We are Sandy and Craig Sterle living in Blackhoof Township for over 30 years. We have a variety of plants, animals, birds, and water on land, which quickly rolls between high and low. I realize we are not owners, so much as stewards of a land filled with life living here. The beaver cuts down the aspen to eat, and to build a home environment by spreading out wetlands in low areas already wet with creeks.
We see the deer browse on the shrubs, ground plants, crabapples, acorns, etc. depending on what is available in the season. We saw 3 cubs this year with an exhausted mother bear. The squirrels chase each other in February during mating season turning our yard into a circus act. Both the gray fox and later a bobcat visit and let us take pictures from our front window.
We are starting to see wild turkeys. The grouse try to hide in plain sight by standing still on our road. Each August, the dragonflies do a dance flying around just within a foot or two of the ground. We have to be careful of the turtles in June who laid eggs along our road. You should have seen the size of the snapping turtle on the land! At night I awoke when 2 raccoons made such loud noises nose to nose below the window in a dispute over territory. I have stood still as the rabbit runs around me and pauses, as if I were not even there. One spring, a yellow-bellied sap sucker decided to keep rapping on our gutter to attract a mate. The piliated woodpecker is amazingly large, easily heard, and yet very shy. The Great Gray owls came from Canada one winter and perched in the trees. It’s like their eyes grab you seeing each detail of who you are. The variety of birds in our woods is amazing and it changes with each season. The chickadees are so polite and seem to have an orderly procession to insure each gets a meal. The bluejays have different calls to let the others know what is going on in the woods. We had the good fortune to host “Uncle Harry from the coast” – a varied thrust from the Pacific Coast (only documented case in Carlton County) that stayed with us for an entire winter. The golden winged warbler is a threaten species that lives in the area of the proposed pipeline. Observing and living with this variety of wildlife is why we live on this land and our desire to continue the pristine nature of the land is precious to us for future generations. A new pipeline corridor through this wildlife habitat both disturbs and threatens it.
To keep our old pastures from converting to brush, we planted thousands of norway pines, white pines, jack pines, spruces, oaks, maples, and a few walnuts. In 1981, we first built a garage on top of the hill that we lived in while building our home. One time when I was planting trees, I left a bag with white pine seedlings in the field as it started to rain. I looked down while standing under the eave of the garage, and I saw a deer eating the white pine seedlings right out of my pack. I had just turned around after running up the hill to beat the rain. It was amazing how quickly the deer had found them! Unfortunately, between the deer and the blister rust, we don’t have but a few of those white pines left. And, they are still struggling to beat the blister rust. Enbridge proposes to build the pipeline corridor through our only one century old white pine that is a seed tree for a few young “volunteers” that are establishing themselves.
A number of the norway pines and white spruce we planted are now 30-40 feet tall, and the proposed pipeline would cut through pines we planted. Some of the back field we have left open to provide a diversity of habitats. For a while we rented the field for hay.
Throughout the land, we have allowed fruit trees like crab apples, a variety of cherry trees, hawthorns, and high bush cranberry bushes to feed wildlife. To the west of the garage is a beaver pond separated by a short strip of land that barely separates a perched wetland that we share with our neighbors to the north. If the proposed pipeline corridor goes through, it will disturb the separating strip, thus draining part of the higher wetland into the lower pond where there is no outlet. The balance of water flow will be lost.
Behind our house to the north is a Tamarack swamp west of the old white pine and a small grove of century old spruce. This area is at a convergence of 3 creeks. Two of the creeks where the trees grow on the banks, had very little erosion from recent floods, but the north creek that transits grass had significantly more erosion. I can no longer jump this creek – now it is over 4 feet wide and the bed is cut deeper for many yards. Enbridge proposes to cut through the tamaracks, spruces, convergence of 3 creeks, and a wet forested area that the beaver pond encroaches upon.
Overall, Enbridge proposes to cut diagonally and longitudinally creating an upside down V-shape through all four of our forties, effectively creating a boundary and cutting us off from more than half of our land. If the pipeline corridor goes through, significant land value will be lost, cutting out financial security in retirement from having built a home, and 30 years of helping to restore a more natural environment. The creeks will lose the protection of the trees, and all the banks will be exposed to significant erosion. Also, the long beaver dam holding back three creeks of water will have more pressure on it from the trees no longer slowing down the water flow. Our water supply and the large pond created by the dam will be at risk when the pipeline leaks or spills. This pond flows into the Blackhoof River just south of us, and eventually leads to Lake Superior. We and everyone downstream along the river basin will be assuming all the environmental and health risks with no financial reward.
I cannot express the deep sadness we feel at the potential loss of this area. It is one place where much of the wildlife funnels around and through our property.
It is just behind our home.
This unique area of plants and wildlife will be reduced to wet grass if the proposed pipeline corridor goes through.
We just don’t understand why a private company can just take and bulldoze areas like these, instead of using close and existing right-of-ways. Unfortunately, Craig and I are only one of many landowners in Blackhoof Township where Enbridge proposes to split lands in half, cut century old trees, and convert treed wetlands to grass wetlands, thus undoing the work of the Soil and Water Conservation District. If Enbridge is allowed to cut through these forested areas in the Blackhoof River Watershed, then the highly erodible sandy soils will no longer be protected and will wash into the rivers and Lake Superior.
Why? The consistent reason we hear from Enbridge is this route saves them money… And, they quickly throw the “eminent domain” power play at landowners who say no. I ask you, the reader: “does this make sense?”… for property owners who are trying to be good stewards of the land to be forced to accept the damage and risk of a new pipeline corridor of who knows how many pipelines; carrying hazardous liquid material over the precious natural environment they have been protecting for many years; just so a wealthy international and privately owned company has higher profit margins? Is this in Minnesota’s best interest?
If it does not make sense to you, please speak up and write the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission that Enbridge needs to use existing pipeline right-of-ways.