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Bill restricting public access around mine site goes to governor

A bill that would restrict access to forest land around a proposed mine site in northern Wisconsin is headed for Governor Walker's desk.

The state Assembly passed the bill on a party line vote Thursday night, with all the Democrats voting against it. Republicans say the restrictions will not prevent people from hunting and fishing on the land.

Democratic Rep. Janet Bewley of Ashland says it gives the mining company free reign to decide who can and who can't access public lands near the mine. "Do you have to happen to meet them at the bar the day before, and you like the fellow, so he gets to hunt? But somebody else who you may know, who has expressed concern about the mine: suddenly they're not going to be allowed? I suggest that this is not the way you determine public access."

Backers of the bill say the mining company is going out of its way to contact hunters in the area to assure them they will be able to hunt and fish as long as they stay clear of the areas where mining operations are going on. The company hopes to have the restrictions in place by December 1st.