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Huber Mill threatens land in northern Minnesota and a precious way of life

Some 28 acres of wetlands will be drained and filled for a private railroad spur — paid for by Itasca County taxpayers. Huber Mill will become the 12th-highest polluter of greenhouse gas emissions and particulates will invade respiratory systems for miles.

Huber Engineered Woods would build what’s called “oriented strand board” at the facility, which is a type of engineered wood used as construction material for roofs, walls and subfloors.
Huber Engineered Woods would build what’s called “oriented strand board” at the facility, which is a type of engineered wood used as construction material for roofs, walls and subfloors.
Huber Engineered Woods

I don’t feel old. But I have to remind myself I am an elder now. I am my grandparents now.

My adult children, grandchildren and I make maple syrup together among the maple, popple, basswood and birch trees. We boil sap onsite, just like my great-great-great-great grandparents did.

I riced here with my dad, who is no longer physically present. Now I rice with my daughters and son. Grandsons are eager to learn.

I net walleye with my kids, too, and they help me clean our catch. Blueberries are another important food harvested for consumption and ceremony. Medicine also is picked and dried in the summer for tea, salves or tinctures.

A long time ago I left the Leech Lake Rez and made my “escape” by enlisting in the Marine Corps at age 23. Once I was up on a mountain in Japan. We had been in the field for a while, and it was a wet morning. Bivouacs had washed away in a typhoon the night before.

Then an unexpected arrival of hot chow and mail! I got a small box from my dad. It traveled from the Cass Lake Post Office all the way to me up on that mountain in Okinawa, full of wild rice. Its smell instantly transported me back home, and I could smell the lake, the sunshine, the parching fire and all the activity of gathering and finishing rice. In that moment, I realized I needed to return to the place I had “escaped” from. For this is my homeland.

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But now the Huber Mill, proposed near the Leech Lake reservation in northern Minnesota, poses a major threat to this land. Please try to understand this mill is wrong in so many ways. Resort owners, those who need tourism, lumber mills, the OSB plant by Solway — all should be concerned.

Annie Humphrey
Annie Humphrey
Gov. Tim Walz appointed the Cohasset City Council as the mill’s governing unit. Some 28 acres of wetlands will be drained and filled for a private railroad spur — paid for by Itasca County taxpayers. Huber Mill will become the 12th-highest polluter of greenhouse gas emissions and particulates will invade respiratory systems for miles. It will consume 400,000 cords of wood a year in a 70- to 100-mile radius.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says that’s acceptable. It is not. Two sacred eagle nests would also be cut down. Also not acceptable.

This land must stay intact and not be forever changed if the mill is built. I need these woods to show my grandsons what my dad showed me. This life is not a hobby, but a season-to-season way to live — and one we will protect.

Right now, the project has been halted by the Army Corp of Engineers, and lawsuits against it by White Earth, Leech Lake, Red Lake and the 1865 Treaty Authority are active. Learn more at  protectmnforests.org. In the meantime, always be brave.

Annie Humphrey is a Leech Lake tribal member, living on the Rez with her family and animals. She is a singer/songwriter, visual artist, carpenter and organizer against all beasts that try to infiltrate the garden.anniehumphreymusic@gmail.com