Monday, January 10, 2011

Goliath gives up; the little guys win!

Saturday night I went to an Island wide celebration. There were cookies and croissants, cakes and wine, all free. There was music and dancing with the local Portage Philharmonic. The huge auditorium was packed with people of all ages. I saw friends I hadn't seen in years. And of course there was lots of speechifying.
Point Robinson, just a few miles from the proposed mine

The occasion? The mega multinational mining company, Glacier, was finally defeated--by citizen activists. Real people. Here is the story.

In 1997, Glacier announced in a meeting that it would begin mining the sand and gravel of Maury Island in 90 days. This would involve taking a HUGE chunk out of tiny the tiny island,  stirring up soil saturated with toxic arsenic from previous copper refining, poisoning the drinking water for residents, and destroying salmon spawning and Orca whale feeding grounds.

Sharon Nelson, who lives on Maury Island, was at that meeting.  Preserve Our Island was born when her husband turned to her that night and said, "so...what are you going to do about this?"

During the 13 years it took to finally defeat Glacier (which changed it's name more than once to avoid responsibility for the damages it caused). Saving Maury island grew from the concern of neighbors of the proposed mine to the passionate concern of people all over Puget Sound, Washington State, and even the nation. It involved lawyers, real estate people, scientists, judges, congress people and senators both state wide and nation wide.

It involved both legal action and civil disobedience. When it looked as though Glacier had won, people chained themselves to the gates to prevent the equipment from going in and out. A impromptu "mosquito fleet" of small boats  (kayaks, sailboats, runabouts, rowboats, ski boats, motor boats) showed up to prevent water access to the mine.

When the glacier received permits, the people sued the agencies that granted the permits without demanding adequate environmental impact statements. Scientist for the people proved that, in spite of Glacier's statements to the contrary, the proposed mine would heavily impact both people and endangered species.

No matter what victories Glacier won, the people would not give up. Even when it looked like there was no hope, the people kept on working to stop Glacier from destroying the land and near shore environment.

At last, Glacier saw that the people would not give up, and agreed to sell the land to the county for a park...AND...the People raised the money to buy the land and shore, which will be a nature preserve for ever. A place for Salmon to breed and for Orca whales to feed.

Thank you to Preserve Our Islands! And to all the people involved in the battle.

1 comment:

  1. This story gives me chills. How wonderful! This should be made into a children's story, I think. I'm so grateful for the courage and persistence of these people I've never met. I'd love to see this place and to have the opportunity to meet you sometime now that I am in WA. Great blog post!!!!!