I hope that District 3A Rep. Rob Ecklund will visit Ely, Birch Lake, and the South Kawishiwi in the near future. If he will do that and will talk with homeowners, business owners, and others who have invested their time, labor, and money—in some cases, their life savings—in this community, he may not be so quick to parrot the Range Delegation party line opposing the widespread movement to ban sulfide-ore mining in the Boundary Waters watershed.
The March 18 Timberjay reported that Rep. Ecklund said this in response to Gov. Dayton’s refusal to permit Twin Metals to have access to state lands for work to advance sulfide-ore mining activities: “I’m deeply disappointed. We have processes in place and we need to follow those. To just make an executive decision isn’t right.”
That statement is nonsense. Following the processes in place is exactly what the Governor did when he denied access. Twin Metals has no legal right of access to the lands it sought to enter, and the law is clear that the state has no obligation to grant easements. Further, Gov. Dayton’s letter specifically states that he recognizes that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is in the process of determining whether to renew expired federal mineral leases at the request of Twin Metals. The BLM is assuredly following a process for review of those applications, as set forth in the National Environmental Policy Act.
The real motive for the criticism of the Governor is not that he violated some process. It’s that he had the good judgment to state publicly that he recognizes that allowing sulfide-ore mining in the Boundary Waters watershed would be disastrous for Minnesota and the nation.
I do not think that Rep. Ecklund makes nonsensical statements as a routine matter. I think that he made the statement above because that’s the kind of thing it takes to stay in the good graces of the Range Delegation. I hope that Rep. Ecklund will learn more and rise above the dictates of that tired and hidebound lot.
I first met Rob Ecklund about a year ago at the International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Forum in International Falls. At that time, as a Koochiching County Commissioner, he seemed genuinely concerned about the threat that sulfide-ore mining poses to the border country and its waters. On Oct. 2, 2015, after he won the DFL primary to replace the late David Dill, I sent Rep. Ecklund an e-mail inviting him to visit Ely to meet property owners and people who had built sustainable businesses based on our spectacular natural environment. I sent him follow-up emails on Oct. 21, Nov. 6, and Nov. 16, 2015. Rep. Ecklund always replied, and he always had an excuse for not scheduling a visit. In my Nov. 16 e-mail, I told him once again that I was looking forward to his letting us know when he could visit; he responded “Sounds good, we will be in touch.” Four months later, he has not been in touch.
On Tuesday, March 1, DFL caucuses in Ely, Grand Marais, Tofte, Tower, the Gunflint Trail, Morse, Eagle’s Nest, Stony River, and Fall Lake passed, by overwhelming margins, resolutions supporting the withdrawal of all federal lands in the Rainy River Drainage Basin from sulfide-ore copper mining. I intend to send a copy of this letter to Rep. Ecklund and repeat, again, my invitation to come to Ely to see what a sustainable economy and a vibrant community look like.
Morse Twp., Minn.