Iron County Forestry Director Says LCO Camp Needs To Leave Public Land Entirely

Joe Vairus Says Campers, County Sheriff Can't Compromise On Eviction


The head of the Iron County Forestry Department says the Lac Courte Oreilles band of Ojibwe isn’t doing enough to remove its harvest village project in the Penokee Hills, and says the sheriff should evict them.

Just a day after LCO announced it was moving most of its camp and not allowing any of its people to stay more than the 14-day camping limit, Iron County Forestry Director Joe Vairus says that isn’t enough.

“That’s not acceptable at all and the sheriff knows that,” said Vairus. “The sheriff is supposed to be conveying that message to them. No, they need to remove everything, get out of there so we can reclaim that site. As a resource manager I am allowed to protect that resource out there.”

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LCO Harvest Education Learning Project spokesman Paul DeMain says they’re chopping through deep snow and ice to remove equipment and rotate people to private property. He’s meeting again with Sheriff Tony Furyk, who says for now, the action by LCO is reasonable.

DeMain says they won’t remove everything though, so their two administrators have a place to stay: “Which means the presence of tents, teepees for residing in while they’re camping there for their 14-day period will remain,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is come within a sense of compliance with those suggestions that Iron County has given us.”

Vairus says he’ll push for action against LCO if they don’t remove everything from public forest land.

“If they don’t … I don’t know,” said Vairus. “The (Iron County) Board will have to reconvene to figure out what to do with it. What do you do with a sheriff if he doesn’t enforce the ordinance? I don’t know.”

Meanwhile, LCO is asking the Department of Natural Resources for a scientific research permit to allow them to stay there. Vairus says even then, they can’t camp there beyond 14 days.