The following is a statement from Matt Dallman, Northern Wisconsin Conservation Director, The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin:
The Nature Conservancy continues to express deep concern with proposed changes to mining laws in Wisconsin. Senate Bill 1 and Assembly Bill 1, rewrites of Wisconsin’s ferrous mining law, remove numerous protections for water resources in the area of an iron mine, which the Conservancy contends could be particularly damaging in a water-rich area such as the Penokee Hills.
The bills explicitly remove protections for wetlands, stating that adverse impacts on wetlands are presumed to be necessary. The bills also allow the destruction or filling of lake beds, rerouting and straightening of rivers and streams, remove shore land zoning protections, and remove the current setbacks for waste facilities. Wisconsin legislation should allow for responsible mining while ensuring that our lands and waters are protected.
Conducting a major iron mining operation in the middle of this vast array of exceptional waters and lands without causing environmental harm with current engineering technology is very difficult to envision. New technology and methods might aid in the process, but reducing the scientific rigor and limiting the collection and sharing of data will not result in the best outcome for Wisconsin citizens.
In the parameters of the proposed bills, a mine in the Penokee Hills has the potential to impact ecologically significant waters within the Bad River watershed and beyond. The mining land itself contains 23 named rivers and streams, eight of which are designated Exceptional or Outstanding water resources. This surface water and the groundwater below feed into dozens of trout streams, wetlands, headwater lakes, the Kakagon Sloughs and associated wild rice areas on Lake Superior.
The Nature Conservancy is proud of its tradition of working with business and industry in Wisconsin and voices concerns in this debate only because the risks to one of the last great places in Wisconsin are so high. If we want to say yes to this type of economic development in our state then we have a responsibility to do it in a way that minimizes the damage to our land and water. This legislation does not live up to that standard.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.