Several elected officials in the proposed mining area of Iron and Ashland counties don't want armed security guards during the upcoming hunting season.
The mining area is a five-mile stretch between the Iron County Town of Anderson and the Ashland County Town of Morse near Mellen.
At last Thursday's Department of Natural Resources public hearing about allowing Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) to do exploratory mining, Anderson Town Chairman Bud Benter says his town board is against Bulletproof Securities or any private firms returning with semi-automatic weapons.
But, he says, GTAC says Bulletproof is coming back. "These people, they tell me are trained to search the woods for protesters. What we're asking is, put a stop to this before somebody gets killed or hurt."
Ashland County Board Chairman Pete Russo agrees: "I hate to say it but that ain't a good idea."
Russo says armed security guards could lead to a high-powered confrontation this fall. "One guy's got a .30-06 [rifle] and he's deer hunting and you got another guy maybe 100 yards away in camouflage with an AR-15. You know what it is? It's a mixture for disaster."
Mellen Mayor Joe Barabe also is on record saying the armed guards are scaring tourists away, and Iron County District Attorney Marty Lipske has asked GTAC to have the guards return unarmed.
But GTAC spokesman Bob Seitz doesn't believe armed guards are risky business.
"They will be using what is necessary to create a safe work site," says Seitz. "The safety of our people is number one priority and the safety of the public is also number one. That's what we bring in security for."
Seitz says Wisconsin hunters are safe and responsible.