Wed September 4, 2013
Public Hearing Held For Bill That Would Close Off Land Around Mine Site
Outdoors groups asked state lawmakers at a public hearing today not to close off 3,500 acres of land around a proposed northern Wisconsin iron mine.
Mining company GTAC says it's pushing the legislation because of an incident in early June when about 15 mine opponents shouted obscenities at test drill workers and stole one of their cameras. Wisconsin Wetlands Association director Tracy Hames told lawmakers he agrees that something should be done to prevent confrontations like that one, but he says this bill will only keep law abiding citizens from accessing the land.
Hames says that means it will be harder for people like him who don't work for the Department of Natural Resources or GTAC to review the company's permit application.
“I've been up there hundreds of hours, mostly on weekends on my own time, so I can talk intelligently and understand the landscape,” says Hames. “If I didn't have the ability to do that, I wouldn't be able to intelligently help review some of the documents that are being put out.”
The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation's George Meyer said taking this land out of the state's Managed Forest Land program would also potentially close off access to people who've hunted it for years.
“There's going to be people that come up there that have hunted there literally 20 or 30 years,” says Meyer. “There's multiple generations of hunters that use that 4,000 acres.”
GTAC spokesman Bob Seitz acknowledged that there's nothing keeping the company from closing off this land right now, but to do so it would have to pay a tax penalty. “I don't believe it's fair that a criminal act should result in additional costs on a Wisconsin company.”
Seitz says GTAC would like to open the land up for hunting, but under the bill, the company would have the power to keep it closed if it wanted to.