February 13, 2016

Public hearing weighs public access to mining area

State lawmakers consider blocking public access in mining area.

Gogebic Taconite’s proposed mining site is located on managed forest land (MFL), which assures public access to private property for recreational activities. However, Republican Senator Tom Tiffany (Hazelhurst) wants to exempt much of that land — 4,000 acres — after recent conflicts between security guards at the site and anti-mining advocates who want G-tac to leave the state.

“We never had problems before like this. Well, the game has changed now in Wisconsin after that incident in early June where those people said, ‘Hey, we’re just hiking through the area’ and then they turned violent, accosting the drilling crew, throwing their equipment around, stealing a person’s cell phone. So it clearly changed the game.”

Tiffany says the measure (SB-278) is necessary for the safety of outdoor enthusiasts as well as the workers at the mining site. Poplar Democrat Bob Jauch had said implementing a safety zone based on existing legislation for commercial logging operations is just common sense. However, he had indicated that 4,000 acres is over the top.

Tiffany suggests people watch the video. “One of the most important things I think people can do is, first of all, look at that Earth First video, and they can see what those people are like. But, the chilling part is they said, ‘we will be back, and we will be back with more people.’ And I take that threat very seriously from them.” (WARNING: Profanity-laced video of conflict between G-tac workers and protesters.)

AUDIO :16 Wisconsin’s Managed Forest Law allows public access to private property for recreational purposes in exchange for lower property taxes for the landowner. But, if the general public is not allowed on the property that had been designated MFL, would the landowner have to pay those taxes?

Tiffany co-authored the bill with Senator Glenn Grothman. Gogebic Taconite is exploring the area, in hopes of digging a 4 1/2-mile iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:29

NOTE: The Senate Mining Committee holds a public hearing on the measure today (Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 11:00 AM 300 Southeast).

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