recent economic ecosystem report has been done, that can be found here : Earth Economics, St. Louis River Project

From the report:

"Natural capital is an essential asset to both economic development and quality of life (Liu et al., 2010). Trees and freshwater streams are examples of natural capital that are produced by ecosystems, or biological communities interacting with their physical environment. In turn, natural capital produces an abundance of goods and services that everyone uses. Historically, ecosystem services have been either not valued or greatly discounted in economic analyses, leading to a misconception of their fundamental role in our economy (Daly and Farley, 2004). We may receive these ecosystem services for free from the environment, but they are worth far more than that.
Quantifying the value of ecosystem services allows the value of natural capital to be included in economic tools, which enables us to make wiser public and private decisions. The benefits of ecosystem services are similar to the economic benefits typically valued in the economy, such as the services and outputs of skilled workers, buildings, and infrastructure. Some ecosystem goods and services can be valued similarly through marketplaces, such as fish, wild rice, and clean water. However, many ecosystem services are not amenable to marketplaces valuation, even though they provide vast economic value. For example, when the flood protection services of a watershed are lost, economic damages include job losses, infrastructure repairs, reconstruction costs, restoration costs, property damage, and death. Conversely, when investments are made to protect and support these services, local economies are more stable and less prone to the sudden need for burdensome expenditures on disaster mitigation efforts. In addition to the economic value associated with these avoided costs, healthy watersheds provide myriad other services including water supply, carbon sequestration, water filtration, and biodiversity. All of these services provide economic value regionally and beyond.
This report is a valuation of the economic benefits of ecosystem goods and services provided by the St. Louis River watershed. The St. Louis River flows for almost 200 miles and drains an area of about 2.4 million acres in northeastern Minnesota and a small portion of Wisconsin. The watershed encompasses vast spans of forest, wetlands, lakes, rivers, grasslands, and shrubland. One important natural resource produced by the watershed is wild rice. Wild rice is used for food by people and animals. In addition, wild rice provides habitat services to wildlife, and the vegetation removes carbon from the atmosphere.
Less tangible, but vitally important to people, are cultural services. Traditions are embedded in ecosystems, from subsistence harvesting of materials to sacred sites that have spiritual and artistic meaning. For example, wild rice has important cultural ties to local heritage and traditions, spiritual fulfillment, and more. Culturally important ecosystem services often cannot be measured in pounds, gallons, acres, or kilowatts. However, the ability to identify cultural value along with the value of other ecosystem services enables a more complete understanding of the intangible benefits and long-term consequences of public policy decisions affecting the watershed’s natural assets.
If the lands and waters of the watershed are conserved and protected, the benefits described here will continue to provide important inputs to society and the regional economy.
Using the Benefit Transfer Method,i we estimated the dollar value of ecosystem services provided by the thirteen ecosystems in the St. Louis River watershed. Data from previously published studies were used, which valued ecosystem services based on market pricing, cost avoidance, replacement cost, travel cost, hedonic values, and contingent valuation. These methods have been broadly used to monetize things like the relationship between proximity to natural areas and increased property values, people’s willingness to pay for outdoor recreation, and the value of water quality improvements provided by wetlands."


We at Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forest urge you to read the full report. It is exciting, empowering and worthy of your attention. Get the report here



The St. Louis River

A forum regarding the St. Louis River was held last fall. Video of that forum is here:

Video : Citizen's Forum on Mercury in the St. Louis River

David Bowman has done amazing photographic work on the St. Louis River and the threat it facess

Check out his work here :

His St. Louis River Project is here : St Louis River and the Freshwater Sea

The Cloquet River flows into the St. Louis River, and its headwaters are part of the headwaters of the St. Louis River. The St. Louis River

Wild Ricing

Wild Rice :

The essence of what's proposed is that the MPCA has decided each body of wild rice water needs to be assessed separately. They assert "Some variables, especially iron and organic carbon in the sediment, affect the amount of sulfide produced from sulfate. So while sulfate may negatively affect wild rice, no single level of sulfate can be protective of wild rice in all water bodies. Sulfate is converted to sulfide in each water body differently depending on the concentrations of iron and organic carbon."

They've come up with an equation to figure out how much sulfide should be allowed in each water body. "An equation that accounts for the iron and organic carbon variability in sediment among water bodies can calculate a protective sulfate concentration for a water body that allows wild rice growth and self-perpetuation. The equation to calculate the proper sulfate concentration:
Sulfate = 0.0000136 x Organic Carbon-1.410 x Iron1.956"

They assert that " Wild rice waters: The standard will apply in lakes, streams, and wetlands that are wild rice waters. MPCA has compiled a draft list of wild rice waters, along with a process to add waters to the list over time. The agency proposes that a sulfate standard is not needed to protect commercial rice paddies."

