February 26, 2013 by Barbara With
Yesterday, the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe called a press conference to demonstrate growing solidarity against SB1/AB1, the mining bill that would strip control away from local governments and exempt mining companies from having to abide by current air and water standards. Members of a coalition made up of area elected officials asked for state-wide support against a bill that will ultimately jeopardize all of the water in the state.
Ashland Mayor Bill Whalen summed up the group’s unified message. “This is not a Native Sovereign issue vs. the State of Wisconsin. This is a water and legislative issue that affects us all.” Bayfield Mayor Larry McDonald quoted the Lake Superior Binational Forum in expressing the intricate relationship of water to the area. “Water is life. The quality of water determines the quality of life. This is a world-wide issue.”
Several members of other Wisconsin Tribal Nations spoke in support of Bad River and against the bill. Rose Soulier from Red Cliff shared the message she personally gave Governor Walker. “In November, at a Tribal quarterly meeting with the Governor, I asked that he consult with all Tribal Nations and not shove this mining bill down our throats.” She added, “Well, that never happened. We’ve been choking back our tears ever since.”
Red Cliff member Marvin Defoe brought the conversation back to the future generations. “It’s important to listen to the words of our children. I asked ten-year-old kids about this mining bill and the effects it will have on the water. I asked them one question: Do you think that the legislators of the State of Wisconsin will ever get it with this mining bill? You know what they told me? They said, ‘I hope so.’ That’s what they are saying, I hope so. Water has no bias; we are all in this together.”
Last week, many of the same elected officials traveled to Madison during Superior Days to express their opposition to not only the bill, but the threat to the water that a 21-mile mountaintop removal iron ore mine built in the middle of the Bad River watershed. Frustrated with the propaganda being put out about the poverty of the northern tier of the state, Ashland City Council Member Richard Ketring spoke for the coalition and made it clear: “We are 100% united in defense of the water.”
Opposition to mining bill SB1/AB1 continues to grow, from 67% speaking against AB426 in a December 2011 public hearing in West Allis, to over 14 to 1 opposition at the only public hearing for SB1/AB1 on January 23, 2013. So far mining has not proven to be popular with anyone but a handful of Hurley residents, the Tea Party Republicans in the legislature, and captains of the industries that would profit from mining.
This morning Wisconsin Public Radio released the results of a poll conducted by the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, showing that the more people hear the truth about the bill, the more they oppose the legislation.
Representatives Fred Clark (D-Sauk City) and Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire) have also issue a statement warning that the bill will be in violation of the Public Trust Doctrine.
The Senate is expected to take up the bill tomorrow. If it passes out of the Senate, the Assembly is projecting a March 6 date to take a vote for final passage.