Most progressive activists are very familiar with the phrase, “Yards signs don’t vote.” That message has not made it to the north woods of Minnesota. (More.)

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My OFA field organizer and I were visiting and I asked if she’d noticed the lawn signs, many homemade. She laughed and said that to appease “the range” (NE Minnesota is known as the iron range or ‘the range’ for short) they had printed up lawn signs much to the chagrin of headquarters. People on the phone say, “Yes I’ll volunteer but I want my lawn sign.”

One of the topics at our first team meeting was the theft of lawn signs. People were stealing their neighbors signs. One woman had a sign attached to her fence. The top of the sign was higher than the 6′ allowed for fences and someone reported her to city hall. She had to lower the sign to be in compliance. Lawn signs are serious business here.

The mining companies have passed out free lawns signs that say “Mining Supports us” or “We support mining.” The miners used to be union and strong Democrats. The last organizing attempt failed. Mining was historically taconite and iron ore. Now mining companies want permits for copper/nickel sulfide mining. The facts are available at Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness. My fact based rant on just how devastating this can be for pristine wilderness and pure groundwater is for another time. Back to the lawn signs.

Photo from Jul 29, 2012

I had to take six photos to get one that was close to focused. I was stressed. These signs are all over the range in spite of the fact that the mining companies promised only 340 jobs. People remember the glory days of good paying jobs. Apparently they have forgotten the role that unions played in making those jobs safe and good paying. Arrgh!

There is a consortium of environmental and wilderness groups that are fighting back. Yup. More lawn signs.

Photo from Jul 29, 2012

The “Clean water supports us” signs are starting to spring up around town. I am not allowed to have a yard sign because for the summer I live in the Superior National Forest and am indirectly a contract employee of the Forest Service. I do have a great collection of bumper stickers on the back of my car which faces the camp ground road. The front of my camper also faces the road. In a very clever bending of the rules, I have a “Clean Water Supports Us” sign taped to the front of my camper. I also have a good ear for listening, stories and fact sheets just in case anyone asks. I also have OFA literature and “I’m in” cards.

Unfortunately the latest war of the yard signs has come down to mining companies with free signs versus a bunch of volunteers trying to match them sign for sign. It may be true that yard signs don’t vote but the truth of that has not yet made it to the range.

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