Conservation Congress mining resolutions win big!

Photo: Defenders of the Harvest and Education Learning Project protest against mining at an Iron County Board meeting in 2013

Resolutions calling on the state to repeal the 2013 iron mining law, refuse any mining permits to Gogebic Taconite on state constitutional grounds, and undertake greater monitoring and oversight of air emissions at frac sand mines were each introduced by citizens at the Conservation Congress Spring Hearings in more than a third of Wisconsin's 72 counties, and passed by at least a 2:1 margin statewide! This huge success was due to the efforts of dozens of people around the state--many of whom had never been to a Conservation Congress hearing before this year--coordinated by WNPJ and the Sierra Club. 

The Conservation Congress acts as an advisory body to the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board and DNR. It typically deals with hunting, fishing, and trapping-related issues, but gives citizens the opportunity to introduce any conservation-related resolution for a vote and to elect delegates at the annual spring hearings, which are open to the public. Citizen resolutions that are passed in any county are considered by the Congress for the next year's statewide ballot. The hearings provide a useful platform for gaging political opinion among sportsmen and educating people in the cultural mainstream about the dangers of mining. Our efforts were also a success in terms of building new networks and a sense of empowerment amongst people who participated. 

The resolution opposing development of the proposed massive open pit iron mine in the Penokee Hills was approved in 28 of 32 Counties where introduced with a total vote count of 1,485 for and 732 against or 67% approval. The resolution supporting the repeal of 2013 Act 1, the enabling legislation that removed many of the state’s mining protections was approved in 19 of 24 Counties with a vote count of 1,138 in favor and 606 against or 65% approval. The resolution directing the DNR to regulate cancer-causing frac sand mining dust (silica) to protect public health was approved in 23 of 25 Counties with a vote count of 1,190 in favor and 533 against or 69% approval.

Notably, Ashland and Iron County residents – home to the proposed Gogebic Taconite massive open pit iron mine proposal - strongly supported both the resolution to oppose the proposed mine and the resolution to repeal 2013 Act 1, the new iron mining law. In addition, 7 of 8 Counties voted by a 73% majority (502 in favor, 188 against) to direct the DNR to update the silica sand mining study released in 2012. That study did not account for long-term and cumulative impacts from the exploding frac sand mining industry. 

The resolutions were:

Oppose the Proposed Open-Pit Iron Mine

Repeal the Iron Mining Law

Address Air Standards for Respirable Crystalline Silica Dust

A press release about the resolutions' passage is available here.