Wisconsin lawmakers want to act quickly to restrict access to mine site
A protest that included acts of vandalism at a proposed iron mine site in northern Wisconsin has prompted Republican lawmakers to act quickly to limit public access to the site, the Journal Sentinel reported.
Rep. Mark Honadel (R-South Milwaukee) said he will try to convince fellow GOP lawmakers to slip the change into the state budget bill when it comes up for debate in the Assembly.
"I don't know if it's too late for the budget but something's got to change. We just can't have these people running around on a worksite," Honadel told the Journal Sentinel. "We certainly don't need this when we're trying to get a good viable business going in the state."
The protest and vandalism at the mine site, and a separate incident at a Department Natural Resources service center in Wausau last week, underscore the emotion surrounding the possible construction of an openpit mine. A spokesman for the mine described the vandalism the as "eco-terrorism."
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) acknowledged the discussions on limiting public access to the mine site, saying that they were in the early stages.
Currently the public has access to the land where exploratory drilling is being carried out by Gogebic Taconite as the first stage in the possible siting of a $1.5 billion mine in a heavily wooded area of Iron and Ashland counties.
Gogebic has an option on the mineral rights of the land, which is regulated under the state's managed forest law. In exchange for sharply lower property taxes for the landholder, the managed forest law gives the public access to wooded lands for activities such as hiking, hunting and fishing.
Honadel said he wants to rewrite that law to prohibit the public from being in areas where mining work is happening. He said the public is already prohibited from being in areas where logging is going on.