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Hot Issues in the Upper Peninsula!

Some Hot Issues are discussed here in Jon Saari's op-eds that appeared in Marquette's Mining Journal and KeweenawNow and other publications; Jon is a retired NMU professor, also member and past president of UPEC and Board Member of Save the Wild UP; his articles are ordered by date, some of the articles below are written by others, but include quotes by Jon Saari.:

Click on the link to go to that article:

Democracy activist addresses road_controversy in Marquette County (Mine Haul Roads) March 8, 2012 By Jon Saari

Peshekee Road: A cautionary tale gives perspective  (Mine Haul Roads) January 23, 2011 -  By JON SAARI
More objections voiced to Kennecott_trucking_plan January 20, 2011 - By JOHN PEPIN Journal Staff Writer
Professors, knowledge and the politics_of_mining December 19, 2010 - Jon Saari
County Road 595_gets_OK October 19, 2010 - By JOHN PEPIN Journal Staff Writer
Upper_Peninsula: In praise of black flies, long winters September 12, 2010 - Jon Saari
Civil disobedience, ‘Yooper’_style has lengthy history June 13, 2010 - Jon Saari
Defining the value of environmental_advocacy  May 2, 2010 - Jon Saari
Planned Kennecott_highway is not a woodland road  February 7, 2010 - Jon Saari
Mining_ballot_initiative raises real, not disguised, issues  October 29, 2009 - By JON SAARI
Woodland_Road_opposed, Mine access route September 29, 2009 - By JOHANNA BOYLE Journal Ishpeming Bureau
UPEC honors charter_member_Bill_Robinson  March 29, 2009 - By CHRISTOPHER DIEM Journal Staff Writer
Event will highlight region’s natural beauty Celebrate_the_UP! Celebrate the UP!  March 27, 2009 - By JOHN PEPIN Journal Staff Writer
Beaver Basin included in wilderness_bill  November 10, 2008 - By NICO RUBELLO, Capital News Service

Democracy activist addresses road controversy in Marquette County, March 8, 2012

By Jon Saari, UPEC (Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition) Board Member
http://keweenawnow.blogspot.com/2012/03/democracy-activist-addresses-road.html


MARQUETTE -- Phil Bellfy is one savvy activist who is not afraid to take on City Hall. He’s done it in East Lansing for the past four and one-half years, largely on his own in the name of good government. His forthcoming book title says it all: How to Fight City Hall, and Win: One American Indian's Odyssey Through the World of Eminent Domain, Tax Fraud, Tax-Increment Financing, and High-Stakes Development.

It took Bellfy six hours to drive from Sault Ste. Marie to Marquette on a wintry day in late February. He had been invited by the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC) to talk about eminent domain, which has surfaced as an issue in a battle over a new proposed road in western Marquette County. This 22-mile road would link the Kennecott Eagle Mine with the Humboldt mill, but it is being touted less as a private haul road and more as a great public benefit.

The road would ostensibly provide a needed alternative to the present designated mine haul road, which runs eastward towards Big Bay and then south along CR 550, traveling near the population centers of Marquette, Negaunee, and Ishpeming before arriving at the mill. But opponents argue that the proposed CR 595 would change and endanger an undeveloped wild area that is the Headwaters Country for six Lake Superior streams, and that it is falsely being presented as a road with predominantly public benefits.

The Marquette County Road Commission filed the application for the new road (CR 595) in October, 2011, pressed by the County Commission, the City of Marquette, and most townships.

Despite the political push all the way to Lansing and Washington D.C., the Road Commission has declined to use one tool in its toolbox, the hammer of eminent domain (condemnation of private land), that would have allowed it to establish an alternative route through the Mulligan Plains.

 This map shows several alternatives being considered for the potential CR 595. The dotted line (running north-south near center of map) is the route through the Mulligan Plains, which includes private land protected by a conservation easement held by The Nature Conservancy. Click on map for larger version. (Photo of map by Keweenaw Now, reprinted with permission from Steve Casey, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, from his March 5, 2012, presentation at the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District meeting.)

To Bellfy, it is immaterial that the private land in question is protected by a conservation easement held by The Nature Conservancy, except that TNC is a powerful organization with deep pockets. The reason the Road Commission is hesitant, says Bellfy, may not be their respect for conservation values or environmental sensitivity, but the near certainty that they would lose the case in court.

