Iron Fish Distillery Celebrates, Supports FLOW and Superior Watershed Partnership


Photos by Liz Kirkwood

We at FLOW are grateful to Iron Fish Distillery and Belsoda Farms, which celebrated a trifecta with us on Tuesday evening, October 12, in Marquette. Richard Anderson, one of the family leaders and visionaries behind the Thompsonville-based Iron Fish Distillery—and the company’s entrepreneurship for the public interest throughout the Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan—combined the release of his distillery’s new Two Peninsulas Bourbon with a celebration and fundraiser for two strong, influential organizations based in each peninsula and dedicated to protecting the Great Lakes—Superior Watershed Partnership (SWP) and FLOW.

The Superior Watershed Partnership has established energetic, skilled teams that address shoreline restoration, solar and renewable energy, climate change, and stream and environmental protection in coastal watersheds along Lake Superior. FLOW has affected change in water and environmental actions, public and private, through deep research, legal and policy analysis, and reports, catalyzing action that includes the State of Michigan’s lawsuit to end the risks and breach of public trust law by Enbridge in operating Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac, the International Joint Commission’s adoption of public trust principles to protect the Great Lakes, the state’s passage of a moratorium on water shutoffs during COVID-19, the state’s regulatory and public health actions to address ubiquitous PFASs contamination and groundwater pollution.

The evening epitomized the good energy and efforts by all. Anderson led off with a tribute to the pioneering work of the late Julia Tibbitts, who led Superior Public Rights (SPR), a group of courageous, informed citizens who brought Michigan’s first major environmental citizen suit in the early 1970s to protect Presque Isle and the public’s use and enjoyment of Lake Superior. Anderson also recognized the accomplishments of Superior Watershed Partnership and FLOW founder Jim Olson, who as a young lawyer in the 1970s represented SPR in the first environmental and public trust suit. On the bourbon tasting and cocktail menu, Iron Fish even listed the “Olson Cocktail”—comprised of Iron Fish’s new Two Peninsulas Bourbon, water and maple syrup, and orange bitters on ice.

SWP Executive Director Carl Lindquist covered his organizations with wisdom and witticism. The Upper Peninsula’s Poet Laureate M. Bartley Seigel left the crowd spellbound during a reading of his poems, full of cadence, sound, and images of rivers, cliffs, bears, bones, wolves, sky, love and mourning, and the wild. Not Quite Canada, a popular band across the U.P. and Wisconsin, entertained with stirring classic rock, keyboard and guitar licks, and funk originals bordering on Herbie Hancock.

Olson recounted the story of the Superior Public Rights lawsuit against a consortium of the nation’s steel, railroad, and electrical power industries, and a company town who opposed them. He then advanced the topic to 2021 and the need to expose and stop the hype by a small cluster of industrialists who want to colonize 2,800 acres of Lake Superior Shoreline between Big Bay and Marquette into a satellite and rocket launch site for the world’s wealthy elite.

FLOW’s executive director Liz Kirkwood capped off the evening with a description of FLOW’s mission and vision for protecting the Great Lakes, including programs that focus on groundwater, Line 5, public water justice, Nestlé and bottled water, and the Flint, Detroit, and now Benton Harbor access-to-health-and-water crises.

The gratitude we at FLOW have for Richard Anderson, Iron Fish, Carl Lindquist and SWP, Balsoda Farms, their staffs, and everyone who attended is ineffable, but in our hearts. Attendees fully engaged and expressed their dedication to the UP and Great Lakes with positive confidence and lots of smiles.

Editor’s note: FLOW is welcoming donations here to the newly launched Olson-Dempsey Fund for Public Trust in the Great Lakes to extend the legacy of FLOW’s Founder and Senior Legal Advisor Jim Olson and Senior Policy Advisor Dave Dempsey. Learn more about the Olson-Dempsey Fund here.


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