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Pine Journal, Opinion, September 6, 2013

Full text here:

Few who were around in the 1970s will forget the famous line from the satirical film, “Network” — “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Over the decades since then, the line has remained the rally cry for folks who aren’t happy with the way “the system” is taking over their lives.

“I want you to get mad!” implored controversial television anchor Howard Beale, played by actor Peter Finch. “I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot — I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad.”

A group of Carlton County landowners has recently heeded that same call, and they’re not about to sit back and “take it anymore.” The ever-expanding group of residents is taking exception to one of the routes proposed by Enbridge Energy for its new 610-mile, $2.5 billion Sandpiper pipeline project. Despite the fact that Enbridge already has existing pipelines running through the area, the energy giant has proposed the new line follow a course that leads through a mostly different configuration that stands to impact private lands, forests, farmlands and watersheds.

The group, known as the Carlton County Land Stewards, is asking others to join them and “Pipe Up for Carlton County” by mounting a united voice opposing the proposed route and encouraging Enbridge to work with the county and its residents on a less invasive and comprehensive routing plan for the Sandpiper pipeline.

Not only does the group purport to want to protect the livelihood and land values of local food producers and eliminate barriers to the growing movement of new food producers to the area, but they also want to preserve forest land that provides important biodiversity and protects the health of Lake Superior and its tributaries.

The group is planning to meet with others at this weekend’s Harvest Festival on Saturday, Sept. 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Bayfront Park in Duluth to encourage them to learn more about what the pipeline configuration would mean for the region and how they can stand with other land stewards in protecting the region’s farmland and forests.

Also, at this week’s meeting of the Carlton County Committee of the Whole, Sandy and Craig Sterle lent their voices to the cry, expressing concern that the proposed pipeline is routed through the wetlands of their 160 acres of land that lead into the Blackhoof River and the impact that may have on area water resources.

Meanwhile, the County Board is preparing to take up the gauntlet as well, asking County Land Commissioner Greg Bernu to develop a plan along with his counterparts in Aitkin and Cass counties to recommend that Enbridge instead consider routing the line along the Soo Line Trail, an existing 100-foot corridor that already houses various utility lines and wouldn’t intrude further on previously undisturbed lands.

These folks and others like them should be applauded. It’s tough to take on “the system,” but if no one tries, nothing will change. Why not consider lending your voice to the chorus?

Wendy Johnson

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