Loading
Search
NEWS STORIES

Last-minute tribal letter saves Harvest Camp near mine site from legal actionSubmitted: 07/30/2013

Ben Meyer
Executive Producer
bmeyer@wjfw.com


HURLEY - A last-minute letter from the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe to the Iron County Board Chairman likely saved the county from taking legal action against the controversial Harvest Camp in southern Iron County.

The camp is home to dozens protesting against a massive proposed iron ore mine that spans parts of Ashland and Iron Counties.

Last Tuesday, the Iron County Forestry-Harbors-Parks Committee voted unanimously to explore civil or criminal action against the Harvest Camp for illegally occupying Iron County Forest land without a proper permit.

The Iron County Board Chairman pulled a surprise move Tuesday night at a full county board meeting in Hurley. In front of the tiny Iron County boardroom packed with anti-mine, pro-camp attendees, Joe Pinardi announced the tribe and forestry committee would go back to negotiating for a legal permit.

Last Thursday, two days after the forestry committee's decision to explore legal action against the Harvest Camp, Pinardi received a letter from Lac Courte Oreilles Chairman Michael J. Isham, Jr.

"(It was) asking us to please go back to the negotiation table and talk about the large group gathering permit," Pinardi said.

In a copy of the document obtained by WJFW, the letter asks for a meeting "to discuss the Tribe's proposal of a treaty based harvest and education camp on Moore Park Road located within Iron County".

The letter likely saved civil or criminal action against the camp.

The Forest and Parks Committee had asked Iron County District Attorney Marty Lipske to attend the full board meeting Tuesday and advise them on legal options against the group.

"Had we not received the letter, I was expecting the worst," Pinardi said. "I was expecting legal action to have to be taken…we would have had no other choice but to begin the eviction process."

Isham's letter hinted at a decision from the forestry committee on May 14 to allow the camp to operate through April 30, 2014. But that permission hit rocky legal ground when reviewed by county agencies and other groups.

Earlier in the day Tuesday, Iron County Forest Administrator Joe Vairus told WJFW he considered the camp illegal. Iron County requires permits for campers staying on county forest land for more than 14 days at a time. The camp hadn't attained that specific permit.

"It's a black and white deal," Vairus said. "They moved in and refused to leave."

Isham's letter blasted Vairus and the Forestry and Parks Department, calling their interpretation "disrespectful".

The Executive Director of the Wisconsin County Forest Association sided with the Forestry and Parks Department. Jane Severt told WJFW that under Wisconsin Statutes 28.11, the camp is illegal.

The various permitting rules appear to leave the current legal status murky. But both the tribe and county appear to want to resolve the issue through negotiation.

Pinardi now calls any legal action against the camp "highly unlikely".

Tribal representatives at the meeting came away pleased.

"What I heard at this meeting tonight, it lifted me off the ground," Lac Courte Oreilles Vice Chairman Rusty Barber said. "They're going to negotiate in a good faith effort, and that's what the tribes like to see."

The position of Severt and the Wisconsin County Forest Association had put Iron County in a tough spot. Their stance made eviction of the camp a monetary issue for the county, as well.

"None of (the supervisors) wanted (to evict the camp). But, if we didn't, we could be losing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of state forestry money. Our county relies on our forestry money very heavily. That's all we have right now," Pinardi said.

The temporary compromise surprised most of the nearly 200 attendees at the board meeting.

The tiny boardroom was so crowded, crews set up speakers to audibly broadcast the proceedings to overflow attendees relegated to the hallway.

While legal action was averted, many took the opportunity to rail against the mine as a whole in the public comment section of the agenda.

That included an 11-year-old Harvest Camper.

"I just don't think they should put a mine there. There's a bunch of beautiful land, and what is mining going to come out of this?" Ayyub Harrison asked the Iron County Board. "It's going to go from beautiful land to something that isn't beautiful."

The Hurley Area Chamber of Commerce's Executive Director, Dorrene O'Donnell, was the solitary speaker in support of the mine.

"If you want a strong country, and you want to drive in an automobile, and you want to have a strong building out here, you're going to need this iron ore that is right here under our feet," she charged.

Northern Wisconsin is sure to see plenty more clashes between pro- and anti-mine interests. But for now, at least, the Harvest Camp adjacent to the mine site will stay. It's even designed, says Barber, to stay put through the winter and beyond, should the tribe choose.


Text Size: + Increase | Decrease -
| Print Story | Email Story
Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com





 IN OTHER NEWS

Play Video

ANTIGO - When the Kretz family started the Kretz Lumber Company here in Antigo in 1929, they built part of the original saw mill with hemlock that grew near the property.  Now, a piece of hemlock far older than that serves as a reminder of the company's rich history.

+ Read More

Play Video

ANTIGO - World-class athletes hope to etch their names into the history books during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. But all the hard work isn't done by the athletes alone.

"I'm just going to focus on what I'm there for, and that's to do the best I can for my athletes," said Antigo native Dr. Curt Draeger.

+ Read More

MADISON - A federal judge has refused to stay his order allowing Wisconsin residents to vote without photo identification while state attorneys appeal the decision.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman in Milwaukee issued a preliminary injunction this month allowing people who haven't been able to obtain IDs to vote in the Nov. 8 election if they sign an affidavit explaining why they couldn't get the identification.

+ Read More

Play Video

ANTIGO - In one way, Antigo Silt Loam isn't all that special.

"The reason the Antigo Silt Loam soil was selected wasn't that it represented the whole state, or exists throughout the whole state, or that it was the most productive," said Matt Ruark, an associate professor in the Soil Science department at UW-Madison.

But in 1983, it was selected as the official Wisconsin state soil for a special reason.

"It was the most uniquely 'Wisconsin,'" Ruark said.

+ Read More

Play Video

WHITE LAKE - There's a lot of pride in the Village of White Lake.

The people there are proud of their school, proud of their health center, and proud of their history.

"There's just so much history here. It's just a good little place," said White Lake Area Historical Society secretary Judy Popelka. 

+ Read More

LINCOLN COUNTY - We expect an 85-year-old Antigo woman to be charged next month for the death of a Lincoln County highway worker last summer.

According to online court records, Mary Robinson is expected to face a charge of Homicide by Negligent use of a Vehicle.

+ Read More

Play Video

LANGLADE COUNTY - It's a long season for the carnival.

"Twenty-one weeks of summer," said A + P Enterprise manager Pauline Kedrowicz.

From May to September, A + P Enterprise, based near Stevens Point, puts on carnivals in Wisconsin. This weekend it's at the Langlade County Fair.

+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: 




Click Here