Bill limiting public access to mine site goes to Assembly next week
A bill that would restrict public access to the site of a proposed iron mine in Wisconsin heads to the floor of the state Assembly next week. The bill, which passed in the state Senate earlier this week, creates a 600-foot buffer around areas whe...
A bill that would restrict public access to the site of a proposed iron mine in Wisconsin heads to the floor of the state Assembly next week.
The bill, which passed in the state Senate earlier this week, creates a 600-foot buffer around areas where Gogebic Taconite will carry out bulk sampling operations and along the roads that lead to those sites.
Bill author Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, says it's necessary to prevent what he calls "eco-terrorism" by opponents of the proposed mine. Tiffany says it's similar to a law passed in 2000 after animal rights activists trespassed on mink farms and released hundreds of minks to protest the fur industry.
"This is the same situation where we are saying to eco-terrorists, 'We will protect workers here in the state of Wisconsin'," says Tiffany.
The estimated 900 acres of land that would be restricted while the mining company drills for samples is private managed forest land that enjoys a tax exemption in return for allowing the public to use it for hiking, hunting and fishing on it. Opponents of the bill, like Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, say it will unnecessarily block access to land that has been open for public recreation for decades.
"This bill is going to deter people from using this land," says Milroy. "People that have subsidized the tax break on this land for many years are no longer going to be able to enjoy the land."
A mining company spokesman says he hopes the restrictions can be in place by Dec. 1 so the company can safely carry out bulk sampling operations. The bill keeps the land open for the nine-day gun deer hunting season and exempts land along trout streams so that anglers can still access the land for fishing.