Close Window

Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 383

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Wildfires and the Eyes of the Wild

Thanks to everyone who made phone calls or sent emails in support of the Mississippi Arts Commission… It worked! we saved the MAC! Meanwhile, the Scott Pruitt EPA confirmation hearing is in deadlock, so please keep up the pressure there. We need checks and balances for sure. But the person in charge of should be agreeable to its core mission.

Wildfires burning all over… You could spend all day sending emails and making phone calls and barely respond to the need! We have been picking and choosing the ones closest to home, the river, the wild places. Last week I learned that the Boundary Waters is under a dangerous threat to its health: sulfide-ore copper mining. And closer to home, the Pascagoula River, the longest un-dammed river East of the Mississippi, is in danger of being dammed.

It seems like every time I open my email another one of our beloved wild places is being endangered… No one knows the river (or lakes) like us paddlers do. We are the eyes of the wilds. Ol’ trickster coyote can sneak up on one goose, maybe, out on the edge of a sandbar, and snatch away her life. But geese stay in flocks, and someone always has their eyes open. Many geese on the sandbar keep coyote at bay. Wildfires burning all over the place… No one person can do this alone. Paddlers, keep your eyes open, and share what you see — so we all don't get burned by ol’ trickster coyote! We don't need more copper. What we need is more clean water, and more space to breathe clean air, and reconnect to nature, and revive our faith in the overall peace and harmony of the universe.

I live in Mississippi, but I am a canoeist and outdoor adventurer, and am alarmed by this threat to the health of one of our last pieces of paradise, the Boundary Waters. We absolutely must not mess with certain parts of wild America including the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Denali, ….and the Boundary Waters (and many other places of course!). These wild places are the touchstone reminders of who we are. Their existence allow us to continue to dream big. They open our minds, and our hearts. They allow us to thrive in our love of the land, its people, and it’s creatures. We now know that we all need each other — all creatures great and small. If we are going to survive as a planet, we will have to do it in harmony with all. I know wouldn't be who I am today without the Mississippi River, or the Rocky Mountains.

Even if you haven't been to any of these places, maybe your neighbors have. And your children might. Your grandchildren will. That is, if these special wild places still exist… “You don’t know what you had ’til it’s gone…” as Joni Mitchell sang in Big Yellow Taxi.

My daughter and two of her friends:
will they grow up with clean air and water
...and wild places to explore?

Copper -- or Clean Water?
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Alarming news from the beloved Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, America’s classic canoeing paradise: Minnesota Congressman Rick Nolan just announced that he is asking the President to reverse the two-year review of the Boundary Waters watershed and allow sulfide-ore copper mining without studying the risks to this world-class Wilderness. Rep. Nolan's action is anti-Boundary Waters, anti-science, and anti-citizen and benefits a Chilean mining company at the risk of permanent major damage to the Boundary Waters and at the expense of many home-grown businesses. Please call Rep. Nolan (202) 225-6211 and tell him why the Boundary Waters Wilderness is so important to you.

Keep reading below, or go to for more info.

We saved the Mississippi Arts Commission! (For now…) Due to the outpouring of phone calls and emails, the proposed bills never left committee. Which probably is a nail in that coffin. The governor could do some fancy footwork to revive it in some other form, but this would be highly unlikely given how popular the MAC is amongst the people of Mississippi (and its influence on the millions of visitors who come to Mississippi to enjoy her cultural offerings).

The Pascagoula River is in danger. Developers want to dam tributaries of this precious river – submerging working farmland, important wetlands and bottomland hardwood forests. Take action now to stop this destructive project! See below letter from Andrew Whitehurst of the Gulf Restoration Network. Or go to

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

If you haven't called yet -- please do so even if you don't live in Minnesota. The Boundary Waters is a national wilderness area and it is critical that Minnesota leaders hear why the Boundary Waters is important to people from across the country.

Rep. Nolan is trying to deflect the criticism he is hearing today. Here is what you need to know:

1) Rep. Nolan is seeking to stop the most important environmental review - one that looks at the Boundary Waters and the impact on the Wilderness if sulfide-ore copper mining were allowed in the watershed. This is the environmental review that is now underway, initiated by the U.S. Forest Service based on strong scientific evidence that sulfide-ore copper mining nearby will harm the Wilderness.

2) Rep. Nolan claims that he is pro-environmental review. What he is not being clear about is that he only supports environmental review after a mining company asks for a permit. Only after the Forest Service has been forced - by raw political threats - to grant a mineral lease.

3) Rep. Nolan wants to short-circuit the right process now underway. He would allow international copper mining companies to define environmental review the way they want. The mine-by-mine environmental review process that Rep. Nolan favors puts the cart before the horse, and is a recipe for permanent and irreversible contamination of the BWCAW.

4) If Rep. Nolan gets what he wants then international mining companies will once again be able to apply for new mineral leases in the watershed, and they will re-start their plans to mine sulfide-ore copper... upstream from Minnesota's cleanest water and America's most-visited wilderness area. Minnesota’s Governor and the Forest Service have temporarily halted consideration of sulfide-ore copper mining in the watershed because of overwhelming scientific evidence of harm.

