Land exchange needs history lesson

The proposed BWCA land exchange is out for comment and if history is an indicator, don’t expect this version to get very far.

The Forest Service would acquire 30,000 acres of state land in the BWCA in exchange for 984 parcels of federal land totaling approximately 39,074.65 acres scattered throughout Cook, Lake and Saint Louis Counties outside the BWCA.
Already groups like the Friends have come out opposed to any land exchange. They want the feds to buy the state land.

This portion of the project is only the first step in this attempt to right a wrong. There is a total of 83,000 acres of school trust land that was taken into the BWCA where it doesn’t generate a dime for the state’s school trust fund.


Believe it or not, winter’s going fast

When the temperatures were still dropping to 30 degrees below zero last week, it was hard to believe. When you were out shovelling snow for the umpteenth time, it was hard to believe. But it’s true. Winter is going fast.
Our advice is simple: get out and enjoy it while you can. Ely, Minnesota is a winter wonderland. We offer unparalleled access to the great outdoors. Whatever you want to do, we can probably hook you up.
Snowmobiling is a great place to start. Ely sits at the crossroad of the Taconite and Tomahawk snowmobile trails. We can get you to the North Shore or halfway across the state. Plus there are numerous local routes with fantastic scenery and pleasurable riding. Our trails are groomed and ready to ride. Come on up.


Legal wrangling: PEIS, wolves, South Fowl

If you’re keeping score at home, here’s some updates on the legal issues in the area.
Wolves: Back in court.
South Fowl: Out of court. For now.
Here’s a breakdown on what that means.
The Friends of the Boundary Waters, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, Sustainable Ely and one Becky Rom of Ely had been pushing for a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the Superior National Forest relating to the possible copper-nickel mining projects.
This was seen as a “stealth” attack on mining and it took some sleuthing to determine Rom was the one pushing for the feds to do a PEIS. That push has come to a sudden halt.
U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan told the Mesabi Daily News that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has determined a PEIS will not be necessary.
Hopefully that puts that end-around play to rest.


Let’s learn from the history of Ely

Ely has had some true characters over the years, including one who came to be known as the Grand Marshal of the BWCA.
John Smrekar was an integral part of the history of the BWCA during the most radical changes over the years.
Back in 1997 Smrekar pointed out the economic damage done by the changes in the rules and laws that govern the million acre area. His point was not to reverse the changes, but to be realistic on what the damages were economically.
His points 18 years ago are still valid today.
In a letter to be read on the Minnesota House floor, Smreak noted, “Official figures from the City of Ely indicate that the 1962 population of Ely was 5,934. It dropped to 3,968 in 1990.”


... a clumsy attempt to distort the facts in order to support his argument

Dear Editor
I write in response to an article written by Steve Piragis of Ely – “A Day of action for BWCA [Boundary Waters Canoe Area] lovers and mining opponents” – that appeared in the Star Tribune on Tuesday, January 27. Mr. Piragis and his wife Nancy own Piragis Northwoods Co. and a canoe outfitting business based in Ely, Minnesota.
Mr. Piragis wrote:
“Not only has the Boundary Waters continued to serve as awe inspiring terrain for our nations citizens, it also has been a large economic driver for the tourism economy of Northeastern Minnesota, one that generates $800 million in revenue and supports more than 18,000 local jobs annually.”
Readers should know that the figures Mr. Piragis cites are based on an Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) report from 2009 that included statistics from the Minnesota Department of Revenue for seven counties including St. Louis, Crow Wing, Itasca, Cook, Lake, Koochiching and Aitkin counties.


... shows median household income 20% higher than the 55792 zip code

Dear Editor:
The “Dill vs. Rom” headline on the February 7 article about the recent Minnesota House Mining Committee hearing should instead have read “Dill vs. Ely.”
Dill’s attack on the legislation that protects the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Dill’s willingness to sell out Ely-area businesses and homeowners to support foreign copper mining companies is a direct assault on the well-being of my home town.
The Ely area supports 33 resorts, lodges, and bed and breakfasts; 23 canoe outfitting businesses; eight motels; five dogsledding adventure businesses; three bait and tackle shops; 13 campgrounds; eight nationally-known outdoor learning centers and camps; three museums; and three seasonal festivals and art fairs that bring visitors and vendors from across the region.


RAMS could be better in the long run

After a series of fumbles and one questionable play call, a local government organization could come out with a win.
RAMS, the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools, has long been the organization cities, school districts and townships have sent their memberships to each year.
But when it was announced RAMS would be hiring a current state senator as its director, it appeared to be the wrong call. Not on the level of the Seahawks’ final play in the Super Bowl, but close.
This led the Ely city council to jump into the political mud and vote to withhold joining this year. Then, this week the mayor and council tried to rewrite Roberts Rules of Order when a motion to table the issue was passed 4-3.
A claim that five votes were needed to table went unchecked and the council voted 6-1 to rejoin RAMS. It took several in-meeting text messages to point out the SNAFU that the vote to table was correct.


School slipped on the ice, needs to fix policy allowing for late starts

The Ely School District seemed to take a giant step forward last year when it joined nearly every other district in the region and gave school officials the option to start school two hours late - rather than scrapping the day entirely - when bad weather hits.
But the icy road conditions of Jan. 23 have nothing on the slipping and sliding by school officials in the aftermath of a highly-scrutinized decision to cancel school that day.
It was clear in the hours after the decision and again Monday night - when board members discussed the issue - that a seemingly simple and welcome new option is bogged down in bureaucracy and a head-scratching, advance notice policy never approved by the school board.
It’s also obvious that the district needs to make the necessary steps to allow for late starts when circumstances warrant,.


If Duluth mail plant closes, the impact will be felt in Ely

With the looming April closing of the U.S. Postal Service plant in Duluth, places like Ely will suffer. And the clock is ticking.
This week Rep. Rick Nolan sent a letter to the Postmaster General, raising additional concerns regarding the decision to close the Duluth mail processing facility and requested the consolidation process be halted immediately.
Good for Nolan, he recognizes this closing will not help northeast Minnesota or for that matter, the Post Office.
If the Duluth plant closes, the Ely Post Office will likely be changing when mail leaves Ely. It could be that instead of getting your mail to the PO by 4:15 p.m., it may be noon. Is this good for business, good for consumers or good for the community? No, no and no!
This week we’re printing an editorial from the National Newspaper Association on this issue. We’re hoping there’s still a chance to keep this closure from happening. But the clock is ticking.


Extending the spectrum of knowledge

We can save abandoned pets, but can we save abandoned people?
It’s not just the homeless, the mentally disturbed or handicapped people - young or old - to consider.
There are also the orphans of life - the elderly.
As their numbers increase dramatically, the burden of caring for them falls on the government which may attempt to meet the most minimal physical needs but fails to recognize mental needs and potential. And the brain should be an important part of the equation.
If the elderly were sent back to school to meet the changing world, would that be much different from sending pre-school children to classes to learn to cope and grow in the world in which they are entering?
Isn’t the need for preparation for the future as great for the seven year old as it is for the seventy year old?


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