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Lake Superior’s History Offers Learning Opportunity For Future Conservation Efforts

Nov 09, 2017 07:36AM ● Published by Editor

Author Explores Lake Superior’s Past Environmental Destructions And Revivals

By Colleen Leahy - Wisconsin Public Radio -  Monday, November 6, 2017

In 2011, the mining company Gogebic Taconite, GTAC, announced plans to develop a low-grade iron ore deposit mine on the Wisconsin-Michigan border, just downstream from the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribe’s reservation and rice beds.

It would would have been the largest open-pit iron ore mine in the world. But it was never built, in part because a coalition of tribal leaders, environmental groups and concerned citizens stopped it.

Environmental historian Nancy Langston says that that event mirrors the Lake Superior region’s history of environmental activism, and that if the region is going to survive and thrive in the future, it should look to the past as a guide.

Langston’s new book, "Sustaining Lake Superior: An Extraordinary Lake in a Changing World," explores the environmental and social history of the Lake Superior region and what that history can teach those fighting for the region’s conservation today.

"So many people look at Lake Superior right now — we have wolves and moose and all sorts of extraordinary birds, and some of the biggest lake trout in the world — and people think we have this incredible abundance because it’s pristine," Langston told WPR. "(But) this was a lake at a tipping point a century ago, and communities came together (to save it). The tribes worked with states, worked with local grassroots groups, and they said, 'We don’t want to collapse. We want a sustainable future,'" she said.   

One facet of that tipping point was the region’s forests.


A steam-powered logging sled pulls logs through snowy woods of northern Wisconsin. Photograph by E.A. Hadley, circa 1910. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (CC BY-ND)

About a century ago, in the span of about 15 years, nearly all the white pine and timber on the south shores of Lake Superior were gone, harvested for the state's flourishing logging industry, Langston said.

"And people stood up and looked around them and said, ‘What have we done?’" said Langston.

Foresters in the region recognized the devastating impact of deforestation on watersheds and the human communities surrounding them and began looking into ways to reverse that environmental degradation, Langston said. Since that realization, almost 80 percent of the watershed has been reforested. 

"The intense logging around Lake Superior really motivated an American conservation movement," Langston said.

Similarly, the coalition that worked to stop GTAC’s mine in 2011 were informed and motivated by a long history of mining in the Lake Superior region, Langston said.

By the mid-19th century, the Lake Superior region was the world’s largest iron-producing district, she said. When high-grade iron ore was depleted during World War II, the state of Minnesota developed a low-grade iron ore called taconite. Taconite was a boon for Minnesota's economy, but its production created large amounts of very fine ground waste pollution — something the Lake Superior region is still dealing with today, Langston said.

People tend to think of the Lake Superior region as immune to environmental destruction because it’s hinterland, cold backcountry that’s largely removed from industrial civilization, Langston said. But she cautions against that logic and encourages readers to think globally. Pollutants from as far away as Asia make their way through the atmosphere until they reach colder climates like Superior, she said.

Threats facing the region today include a large hog operation that Langston says would not be required to treat the water contaminated by its animals’ waste.

But Langston takes comfort in the region’s history of conservation and in regional efforts like the Great Lakes Compact.

"We can learn from other regions, learn from our own history and come up with a more sustainable future," she said.

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  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/01/2017
    12:00PM — 12:55PM

    Polish Sausage/ Sauerkraut/ Potato/Dessert/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/01/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/02/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/02/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Trails Final Check

    12/02/2017
    09:00AM — 02:00PM

    We welcome you to join us at 9 a.m. at the Groomer building on Caribou Trail to do the final trai...


  • Annual 20% off Customer Appreciation Sale

    12/02/2017
    09:00AM — 05:00PM

    Come in to Lake Superior Trading Post and save 20% off on all merchandise in stock, this includes...


  • Northwoods Fiber Guild Annual Holiday Sale will be on Saturday, December 2nd from 9:00am-2:00pm. ...


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/02/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/02/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/03/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/03/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Holiday Movies in the Brewery

    12/03/2017
    12:30PM — 02:00PM

    Are you craving some beer with your holiday cheer? We will see you at Voyageur Brewing Company on...


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/03/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    12/03/2017
    06:30PM — 07:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/04/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/04/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/04/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Chicken Stew with Dumplings/Brussels Sprouts/Fruit/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/04/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • 1/2 Price Burger Night

    12/04/2017
    04:00PM — 08:00AM

    1/2 Price Burgers at Moguls Grille and Tap Room


  • Co-Dependents Anonymous

    12/04/2017
    05:30PM

    Co-Dependents Anonymous is a Fellowship of men and women whose common purpose is to develop healt...


  • Open Mic Every Monday at 6PM!