Problems that have been pointed out are that there is scant or no peer reviewed research that backs up the assertions, that the time till planned implementation leaves the waters unprotected and mines not held accountable, that water flows and as such what impacts one area in one way will impact another area differently.

There seems to be little doubt that there is inordinate pressure on the agency to make it possible for the mining companies to do what they want to. The regulations seem as if they will be very difficult to enforce.


Governor Dayton on the Proposal

Aaron Brown on the MPCA Proposal

Wild Rice Draft Plan Summary

Wild Rice Draft Plan (detailed) from MPCA Released

Duluth Reader Iron not a Panacea

Great Lakes Mining Pollution cost to society

MPCA Press Release

Excel List of Wild Rice Waters





Sign the Petition to stop mining leasing in the Duluth Complex until the risk to the safety of the ecosystem, water, lands, plants and animals of Northeastern Minnesota is significantly reduced.



Other sources of solid information about protecting the Arrowhead from mining pollution

SOS Blue Waters

Save Lake Superior

Friends of the Boundary Waters

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

Voyageurs Natioal Park Association




Letter to Governor Mark Dayton from Minnesota Environmental Parnership

August 5th, 2015
Governor Mark Dayton
116 Veterans Service Building
20 W 12th Street
St. Paul, MN 55155
Governor Dayton:
One year ago on August 4, 2014, a tailings dam burst at the Mount Polley copper-gold sulfide mine in British Columbia, releasing over six billion gallons of mine waste and polluted water into pristine lakes and rivers in the headwaters of the Fraser River system. This has been called the “worst mine disaster in Canadian history.”
It is time now for Minnesota, under your leadership, to ensure the proposed PolyMet sulfide mine doesn’t result in a similar disaster in Minnesota.
In the aftermath of the Mount Polley disaster, the British Columbia government created an independent expert review panel to investigate the causes of the dam collapse and make recommendations to prevent future dam failures. The Mount Polley Independent Review Panel report concluded the dam failure resulted from the tailings facility design. The panel recommended the use of best available technology for new mines, namely “filtered, unsaturated, compacted tailings and reduction in the use of water covers.” The panel concluded there were no overriding technical barriers to end the practice of storing mine waste mixed with huge quantities of water.
The Mount Polley Independent Review Panel’s recommendations should have been a wake-up call for Minnesota. Instead, it seems that Minnesota hit the snooze button. The preliminary version of the PolyMet final environmental impact statement (PFEIS) doesn’t even consider the alternative of best available dry storage technology or of disposing tailings in another location, rather than on top of the old LTV tailings heap, with its unstable footing of streams, wetlands and mining slimes.
Minnesota waste spills and near misses at taconite mines demonstrate the risk of a tailings dam failure in Minnesota is very real. Between April 2013 and May 2014, 850,000 gallons of mine waste spilled at ArcelorMittal’s Minorca mine in three separate incidents. In June 2015, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) fined ArcelorMittal for inadequate inspection of the tailings basin and failure to timely report two of the incidents.
In February 2012, a thousand foot long crack developed suddenly in the Hibbing Taconite tailings dam, requiring emergency action to shore up the dam. While no mine waste was released in this incident, it demonstrates that a failure can be sudden and unexpected. In 2000, Northshore Mining Company was fined more than $250,000 for pollution resulting from an unreported tailings pipeline break, in addition to $240,000 in costs to remediate the spill.
Many people in Northern Minnesota remember the sudden liquification and collapse of the LTV coal ash heap at Taconite Harbor in 1993. In order to reduce polluted runoff affecting Lake Superior, LTV opted to construct a containment and recirculation system, capturing polluted discharge and pumping it back into the ash heap. When this heap became saturated, it liquefied and a mixture of ash and water flowed downhill. A court held that recirculation of water through an unstable waste heap was sufficient evidence to find that LTV had been “willfully reckless.”
When a tailings waste dam fails, it can spread pollution miles downstream. An April 2013 simulation of a PolyMet tailings dam breach showed over 25 structures downstream could be inundated within hours of a dam failure.
Our organizations and thousands of Minnesota citizens have asked you and the
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) to implement the Mount Polley Independent Review Panel’s recommendations to protect Minnesota from a similar disaster. To date, we have seen no action to implement them.
Now, on the anniversary of the Mount Polley tailings dam failure, we ask you again to take the following simple steps to protect Minnesota waters:
• Direct the MDNR to conduct a thorough and independent analysis of the alternative of applying best available dry storage technology to store tailings for the proposed PolyMet mine; and
• Direct the MDNR to conduct a thorough and independent analysis of an alternative location or locations for storage of tailings for the proposed PolyMet mine that does not place sulfide mine wastes on top of the unstable footing of the LTV tailings piles.
Thank you for taking these important steps to protect Minnesota and to prevent a catastrophe like the Mount Polley tailings failure from contaminating our precious clean water.
Steve Morse, Executive Director
Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Conservation Minnesota
Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness
Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forest
Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Protect Our Manoomin*
Save Lake Superior Association
Sierra Club North Star Chapter
Save Our Sky Blue Waters
 Not a member of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership
cc: Commissioner Tom Landwehr, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Commissioner John Linc Stine, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Jaime Tincher, Chief of Staff, Governor Mark Dayton
Joanna Dornfeld, Assistant Chief of Staff, Governor Mark Dayton
Molly Schultz Pederson, Senior Policy Advisor, Governor Mark Dayton








