Thursday’s decision by the federal government to cancel a massive land withdrawal in the Rainy River Watershed was a shot in the arm to Iron Range advocates for the Twin Metals copper-nickel mine project.
But the decision, promised in June by President Trump during a rally in Duluth, was one that was setup by a coordinated effort of local elected officials, business people and labor groups before the Obama administration initiated the withdrawal in December 2016.
Before that point, many our local leaders recognized the possibility that the Obama administration could leave office following several environmental maneuvers, including closing the Rainy River Watershed in Superior National Forest to mining and exploration. It was a less publicized concern of the region, but one that sparked a concentrated effort to overturn it in the follow year-plus.
With that foresight in mind, as well as the overall efforts these local leaders put into beating back the withdrawal, Rangers in support of copper-nickel’s future here should pause and tip their cap to these people for bringing a variety of organizations together on a united front for the region’s future.
Among them include the members of Jobs for Minnesotans, RAMS, unions and Range mayors, including Nancy Norr, Dave Lislegard, Steve Giorgi, Frank Ongaro, Chuck Novak, Kyle Makarios and others that made multiple trips to Washington to meet with congressional delegations favoring mining. They also organized speakers at public hearings held since the 2016 decision and organized a planned boycott of a St. Paul hearing.
What these groups showed is that a dynamic effort of Range voices can lead to change in our community.
That said, Trump and 8th District candidate Pete Stauber deserve their credit for getting it done. The congressmen lobbied for the last two years are ultimately powerless without the administration. A voice to advise the president, yes, but it is hard to deny the June visit and a tight congressional race in a swing district didn’t play into the ultimate decision on the withdrawal.
Our local leaders and officials teed the ball up for the last several months, and the Trump/Stauber closed things out.
If only efforts from business, labor, community and state and federal officials could work this well all the time.