The Nature Conservancy Opposes Mining Legislation

Statement from The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin about the serious risks posed to the rivers, lakes, wetlands, groundwater and other natural resources in the Penokee Range in northern Wisconsin by proposed changes to Wisconsin’s iron mining regulations.

December 14, 2011

The Nature Conservancy of Wisconsin expressed deep concerns today with the recently introduced Assembly Bill regarding mining. The bill, a substantial rewrite of Wisconsin’s ferrous mining law, restricts public input on mining proposals, shortens the approval process for mining permits and has the potential to adversely affect some of the state’s most pristine waters.

“Though maybe well-intentioned,” said Matt Dallman, Director of Conservation for the Northwoods, “the price Wisconsinites are being asked to pay for economic development is too high. We are talking about the possible alteration and contamination of some of the highest value natural resources in the state.”

The Nature Conservancy’s preliminary analysis of the proposal indicates that scores of waters within the Penokee Range or Bad River Watershed could be negatively affected by the new provision including: The Bad River, dozens of trout streams, wetlands, headwater lakes, groundwater, the Kakagon sloughs and associated wild rice areas.

“Conducting a major iron mining process in the middle of this vast array of exceptional waters and lands without causing environmental harm would be a very complicated process,” said Dallman “New technology and methods might aid in the process, but reducing scientific analysis and restricting public input is certainly not going to result in the best outcome for Wisconsin citizens.”

The bill explicitly removes protections for wetlands that are currently protected as Areas of Special Natural Resource Interest. The bill allows significant environmental impacts in groundwater protection areas which include trout streams and outstanding or exceptional resource water designated streams. It would also allow mining companies to construct structures in navigable waters where current law prohibits it. Further changes that would put natural resources at risk can be found here: (link to our fact sheet).

“The Nature Conservancy is proud of its tradition of working with business and industry in Wisconsin and would not enter this debate if the risks to one of the last great places in Wisconsin were not so high,” said Dallman. “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.”

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

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