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Ashland DA says GTAC wrong on trespass allegations

The Ashland County District Attorney says the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe has the right to survey land in the proposed mining area. This comes two months after mining company Gogebic Taconite sent Bad River a "cease and desist" letter to stay off that land.

The Oct. 16 letter from Ashland County District Attorney Kelly McKnight says the August letter to Bad River Chairman Mike Wiggins was wrong on all counts.

McKnight wrote that under the state's Managed Forest Law program, people can hike and sightsee on private property. That's what Bad River researchers were doing. In exchange, property owners get a tax break from the state.

McKnight also points out that GTAC doesn't even own the land. It only has the option for mineral rights to the land.

GTAC spokesman Bob Seitz says that's just a technicality. Property owners can file a complaint.

"I'm disappointed that private property rights aren't being more strongly advocated," Seitz said. "It demonstrates that the law is not clear enough and it demonstrates that there needs to be a change in order to allow private property protections on this property."

Seitz hopes legislation will be proposed to clear up what he calls this "gray area."

McKnight was unavailable for comment, but Bad River Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins says even though this is a clear victory for science, he's alarmed at what he calls intimidation tactics by GTAC.

"This isn't a game," Wiggins said. "This is life and death for the people downstream and down wind. This is life and death for the unbelievable hydrological features of that mountain that flow down into Lake Superior."

Wiggins says his researchers will continue to work in the proposed mining area of the Penokee Range.

"GTAC has to face the science of that mountain, and they are trying to run from it right now. And you know what? Science is going to get them in the end."

People can hunt, fish, hike, cross-country ski, and go sightseeing on private property which is under the Managed Forest Law.

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