Home > Bill Would Allow DNR To Bar Public Access Around Mine Site
The land around the proposed mine site is currently open to the public under the "Managed Forest Land" program, but could be deemed "closed" by the DNR under SB278.
Bill Would Allow DNR To Bar Public Access Around Mine Site
By Gilman Halsted
Wednesday, November 6, 2013, 11:45am
The state Senate has approved a bill that will allow the Department of Natural Resources to bar public access to county forest land surrounding a proposed iron mine site in northern Wisconsin.
Supporters of SB278 say it's necessary to protect mining company personnel from mining opponents who might seek to disrupt the bulk sampling process the Gogebic Taconite company plans to carry out in Iron and Ashland county. But Democratic state Sen. Bob Jauch says there have been no threats against the company since an incident in June when protesters harassed mining engineers who were surveying the site.
Jauch says the bill grants the mining company more rights than local residents. “It gives the Department of Natural Resources broad powers to restrict large chunks of land for long periods of time in an unprecedented way, which will limit law abiding citizens from enjoying the land that they have been enjoying for decades.”
Democrats tried and failed to amend the bill to require the DNR to hold hearings in communities near the mine site before closing any forest land to public access and to leave the final decision to the Natural Resources Board instead of DNR staff.
State Sen. Bob Wirch said the board is more sensitive to citizen concerns. “They have a vested interest in doing what's good for the resources and the state. The DNR has a vested interest in doing what's good for the governor.”
In a memo released this week, the DNR estimates almost 900 acres of land near roads that lead to the bulk sampling sites could be closed as a result of the passage of the bill. It passed on a party line vote. It now heads to the state Assembly.