Sled Dog Relay to Protect Clean Water Begins in Ely

By KBJR News 1

February 29, 2012 Updated Feb 29, 2012 at 10:49 PM CDT

ELY, MN (Northland's NewsCenter)---A group of protesters kicked off a dog sled relay trek in Ely to deliver hand written petitions to the state capitol.

They're concerned about the potential for acid drainage from sulfide mining getting into the water table on the Iron Range.

Mushers and their sled dog teams will travel more than 300 miles to deliver a message and make a big statement.

"I think it's going to be a really big moment," Dave Freeman, a musher said. "I mean dog sledding around the front of the capital, lots of people cheering."

The message requests that the legislature deny permits for any copper nickel mining in the Northland.

"There are different petitions," Ian Kimmer of Friends of the BWCAW said. "Some of them are for a moratorium some of them are for Prove It First."

Clean water petitioners want to be sure any non–ferrous mining activity that takes place will preserve the pristine waters and natural resources in northern Minnesota.

"We have fresh water we can drink out of the lakes here," Susan Schurkey, a race organizer said. "That's not so common in our world anymore and we want to protect it."

Those who believe copper nickel mining is necessary to revive the region's economy say existing environmental regulations will make sure the mining doesn't destroy the environment.

"The area is depressed," Nancy McReady said. "We need the jobs and tourism has already been a big part of our economy. But we do need good paying jobs that will support families and tourism jobs are seasonal, part time jobs without benefits."

A second pair of mushers will leave following a rally in Grand Marais Thursday and will meet the Ely mushers in Finland on Saturday to hand off the petitions.

A support rally is also planned for Duluth as the mushers make their way through to St. Paul.

The Ely mushers will hand off nearly 3,000 signatures at the Finland rally for delivery in St. Paul on March 8.

Jennifer Walch
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