Tell Nolan you oppose his attempt to shut down the established environmental review process, and shut Minnesotans and Americans out of the process. (From Samantha Chadwick, Deputy Campaign Manager)

PS: Also, please take a moment and submit a public comment asking the U.S. Forest Service to protect the Boundary Waters. You might now that we are in the middle of a 90 day comment period that started in January about whether the Boundary Waters area is the wrong place for sulfide-ore copper mining. Here’s the form to submit a comment, which you are welcome to share:

Reasons to Save the Boundary Waters

The Boundary Waters is America's most popular and water-rich Wilderness Area. Its 1.1 million acres contain more than 1,000 pristine lakes and 1,200 miles of river and stream, offering unmatched fishing, hunting, and other public lands wilderness recreational opportunities for all Americans to enjoy. Priceless and irreplaceable, the Boundary Waters must not be put at risk of perpetual pollution from the most toxic industry in America.

-- Cleanest water quality in North America - The lakes, rivers, and streams of the Boundary Waters watershed are among the cleanest waters in North America, and are especially sensitive to acids and heavy-metals found in copper mine pollution;

-- America's most visited & accessible wilderness destination - The Boundary Waters is the most popular Wilderness Area in the U.S., and the largest east of the Rockies and north of the Everglades. Visitors travel through it by boat or canoe, and can choose routes to avoid having to carry their gear, making the Boundary Waters more accessible to families, children and people with physical limitations;

-- Economics - The Boundary Waters supports a strong, sustainable, growing outdoor recreation industry in Minnesota. It is a principal driver of the $850 Million, 17,000-job recreation economy in Northeastern Minnesota, it contributes to hundreds of manufacturing jobs, and it helps keep and attract talent to Minnesota.

Please urge the Secretary of the Interior to protect and “withdraw” the approximately 234,328 acres of national forest lands in the Rainy River Watershed from the federal mining program for twenty years in order to protect the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining pollution and damage

The Pascagoula River

The Pascagoula River is in danger. Developers want to dam tributaries of this precious river – submerging working farmland, important wetlands and bottomland hardwood forests. Take action now to stop this destructive project!

Damming Big Cedar Creek, a tributary of the Pascagoula, threatens the river’s health and the decades of effort to protect it. The Pascagoula is the last river of its size in the lower 48 states without a dam on its main stem. We must prevent the Pascagoula from becoming as fragmented and impaired as the Pearl River. Take action now!

Developers want to dam the Pascagoula River in order to build “Fake Lakes” for recreation. They say that the project must be done to preserve industrial water supply, but this is misleading. Industries have not asked any agency to build these lakes for their use. If the industries aren’t asking for the water, why are we building the lakes? We don’t need Fake Lakes on the Pascagoula – take action now to stop the Fake Lakes project!

Not only is the motivation for this project questionable, proponents of the dams have advocated for using Mississippi’s share of BP oil disaster restoration money to fund this habitat destruction. This is completely irresponsible. Take action now to protect the Pascagoula!

Call on the Mobile Army Corps of Engineers to reject this destructive project. Click here to take action now or go to the Gulf Restoration Network.

For a heathy Gulf!

-Andrew Whitehurst, Water Program Director

The Missouri River Recovery Draft EIS

Thursday Feb. 16th from 5 to 8:45 pm the public has the opportunity to present opinions at an Army Corps public meeting regarding: “The Missouri River Recovery Draft EIS”, to be held at The Doubletree Hilton 18825 Swingley Ridge Road, Chesterfield, Mo. 63017.

The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

is brought to you courtesy of

The Lower Mississippi River Foundation:

“Stewardship of the Lower and Middle Mississippi River

through deep engagement”

Our Projects:

Rivergator: 1Million words describing the Lower Mississippi River:

Wild Miles: 71% of the Lower Miss is wild according to river rats. Will it stay that way?

Mighty Quapaw Apprenticeship Program: long term apprenticeships developing personal character and young leaders through canoe building, big river guiding, and survival skills on the Lower Mississippi River.

LiNKS = Leave No Kids On Shore

LiNK-ing kids to the big river and mother nature -- with the passion of a LYNX.

Every LiNK in the chain is as important as the others. Real-time experiences for the betterment of personal health and environmental conservation along the Lower Mississippi River. In coordination with schools and after-school programs in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas.

Friends of the Sunflower River

Established in 2005 for cleanups, paddle events and other educational programming on the Sunflower River.

River Arts

Youth program begun in 2012 as an after-school river activity in conjunction with GRIOT Arts.

Our Friends:

Quapaw Canoe Company: custom-guided wilderness expeditions on the biggest and wildest river in North America, in our hand crafted cypress strip voyageur canoes. Now with outposts in Memphis, Vicksburg, Helena and Natchez. Home base: Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Big Muddy Adventures: custom-guided adventures on the Missouri, Mississippi, Meramec and Illinois -- covering the Grand Central Station of America's rivers from home base St. Louis.

Would you or your business like to become a "friend" of the Lower Mississippi River Foundation? Please contact John Ruskey for how!