5 x 8: Whose Iron Range is it?

The Monday Morning Rouser:


Sitting along an old forest logging road, an exploratory drill site operates 24 hours a day to acquire core samples from thousands of feet below the Earth's surface. Here, one of those exploratory drill sites operates outside Ely, Minn. (Derek Montgomery for MPR)

Should people who live near the BWCA have a greater say in a proposal to increase mining in the area than people who might visit someday?

South of Ely, a company wants to mine copper, nickel, and other precious metals. Some area residents say the area needs some jobs. Others says copper mining is a great way to ruin the environment, upon which much of the tourist economy is based.

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Another company -- Polymet -- wants to mine copper and nickel near Hoyt Lakes.

A week ago, Joe Baltich, an Ely resident, suggested in a Star Tribune op-ed that the metro visitors should sit this one out.

As America ages, nobody wants to come and sleep on a rock, only to be restricted to paddling a canoe. They want to jump in a boat or on a snowmobile and go fishing without having the government breathing down their necks with permits and rules — dog sleds but no motors; 2-liter plastic bottles but no cans (although burning plastic is illegal).

You can’t leave the BWCA to go shopping in Ely, because it voids your permit. These are only a smattering of the rules that most Twin Cities tourists can’t get right, so they remain in constant violation of the laws they support so strongly. When they come from out of state, it’s even harder to get them to comply.

So, Ely is slipping. Everything is for sale, and nobody’s buying. A liquor store that had been successful since the early 1970s has been on the market for five years. A restaurant building is sitting empty, rotting — but back when the mines were humming, it too was a successful business.

"Much of the argument was designed to paint metro-area citizens as bumbling interlopers on the affairs of the BWCA. The reality is that the park belongs to all Minnesotans," a reader shot back in a letter to the editor yesterday.

Is there common ground here on an issue that's so divisive?

Writing in the Hibbing Daily News, Aaron J. Brown says Baltich is right: the Iron Range is struggling.

As I’ve written, the population of Iron Range cities dropped an average of 40 percent from 1980 to 2010. The towns skew older than the state average with an average household size suggesting that the kids moved away and mom and dad are either wrapping up careers or living off retirement benefits. These moms and dads are the people in charge — mayors, administrators, consultants, etc., and they know there are serious problems on the Iron Range. More drugs. More crime. More blight. There are fewer jobs and an erosion of family stability that was once a staple of Iron Range life, an effect heavily tied to the collapse of the economy 30 years ago.

All of this manifests in a generation of kids graduating from the smallest classes in 100 years of Iron Range education who will have a harder time attending college or technical college than their parents or, if they are poor, their great-grandparents. They’ve been raised to believe that maybe something good will come along if you work hard, but also in a culture that values hockey, hunting, fishing, motorsports and other recreations where it’s easy to get lost in the moment, the silent passage of seasons. Still others have simply been raised to believe there is no hope but escape from the Iron Range, popular culture and the advent of the Information Age fueling the fire.

But, Brown writes, supporters of mining are too quick to embrace false assurances from mining operations, especially since mining now is more mechanized.

He promises a solution in a column next week.

Related: Wis. governor, Chippewas battle over open pit mine plan (USA Today).


Does this hit a little close to home? Charlene deGuzman's short film, I Forgot My Phone, has reached 20 million people in less than three weeks.

"The irony is that many folks may be watching this video or reading this article on their phone," a commenter on NPR's All Tech Considered blog observes.

Keep it up.

Related: Cursive handwriting is on the way out. Does it matter?

A quest to save AM radio before its lost in the static of interference from smartphones and other electronic devices (New York Times).


James Fallows is continuing his tour of America, and his latest post from Sioux Falls confirms he's fallen under its spell.

It's a Dakota boom town, he writes, and not like those other oily boom towns.

Through the ups and downs of the national business cycle, the Sioux Falls area has consistently had a better employment picture than the country as a whole, for reasons that both fit, and confound, normal economic models.

The part that fits: people keep moving to town, drawn by the jobs. Roughly half come from the neighboring Plains area and half from the rest of the U.S. or overseas (as my wife recently described). The part that doesn't: the tight job market hasn't seemed to lift wages. Example of the two together: We heard frequently that South Dakota chronically led the nation in the proportion of married women who worked. Theory A: more women had an opportunity to work. Theory B: more women had to work, because of prevailing low wage levels.

One way or another, it is a city that works, in a state that works. And the great strength of the Sioux Falls region is the breadth and diversity of its economic base.

His latest post focuses on the high-tech industries that are calling Sioux Falls home. How did the tech industry take hold in the city? General Mills.


A postcard from the church of which we're members reveals it has a new pastor. We might go check her out one of these days. We haven't been in quite awhile even though it's one of the few places left on the planet where we'd be considered "young people." Meanwhile, the traditional church in which we were married has closed up. That's the world of the old-time mainline church these days; they are literally dying, even as megachurches pack them in.

The Pioneer Press' Fred Melo has a look at how two South St. Paul churches are responding; they're combining the congregations. Clark Memorial United Church of Christ in South St. Paul is predominantly white. Grace Community United Church of Christ on St. Paul's East Side is primarily black.

The pastor of Grace lost much of his flock last year when he came out opposed to the same-sex marriage amendment. But the problems of churches are demographic.

"I think it's happening all over," longtime member Linda Grotto of South St. Paul told Melo. "Young people find a different way."


Zach Gibson acknowledged recently that he's bisexual. His mother wrote him a letter to say it's OK and she posted it on Facebook.


"I knew I wouldn't see Zach before I left work that morning, so I didn't want him to start his day without knowing I support him 100%, even though I was sure he already knew," his mom told Upworthy. "I posted the note on my Facebook page knowing my friends and family would think it was typical of me to end with a joke since Zach and I share the same sarcastic wit."

A nice letter. Still not as good as this one, though.


Bonus I: Who Can Use The N-Word? That's The Wrong Question (Code Switch/NPR)

Bonus II: A father's journey, as told in sand art.

Bonus III: Baraboo's International Crane Foundation Celebrates 40 Years Of Saving Cranes (NPR)

Bonus IV: Winona woman works with native Dakota speaker to offer unique bingo game (Winona Daily News)

Bonus V: Edmund Fitzgerald has died. (Chicago Tribune)


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) - First hour: The Daily Circuit begins its weeklong focus on healthcare reform with a conversation with journalist T.R. Reid, author of "The Healing of America," a 2009 book that found healthcare in the U.S. lagging behind that of other industrialized nations. Will the Affordable Care Act change that?

Second hour: Congress returns to Washington today with Syria at the forefront of issues to tackle. Last week the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution that would authorize military action. The breakdown of the vote, noted in the Washington Post, shows fissures in both parties.The Daily Circuit will discuss the vote and the politics around it on Capitol Hill.

Third hour: Singer songwriters J.D. Souther.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Former President Bill Clinton's speech on the Affordable Care Act, given last week at the Clinton Presidential Center.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) - A Syrian-American's case for intervention.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Some organs can be transplanted: a heart or a lung, for example. And some microbes inside an organ can be transplanted too. For example, how about taking someone else's intestinal matter? Several people have done that and it helped save their lives. NPR looks at microbiome transplants.