    12/04/2017
    06:00PM — 11:55PM

    Grand Marais Music Collaborative presents "Open Mic Night", every Monday at Grandma Ray's! The s...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/04/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/05/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/05/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Overeaters Anonymous

    12/05/2017
    11:00AM

    Overeaters Anonymous is a fellowship of individuals who, through shared experience, strength and...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/05/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Tuna Hotdish/Salad/Fruit/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/05/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Kids Eat Free

    12/05/2017
    04:00PM — 09:00PM

    1 free kids meal with any paid adult meal Available after 4pm


  • Trivia Night at Grandma Ray's

    12/05/2017
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    Trivia Night from 7:00-9:00pm every Tuesday down at Grandma Ray's.


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/06/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/06/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Anxiety/Depression Support Group for Women

    12/06/2017
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Weekly support group for women. $2.00 suggested donation. No registration required. Please joi...


  • 1/2 Price Bottles of Wine

    12/06/2017
    11:00AM

    1/2 Price Bottles of Wine


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/06/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Meatloaf/Baked Potato/Beets/Dessert/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/06/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Craft and a Craft Market

    12/06/2017
    04:30PM — 06:30PM

    Voyageur Brewing is proud to host weekly craft markets until Christmas with local Cook County art...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/06/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/07/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/07/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/07/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Linda Johnson's Treat!!!


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/07/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Light Up a Life

    12/07/2017
    05:30PM — 06:30PM

    The 9th Annual “Light up a Life” offers community members the opportunity to celebrate the life o...


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    12/07/2017
    06:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/07/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/08/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/08/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Caregiver Coffee - Tofte

    12/08/2017
    10:00AM — 11:30AM

    Caregiver Coffee Join us to get to know other caregivers in a casual setting. Take part in a d...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/08/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Beef Stew/Salad/Biscuit/Dessert/Milk


  • Legends of the Wilderness

    12/08/2017
    01:30PM — 02:30PM

    Experience the wilderness through reenactment of the 1800s with French Canadian Voyageur Jacques ...


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/08/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/09/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/09/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/09/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • In the spirit of gratitude, pride, and recognition of the community that has valued and fostered ...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/09/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/10/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/10/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Holiday Movies in the Brewery

    12/10/2017
    12:30PM — 02:00PM

    Are you craving some beer with your holiday cheer? We will see you at Voyageur Brewing Company on...


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/10/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    12/10/2017
    06:30PM — 07:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/11/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/11/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/11/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Boiled Dinner/Biscuit/Fruit/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/11/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • 1/2 Price Burger Night

    12/11/2017
    04:00PM — 08:00AM

    1/2 Price Burgers at Moguls Grille and Tap Room


  • Co-Dependents Anonymous

    12/11/2017
    05:30PM

    Co-Dependents Anonymous is a Fellowship of men and women whose common purpose is to develop healt...


  • Open Mic Every Monday at 6PM!

    12/11/2017
    06:00PM — 11:55PM

    Grand Marais Music Collaborative presents "Open Mic Night", every Monday at Grandma Ray's! The s...


  • Over 75 talented Cook County singers and musicians in the Borealis Chorale & Orchestra continue t...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/11/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/12/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/12/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Overeaters Anonymous

    12/12/2017
    11:00AM

    Overeaters Anonymous is a fellowship of individuals who, through shared experience, strength and...


  • Taco Tuesday Fundraiser Luncheon

    12/12/2017
    11:30AM — 01:30PM

    We are raising money for our dear friend & co-worker, Jennifer Rue, who is dealing with long term...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/12/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Sweet & Sour Pork/Broccoli/Rice/Dessert/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/12/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Kids Eat Free

    12/12/2017
    04:00PM — 09:00PM

    1 free kids meal with any paid adult meal Available after 4pm


  • Trivia Night at Grandma Ray's

    12/12/2017
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    Trivia Night from 7:00-9:00pm every Tuesday down at Grandma Ray's.


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/13/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/13/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Anxiety/Depression Support Group for Women

    12/13/2017
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Weekly support group for women. $2.00 suggested donation. No registration required. Please joi...


  • 1/2 Price Bottles of Wine

    12/13/2017
    11:00AM

    1/2 Price Bottles of Wine


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/13/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Fish/Baked Potato/Corn Pudding/Cake/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/13/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Craft and a Craft Market

    12/13/2017
    04:30PM — 06:30PM

    Voyageur Brewing is proud to host weekly craft markets until Christmas with local Cook County art...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/13/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/14/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/14/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/14/2017
    12:00PM — 12:40PM

    Swedish Meatballs/Potato/Green Bean/Dessert/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/14/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    12/14/2017
    06:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/14/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/15/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/15/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Caregiver Coffee - Grand Marais

    12/15/2017
    10:00AM — 11:30AM

    Caregiver Coffee Join us to get to know other caregivers in a casual setting. Take part in a d...


  • Caregiver Coffee

    12/15/2017
    10:00AM — 11:30AM

    Caregiver Coffee Join us to get to know other caregivers in a casual setting. Take part in a d...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/15/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Beef, Rice, Cabbage Hotdish/Bread Pudding/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/15/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here