Iron County Board Votes To Evict LCO Camp

Harvest Project Camp Has 6 Business Days To Leave, But Camp Leader Says They'll Stay Put

A sign at the Harvest Project camp from last summer. Photo: Tegan Wendland/WCIJ

The Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) Harvest Project camp has six business days to get out of the Iron County forest.

The Iron County Board made a unanimous decision on Thursday night to evict the half-dozen or so people at the LCO camp. It was the third time the board debated evicting the campers, but it is the first time they’ve voted to actually do so.

Chairman Joe Pinardi says LCO is violating their forest camping 14-day limit. If the county doesn’t enforce this ordinance, he says, it will lose its forest accreditation and the $2 million that comes from harvesting timber. He says it’s unfortunate, but negotiations broke down three months ago.

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“I don’t know who’s going to be the winner in this situation,” said Pinardi. “I wish it had just gone peacefully, and everyone would have just been fine and dandy. But no.”

For LCO’s part, they say they have the right to stay there under treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather. Pinardi, however, said it’s all about the mine.

“The only reason they’re there is on the issue of trying to stop a mine that’s coming through,” he said. “That’s the whole theory behind their whole story. Everyone who talked last night during the public comment, that’s all they talked about: the mine, the mine, the mine. That’s their big issue.”

LCO Project spokesman Paul DeMain says they are against the mine, but that they are also tapping maple trees for syrup and documenting plants and animals in the Penokee Hills. He said that an eviction notice, which must come from a judge, will start legal action.

“If the Iron County sheriff serves an eviction notice on anyone in the camp, we will turn the eviction notice over to tribal attorneys and let them respond accordingly,” said DeMain. “But leaving is not an option.”

He expects the tribe to challenge the eviction notice in court.

Sheriff Tony Furyk says he’ll meet with DeMain next week, and that he hopes this can be worked out between reasonable people.