More Mineral Exploration in the Upper Peninsula

Mineral Exploration in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Save the Wild UP–an environmental group organizing opposition to a proposed sulfide mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula–is reporting that Kennecott Minerals (who is pursuing the sulfide mine) and another company, Trans Superior Resources, are currently looking for uranium and metallic minerals in the Ottawa National Forest.

Save the Wild UP writes:

“Kennecott is pursuing three separate project areas located within the Ottawa. According to a Forest Service scoping letter, the company is looking for “all base and precious metals and other precious and semi-precious minerals”. The 640-acre “Watersmeet” parcel is located roughly four miles southeast of Watersmeet; the 200-acre “Haight” parcel is located roughly 8 miles northwest of Watersmeet; and the 395-acre “Bates” parcel is located on Perch Lake, roughly 20 miles north of the town of Iron River.

Trans Superior is also pursuing three parcels, totaling 920 acres in an attempt to locate “nickel, copper, cobalt, platinum, palladium and associated minerals.” All are located just east of Prickett Lake and roughly 8 miles southwest of the town of Baraga. The company had previously obtained federal uranium prospecting permits from the Ottawa for exploration activities adjacent to the Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness as well as for locations east and northeast of Lake Gogebic. The new Prickett Lake projects are immediately to the northeast of the Sturgeon Wilderness.”

Both companies have been heavily involved in mining projects in the Upper Peninsula. Trans Superior’s parent company, Bitterroot Resources, has a joint venture agreement with the uranium mining company Cameco.

Public comment is currently being accepted and will be accepted indefinitely during the current “scoping” period. Once the forest service completes an environmental assessment for the projects, there will be another 30-day comment period.

Senate Bill would Protect 11,739 Acres of Michigan Wilderness


A Senate bill that will likely be considered later this week will protect 11,739 acres of wilderness in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The land–located in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore–is part of the park’s Beaver Basin Wilderness. Congressional designation of the area as a wilderness was one part of a 2004 general management plan for the park, but it was stalled during the Bush years.

The measure was introduced in the Senate by Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow and is being attached to a larger land bill that seeks the largest expansion of wilderness protection in 25 years. Overall, the package of 160 bills being considered by the Senate will expand protections over 2 million acres of wilderness.

Senate Democrats say that the combined bill only includes measures that had previously gained bipartisan support but that were stalled by the Republican controlled Senate. Republicans have criticized Democrats for refusing to allow amendments on the measure.

Southeast Michigan Suffers from Decrease in Green Infrastructure

A new study by American Forests has found that Southeast Michigan—defined as Wayne, Macomb, Monroe, Washtenaw, Jackson, Ingham, Livingston, Genesee, and Oakland counties—has suffered from a net decline in green infrastructure from 1991 to 2002. During that period, open space in the nine counties declined by 10% while urban areas increased by 21% during that time. Tree cover, which is directly tied to environmental quality as it can help reduce the need for expensive infrastructures to manage air and water resources, increased by just 2% in the region while tree canopies in the watersheds of important area rivers decreased. All counties in the study, with the exception of Livingston, lost a significant amount of open space.

The study further documents that from 1990 to 2000 land in Southeast Michigan developed three times faster than population increased, with tree cover in three watersheds—Ecorse, St. Claire, and Rogue—declining significantly between 1991 and 2002. As a result, storm water runoff has increased while air and water quality has decreased. It is estimated that the costs of addressing just problems with the regions sewer system to better handle storm water and sewage will cost the region $14 to $26 billion over the next 30 years. As development has moved from the city of Detroit to surrounding suburbs, 4,600 acres (66,000 lots) of previously-developed land is now vacant within the city of Detroit.

Forest Sale Proposal includes Land in Michigan

The Bush administration is proposing selling 5,580 acres of National Forest land in Michigan as part of its FY 2007 budget. According to the Bush administration, the sale is needed to fund rural schools across the United States.

In President George W. Bush’s Fiscal Year 2007 budget, unveiled last month, the Bush administration proposed selling some 300,000 acres of National Forest land in order to offset the cost of the Secure Rural Schools Act of 2000. The land being sold consists of what the Bush administration is “isolated parcels” that are located on the boundaries of National Forests or in areas that are difficult to access and therefore are costly to manage. The proposal has drawn widespread opposition from environmentalists, conservationists, and legislators across the United States, especially in areas where the sale of large amounts of land has been proposed.

Of the 300,000 acres that have been proposed for sale, 5,580 are in Michigan, with 3,620 acres in Hiawatha National Forest (map) and 2,260 acres in Ottawa National Forest (map), both of which are located in the state’s Upper Peninsula. While the plan has been touted as a way to guarantee funding for rural school districts located in remote areas like the Upper Peninsula, advocacy organizations working on rural education are questioning the efficacy of the plan, citing concerns that the sale of the land will create a one-time influx of cash to fund the federal government’s commitment to rural school districts under the Secure Rural Schools Act. That law, passed by the federal legislature in 2000, has paid some $1.6 billion to rural counties and school districts as part of a 1908 statue requiring the federal government to give 25% of revenue from federal sales of timber and 50% of revenue from mineral sales to states in order to help the states maintain schools and roads. While the Secure Rural Schools Act was passed as a way of stabilizing these payments, the one-time influx of cash and the extension of the Act as proposed in Bush’s FY 2007 budget will do little to stabilize funding over the long-term. According to the Forest Service, the sale would simply provide a “short term safety net” that will be “adjusted downward overtime and eventually phased out.” Moreover, according to a recent analysis of the plan, a disproportionate amount of land will be sold in the South and Midwest while the money earned will go into a general fund, the majority of which goes to Western states. This year, Michigan received only $781,947 from the Secure Rural Schools Act.

The proposal is part of a series of Bush administration changes in forest policy that promote private ownership of forest land and the transfer of publicly owned land and resources into the hands of private corporations. Over the past six years, these changes have included proposals to sell public lands, eliminate road-less areas, and weaken Forest Service planning processes. Unlike other forest policy changes, the sale of National Forest land must approved by Congress and the President and take place under the Forest Service’s disposal guidelines.

The Forest Service is allowing public comment on the sale until March 30, 2006. Comments can be emailed to or faxed to 202-205-1604. The Wilderness Society also has an online action form that can be used to send a letter to your Congressional representatives.