Penokee Hills Education Project Formed
For Immediate Release June 20, 2011
Contact: Frank K. Koehn:
Ashland WI – Citizens from Ashland, Bayfield and Iron Counties concerned about mining developments have formed the Penokee Hills Education Project (PHEP). PHEP has organized to address the fast-track proposal to begin iron ore (taconite) mining in Northern Wisconsin’s Penokee Hills and Bad River watershed. The Penokee Hills and the Bad River watershed, located in Ashland and Iron Counties, have been targeted for iron ore (taconite) by a subsidiary of Florida-based Cline Group.
PHEP has been formed to educate the public about the risks to the Bad River watershed and the Penokee Hills should large-scale taconite mining be permitted. The Bad River watershed is connected to Lake Superior and home to important wild rice beds, thousands of acres of wetlands, high quality rivers and streams, and hundreds of species of birds and wildlife dependent on this extremely sensitive resource. The Bad River Watershed is the homeland of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Ojibwe.
The Project will provide a statewide resource for organizations, service clubs, media, and others who are interested in learning more about this region and the concerns that have resulted from the mining proposal. The Project is modeled after the highly successful Wolf Watershed Educational Project that helped defeat the proposed Crandon mine proposal by mobilizing grassroots support for protecting natural and cultural resources threatened by mining.
PHEP is also concerned with legislation designed to enable iron ore mining by granting exemptions from and reducing protections in existing mining regulations. Wisconsin’s mining laws are designed to protect natural resources from all forms of mining including iron ore (emphasis added). Draft legislation that was recently withdrawn included revisions such as a fast-track mining permit process that allow the mining industry to trump public rights, limit public input, and override local zoning ordinances. The legislation also included significant reductions of environmental protection including dumping mine wastes into wetlands which threatens streams, lakes and rivers and drinking water.
PHEP strongly supports Native American sovereignty and is concerned about the lack of consultation by state officials with the tribe about the proposed legislation. In May, the Bad River tribal government asked the legislators introducing the law to meet with them but the legislators have not responded.
The Penokee Hills Education Project is sponsored by the Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and is based in Ashland, Wisconsin. The Mining Impact Coalition’s current Board of Directors has members from Ashland, Bayfield and Iron Counties.