Wis. Bill Could Close 3,500 Acres of Managed Forest Land in Penokee Hills

By KBJR News 1

September 4, 2013 Updated Sep 4, 2013 at 7:19 PM CDT

Madison, WI (NNCNOW.com) ---A Wisconsin Senate Committee held a hearing on Wednesday on a bill that would close access to about 3,500 acres of land around a potential ferrous mining site in Northwest Wis.

Senate Bill 278 would allow Gogebic Taconite, to close about 3,500 acres of managed forest land to the public; temporarily closing public access for recreational activities.

Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) who spear headed the bill, says it was narrowed specifically to ferrous mining in the area.

He says, G–Tac would be able to enter into an agreement with the DNR to close the land while they continue testing and while a mining operation is under way.

However, if regulators say mining operations cannot be done, the land would then be open to the public once again.

G–Tac would also have to pay a withdrawal fee to close the land to the public.

Tiffany sited a need to close access to the land due to an incident that happened back in June where a protester accosted one of Gogebic Taconite's employees.

"We want it to be a safe site for employees both for the company and the public employees who are going to be there doing their jobs. We understand that there are some people that legitimately want to protest and with some of this land neighboring right up to county forest land I think it's important to keep appropriate distances," said Rep. Tiffany.

On the other side, Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) has been working on his own legislation that would create safety zones around the mining operations.

"We want people to be able to go beyond that tree and explore and enjoy these beautiful resources," said Rep. Jauch.

He says closing off managed forest land to the public defeats the purpose of the program.

G-Tac's Director of External Affairs Bob Seitz said at the hearing the company wants to keep as much of the land open to the public as possible especially with the upcoming deer season.

An executive session is for the bill is scheduled for Thursday.

Posted to the web by Kati Anderson.