The Iron County Forestry Committee voted unanimously today to seek civil and criminal charges against the Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) Harvest Camp.
Two months ago, this same committee voted unanimously to support a one-year permit for that same camp in the Penokee Hills. But in the meantime, Iron County Forestry Administrator Joe Vairus says they sent LCO a letter asking them to apply for a large-gathering permit instead.
Vairus says this has nothing to do with the proposed iron ore mine next to the camp. "To me, it's black and white," he says. "There's a county ordinance and there's county forest law. As a forest administrator and land manager I need to follow those laws."
County Board Chairman Joseph Pinardi says the full county board will meet next week. He expects they'll agree with the committee and order eviction papers to be served on the Harvest Camp.
"Because of the fact that they've been there longer than two weeks and they have not applied for the large-group gathering permit, our state and county forest administrations are telling us that we are in violation to allow it to happen," says Pinardi.
But LCO Camp spokesman Paul DeMain says they never got a letter from Iron County. Says DeMain: "You don't just say, 'Hey, something happened but we're not sure what happened, but it kinda happened and no one kinda responded and we're not sure what it is, so we got to write a criminal complaint against this guy and cite him for something.'"
Iron County District Attorney Marty Lipske says he'd be hard-pressed to think of any criminal activity at the Harvest Camp, only civil charges of violating county forest ordinances.
DeMain says treaties with the U.S. Government guarantee them the right to hunt, fish and gather in the ceded territory of northern Wisconsin.