A trailhead and rest area in Backus suddenly became crowded Saturday, Jan. 23, when protesters gathered at one of the nearby pipeline staging sites for Enbridge Energy's Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project. There have been several protests in the Backus area since work began.

The project, which is underway with more than 1,000 workers working six days a week, crosses through the Pine River and Backus area with the pipeline passing under Highway 371 south of Backus and north of Pine River along a power line right of way.

Winona LaDuke, of Honor the Earth, was at the event and spoke ahead of the move following speeches by Ryan Hunt, of Pine River, and Mike Tauber, of rural Backus.

"I'm here today basically because I started down the road with chemical agriculture and being concerned with that," said Tauber. "As a plumber by trade I see what people have to drink, and when I would step into people's houses and would test it out and say they can't drink that anymore, it starts to wear on a person. To see several neighbors go through that, you have to do something.

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"When I started down the chemical agriculture trail, it rolls right into big oil. You don't have these chemicals popping up out of nowhere; they're a product of refining oil. There's a lot of things connected to this type of pipeline activity," Tauber said.

Tauber, one of the main organizers of this event, urged those present to be merciful, not to block traffic or cause problems as they walked to the pipe yard. Tauber invited Hunt to speak because of his own research into renewable and efficient energies.

Hunt spoke on resilient living and technologies studied at Pine River's Hunt Technologies that allow for increased energy efficiency, especially when reducing the carbon footprint of homes through use of solar heat collection and home design that stores heat.

"It's not technology, it's spiritual," Hunt said. "When we want sustainability, those solutions will come. We are on the verge of countless breakthroughs. If we put as much energy into those breakthroughs as we do into oil research, oil exploration and pipeline engineering, we could come up with radical new ideas that provide all the energy and comfortable living we want."

The group moved the protest to one of the nearby work sites and was reportedly disbursed by the Cass County Sheriff's Department. Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch said Monday, Jan. 25, that the group was very peaceful and there were no issues at all.

Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.