Monday, October 01, 2012

Tom Rukavina, State Representative District 5A Letter on BWCA/state/federal land exchange

September 24, 2012

To the Editor:

I see one of our new immigrants to Ely, Mr. Reid Carron, is putting out more misinformation on the proposed BWCA/state/federal land exchange. Let me enlighten your readers.

First, Mr. Carron states “current law adequately provides for dealing with school trust lands, no additional legislation is necessary”. If so, I ask Mr. Carron why, after 35 years, has no exchange taken place? I’ll tell you my opinion why, because the Feds, DNR, and most environmental organizations have never wanted an exchange. It’s too big a headache for the Feds and the DNR. And, as for the environmentalists, the real truth is that they don’t want federal land to become state land because they know they’ll have a tougher time suing in state court than in federal court, over activities they don’t like, such as logging, snowmobiling, and ATV use.

Next, let’s look at Mr. Carron’s claim that school trust money is “miniscule”. Every year, the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Anoka-Hennepin School Districts get over $1 million each from that fund. Good management of the timber resources alone from this exchanged land could and should increase those figures exponentially. Maybe $1 million a year is miniscule to Mr. Carron. But to this old, tired, 3rd generation Ranger, that’s still real money.

Now, let’s talk about this absurd statement in Mr. Carron’s letter claiming the bill is “a giveaway to multinational mining companies”. The 93,000 acres of school and University trust land in the BWCA will become federal land, and the 93,000 acres of federal land in the Mesabi Purchase portion of the Superior National Forest (that’s the unattached portion of the Superior National Forest that runs from north of Biwabik all the way to north of Hibbing) will become state trust land and will be managed in perpetuity to raise income for public education. What bogeyman do you see under your bed here, Mr. Carron? An acre for acre exchange where state land becomes federal land and federal land becomes state land will result in no net loss of public ownership. Why is this such a hard concept for the environmental community to grasp? Because, it certainly isn’t a giveaway to any mining company.

Next, let’s talk about Mr. Carron’s claim that “Ely area residents . . . will lose scores of thousands of acres of Superior National Forest land that are now available for hunting, snowmobiling, hiking, snowshoeing, and many other recreational pursuits”. While many of the “old immigrants” from the Ely and Tower area must be thinking that you’re talking about the
To the Editor
September 24, 2012
Page Two

original Boundary Waters Act, Mr. Carron, let me assure them that for you to say this about the proposed land exchange bill is an absolute lie. In fact, Ely and Tower area residents will have an easier time recreating on the new state land. But that’s really why you and other environmentalists oppose this bill, isn’t it? Because you know it will be easier to put a snowmobile trail or cut down a tree on state land than on federal land.

Mr. Carron, your letter was, to put it in Range-speak, just a bunch of BS. To imply that any member of the Iron Range Delegation is supporting this legislation because we are stoolies for “multinational mining companies” is nuts. I will never forget the way my father and grandfather were treated by the Oliver Iron Mining Company (while you on the other hand don’t even know what the Oliver Iron Mining Company is). So let me tell you, Mr. Carron, that I am always going to be on the side of the miners and our mining communities, and not your “multinational mining companies”. And while I am no economic genius, I know that without mining and mining companies we have no Iron Range.

So, Mr. Carron, as I’ve said before and I’ll say many times again, Ely, Tower, Winton, Cook, Grand Rapids, and the North Shore couldn’t exist without our taconite industry. And the ugly truth, which the Friends of the BWCA, Sierra Club, etc. fail to acknowledge is that we are currently mining and logging in the Superior National Forest, and we haven’t harmed it, have we, Mr. Carron? Minntac, Arcelor Mittal, North Shore Mining, and Mesabi Nugget are all currently operating in the Superior National Forest and it’s their taconite taxes that keep all our communities, including Duluth, alive.

So in ending, Mr. Carron, while you’re worried about the Range turning into a “Banana Republic”, I’m worrying about a bunch of hypocritical environmentalists who want to turn our proud, productive, mining-based Iron Range into a Bangladesh where we can all be “sherpas” carrying bags and canoes for tourists, and existing on their tips and leftovers!

Tom Rukavina
State Representative
District 5A

P.S. I won’t even get into your outright lie that the Iron Range Delegation killed some proposed land exchange you claimed happened in 1997 because after all, it’s just another lie.

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