Opposition to logging and mining undermine northern Minnesota’s economy and global environment

Rep. Tom Emmer is stepping up efforts to stop an 11th hour action by the Obama administration to severely curtail mining in northern Minnesota.  He outlined what’s at stake for Minnesota’s economy in an op-ed in yesterday’s Star Tribune.

Coincidently, the newspaper ran a separate story reporting on opposition to a proposed timber harvest proposed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in the same northern Minnesota neighborhood where the Obama administration set out to stop mining.

Both issues pit those who would prefer leaving Minnesota’s north woods untouched—and, by the way, unmanaged—against those who believe extracting those natural resources can strengthen the state’s economy without sacrificing the environment every Minnesotan prizes.

We know where the majority of the area residents side.  President Trump handily won each of the congressional districts covering northern Minnesota, winning the Eighth by over 15 points and the Seventh by over 30 points.  Obviously, Trump voters support the responsible development of the state’s resources.

In the case of logging, the Dayton administration has taken the side of the Trump voters, which demonstrates just how radical the “leave the forests untouched” crowd must be.

Not only is their position radical, but it can be dangerous to the environment.  Where environmentalists have successfully halted logging in America, forests have too often been left to overgrow into a tinder box, resulting in dangerous wild fires.  These wild fires don’t just pose risks to life and property.  Small-scale fires are natural part of maintaining a healthy forest, but larger fires caused by poor management can burn so hot that they damage the forest.

As the Star Tribune reports, foresters agree that forests need to be thinned without smaller scale naturally occurring wild fires—the type of fires that used to renew forests before Minnesotans started building cabins everywhere.

Yes, there’s reasonable room to argue over how much thinning is necessary.  But too often, commonsense fails to win the day.  Some might recall how logging downed trees was restricted in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness after straight line winds flattened hundreds of acres. The blow down then resulted in the largest forest fire—the 2011 Pagami Creek Fire—in state history.  Despite ongoing efforts to manage the risk through prescribed burns and logging outside the BWCA, the fire danger remains nearly twenty years later.

On mining, the Dayton administration does not side with the voters of the region.  Last year Dayton stated he would not allowing mining on certain state lands near the BWCAW.

Taking this stand, Dayton sides with the extremist.  And even this stand, like the extremist position against thinning forests, poses its own risk to the environment.

If there’s no mining in Minnesota, there will be mining somewhere else that’s likely far less protective of the environment and, therefore, poses far more risk to the global environment.

The fact is, the metals locked in northern Minnesota will need to be mined somewhere in the world to meet consumer demands for cell phones and solar panels.  Considering the exhaustively thorough environmental review and oversight required to develop a mine in northern Minnesota, there’s probably no safer place in the world to mine.  Opponents to mining in Minnesota would rather that folks across the globe without our laws guaranteeing a high level of safety are exposed to more risk.

Rep. Emmer’s column outlined the multiple layers of regulatory procedures already in place to assure safe mining.  But these procedures have been thrown out by Obama and Dayton, and with it the possibility of proving that mining can safely promote thousands of high paying jobs for communities in northern Minnesota.

We live in a country of laws, or at least that’s what we’re taught in school.  On mining, Obama and Dayton decided they were the law of land and stopped the ongoing regulatory process set in federal and state law that would have determined whether these northern Minnesota areas could be mined safely.

Middle-class Americans who depend on these types of jobs took notice and elected President Trump in 2016.

What a difference an election makes.  When all seemed lost, the people of northern Minnesota, with the help of Rep. Emmer and President Trump and others, can be confident they now have a fair shot at good jobs coming back to the region.  At least, until the next election.