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ix PROLOGUE I come from the worlds of iron and water. As a high school student in Duluth, Minnesota, my thoughts would drift during physics class, and I would absently gaze at iron ore boats stuck in the Lake Superior ice outside the ship canal. From my vantage point on the hill above the city, I could look down on Minnesota Point where, on winter days, huge shards of ice often piled up along the shore of the sand spit. This long stretch of sand offers a natural entrance to the Duluth–­ Superior harbor in Wisconsin. It is where my Merritt ancestors arrived at the headwaters of the lake in 1855 and 1856. Some of the boats I observed carried new cars, presumably made from Mesabi Range iron ore. I often thought of my family heritage on the “Range” (as it is affectionately known) and the work and lives of my ancestors as trailblazers in the mining industry. I could also picture Isle Royale in my mind—­ the largest island in the world’s largest lake where my family has had cabins for more than one hundred years. In my childhood, I fished and played there. I still do. As a young boy, I learned to love the cold blue waters of Superior , its fogs, storms, and sparkling beauty on long summer days, and I naturally grew to hold an unwavering appreciation of the land and the water. My family history, coupled with a public school education that stressed student participation, provided the roots of my commitment to citizen advocacy in my adult life. I believe concerted , well-­ directed advocacy efforts are essential to restoring and Prologue x preserving clean water and the environment. I also believe accurate historical documentation of environmental issues is critical to charting our course as stewards of natural resources. On February 1, 1971, Governor Wendell Anderson appointed me executive director of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Later that day, I received a phone call from a news reporter asking me to comment on my appointment. I remember saying at the time we were going to be pioneers in our work to clean up the environment. In many ways, my work with the MPCA was very much connected with my ancestral history—­ the Merritt family who discovered and opened the first iron ore mine on the Mesabi Iron Range. I heard their stories from my father, and as a teenager read of their adventures in an account written by Paul de Kruif. Titled Seven Iron Men, it resonated with me then and has ever since. These oral and written accounts directly influenced my life choices. They taught me how a few citizens can make a big difference in the world, and their tenacious nature and legacy fueled my lifelong environmental passion as a lawyer and activist. When I assumed my position with the state of Minnesota in 1971, Reserve Mining Company in Silver Bay, Minnesota, on the shore of Lake Superior was the largest taconite operation on earth, producing between ten and twelve million tons of iron pellets a year at an annual net profit in the millions.1 The legislation that authorized the creation of the MPCA included a citizen policy-­ making board governing its decisions. This gave interested parties direct involvement in decisions on issues coming before the state agency. As a result, the controversial matters drew media attention that influenced public opinion on the Reserve case and many others. Aroused public sentiment led to the epic battle to stop Reserve Mining from fouling Lake Superior with sixty-­ seven thousand tons of taconite tailings per day. My role in the thirteen-­ year fight for a solution to the uncontrolled daily dumping of taconite tailings into Lake Superior would lead me directly into politics. Three years later I was working for the state of Minnesota. Prologue xi Over the next ten years, I was directly involved in numerous political battles that have shaped Minnesota’s modern history. I experienced some disappointments but also many victories. And where there were victories, my work was directly supported and affected by devoted citizen activists and public servants who helped achieve major policy decisions. Reserve Mining was hardly the only menace Lake Superior and other freshwaters have faced during the past half century. Invasive species now pose a monumental threat to our waters. The damaging effect of climate change on the environment is readily apparent . Over the years, I have worked on environmental issues that included battles to prevent...


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MARC Record
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