August 6, 2015 ANOTHER SPILL!

Even the best and brightest of our nation's professionals cannot safely contain the filth that comes from sulfide mining.

"A spill that sent 1 million gallons of wastewater from an abandoned mine into the Animas River, turning the river orange, set off warnings Thursday that contaminants threaten water quality for those downstream."

The abandoned mine was under repair, the mine owners had abandoned it and left it as our nation's responsibility. Even our best workers at the EPA couldn't control the hazardous waste. Some things cannot be done safely.

A letter from Congressman Raul Grijalva

The General Mining Law of 1872 is among the last surviving statutes of the boisterous era of westward expansion. Signed by Ulysses S. Grant, it establishes the basic rules for mining hard-rock minerals like gold, copper and uranium on public lands.

Useful in its day, the law is a destructive relic now. It allows mining companies to buy federal land for a few dollars an acre, demands no royalties and requires minimal environmental protections while the mine is operating and no cleanup afterward.

Its principal legacy, if it can be called that, is a battered landscape of abandoned mines and poisoned streams.

The durability of this law, which has resisted all efforts at reform, is worth noting in the wake of a terrible mining-related disaster. On Aug. 5, a team contracted by the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate leaks from an abandoned gold mine in Colorado accidentally unleashed a torrent of chemically laced water. The spill of more than three million gallons has poisoned over 100 miles of the Animas River with toxic wastes, turning the river a bright yellow-orange and threatening communities in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and the Navajo Nation that draw water from the river and its tributaries.

But beyond this local disaster lies a national problem: According to Earthworks, a Washington-based advocacy group, there are 500,000 of these abandoned and unreclaimed mines scattered about the country. According to the E.P.A., the drainage from these mines has contaminated roughly 40 percent of the headwater areas of Western watersheds.

In other words, there are many similar disasters waiting to happen. One big reason is the permissive 1872 law: There has never been a firm legal requirement, let alone enough money, to clean these old mines up. One obvious remedy is comprehensive reform of that law.

In 2007, at the urging of then-Representative Nick Rahall of West Virginia, the House passed a modest bill requiring mining companies to pay royalties, just the way oil, gas and coal producers do. The money would have been used to clean up old mines, while tough safeguards would be imposed on new ones. But a similar bill went nowhere in the Senate, where Harry Reid, then the majority leader, has been less than enthusiastic about reform because mining is big business in Nevada, his home state.

Now Representative Raúl Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat, is trying again. His bill would levy royalties on both new and existing mines as well as a modest reclamation fee. Together these funds could at least begin the arduous, expensive but absolutely necessary task of addressing a major environmental problem.

Perhaps this time, with the Animas disaster fresh in its mind, Congress will pay attention.

A version of this editorial appears in print on August 13, 2015, on page A20 of the New York edition with the headline: What the Gold Mine Disaster Tells Us. Today's Paper|Subscribe

Polymet and the Headwaters - an exchange that abandon's protection in trade for private corporate profit.

Why did Polymet seek to have the surface property deed changed in ownership? Why does it matter who owns the land? Polymet plans to destroy the surface property, they demanded that right from the Forest Service and will go to court to get it. The Forest Service says its not able to fight this and will do an exchange so that our nation, which bought the land to protect our headwaters, will no longer own the land, thereby making the mine's huge hole, pits and piles possible. Permanent scars, permanent risk to the public , private gain and some fancy stories about what we get out of it. Its bullpucky on a grand scale. Read more



The lands, lakes rivers and streams of Northern Minnesota which lay north of Duluth in the Clouqet Valley Sate Forest and in the Arrowhead are home to many people, plants and animals and serve the world in many ways. Exploring, protecting and learning about the Cloquet Valley State Forest and the Arrowhead is a wonderful pursuit. We hope you enjoy it.


MN Eco library

FriendsCVSF Video Links

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Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forest



"That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics.”Aldo Leopold



















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