Since a famous 2005 US Supreme Court case, in which Suzette Kelo, a small homeowner in New London, CT, lost her home to a private developer for the "public good" of a higher tax base, some 44 states have tightened up their standards for eminent domain. Michigan revised its Constitution in 2006 in a referendum supported by 80 percent of the voters.

A mere claim of "public use" is now insufficient in eminent domain cases; the condemning government body must prove in court that the preponderance of benefit accrues to the public.

It must also prove that the "public necessity" is of the "extreme sort, ... limited to those enterprises generating public benefits whose very existence depends on the use of land that can be assembled only by the coordination central government alone is capable of achieving." This quote is taken from the famous County of Wayne v. Hathcock case, decided by the Michigan Supreme Court in 2004. This quote from the Supreme Court decision is the language that eventually found its way into the Michigan Constitution via that 2006 referendum.

Public authorities have become wary of the high scrutiny that a court test of eminent domain now requires. Translated into the CR 595 case, the preponderance of use of this proposed road is for the private advantage and financial benefit of a multinational mining conglomerate, Rio Tinto, with a sideways nod to its public benefits for commerce, recreation, and emergency services. Alternative routes abound (including the already designated haul route), and the Road Commission would have a very hard time making the case in court that a "public necessity of the extreme sort" requires that this new road be built.

Bellfy says that flimsy cases are often created by public bodies collaborating with vested interests, whether it is the city of East Lansing working with a developer, or by extension the County of Marquette collaborating with a mining company. The best tools activists have are the Freedom on Information Act (FOIA) and the Open Meetings Act (OMA); the former reveals discussions and documents that are sometimes incriminating, and the latter sets standards -- that are often flaunted -- for conducting the government’s business in public.

Bellfy’s visit helped local activists understand that vigilance and complaints are not enough. Opponents need to go on the offensive, to request documents through FOIA, and use the OMA to challenge the actions of "public bodies" where the public’s business is really being conducted behind closed doors. And for that, activists also need friends who are lawyers conversant with the often intricate and hidden world of legalese and power.

Phil Bellfy’s analysis from inside the game of politics was an eye-opener to many in the audience who heard him that late evening in February. He illustrated how good-government activists have tools and opportunities to get in the game themselves. Many can’t wait to see his book in print.

Author's Note: Phil Bellfy is a White Earth Anishinaabe, active in the Great Lakes region as an educator, author, and professor. He commutes between his rural home near Sault Ste. Marie and work sites downstate. He will be returning to Marquette on March 31, 2012, to speak on indigenous environmental ethics at the UPEC-sponsored Celebration of the U.P.*

Return to the Top!
 

 

Peshekee_Road: A cautionary tale gives perspective  (Mine Haul Roads)

January 23, 2011

 

More objections voiced to Kennecott trucking plan

January 20, 2011 - By JOHN PEPIN Journal Staff Writer

 

Professors, knowledge and the politics of mining

December 19, 2010 - Jon Saari

 

County Road 595 gets OK

Raucous road commission session ends in vote to proceed with controversial development of Woodland Road alternative

October 19, 2010 - By JOHN PEPIN Journal Staff Writer

 

Upper Peninsula: In praise of black flies, long winters

September 12, 2010 - Jon Saari

 

Civil disobedience, ‘Yooper’ style has lengthy history

June 13, 2010 - Jon Saari

 

Defining the value of environmental advocacy

May 2, 2010 - Jon Saari

 

Planned Kennecott highway is not a woodland road

February 7, 2010 - Jon Saari

 

Mining ballot initiative raises real, not disguised, issues

October 29, 2009 - By JON SAARI

 

Woodland Road opposed

Mine access route plans rile some

September 29, 2009 - By JOHANNA BOYLE Journal Ishpeming Bureau

 

UPEC honors charter member Bill Robinson

March 29, 2009 - By CHRISTOPHER DIEM Journal Staff Writer

 

Event will highlight region’s natural beauty
Celebrate the UP !

March 27, 2009 - By JOHN PEPIN Journal Staff Writer

 

Beaver Basin included in wilderness bill

November 10, 2008 - By NICO RUBELLO, Capital News Service
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