ACTION ALERT: Sean Duffy Attacking Wisconsin’s Water

October 27, 2014

Rep. Sean Duffy and his Tea Party extremists are trying to take away our protection.

Rep. Sean Duffy and his Tea Party extremists are trying to take away our protection.

Rep. Sean Duffy (WI-R-7) is in a hotly contested race with Kelly Westlund of Ashland for the Congressional seat representing District 7, which includes the Penokee Hill and Bad River watershed. Duffy recently co-sponsored two bills that passed in the House that take aim at the Treaty Rights of the Lake Superior Chippewa, as well as all of the waters of Wisconsin.

The bills—HR 5078 and HR 4854—are co-sponsored by Tea Party Republicans and Southern Democrats in mining states and are based on a corporate manifesto written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization funded in part by David and Charles Koch. They are designed to severely limit the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers from implementing the Clean Power Plan.

The bills passed the House in September and are part of ALEC’s “model legislation” based on the Tea Party ideology found in “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Assault on State Sovereignty.” Portraying the power of the EPA as dangerous federal overreach, the manifesto aims to protect mining interests across the country from being held accountable for their impact on the environment.


We need people power before the election to help educate the state on the truth. We need people writing Letters to the Editor to your local papers, sharing this information with your family and friends, and forwarding the link to people who might be undecided about who to vote for.

The truth is if Walker, Duffy and Ryan get re-elected, they will continue to bring the Koch Brothers and the influence of all their corporate money has here in Wisconsin. If Walker, Duffy, Jamey Francis, Dane Deustch and their Tea Party friends prevail, they will dismantle any protections we have from mining.

Remember how we were told over and over, “If the mine would pollute, the EPA won’t allow it.” This is the same lie they told us in January 2011 about not wanting to change the Wisconsin State mining laws. GTac knew when they told us that that the new bill was already in progress.

Find your local newspaper here. Write a letter. Support Kelly Westlund. And then get out the vote and let’s elect people not paid for by the Koch Brothers: Kelly for Congress, Beth Meyers for Assembly, Susan Happ for Attorney General and Mary Burke for governor on November 4, 2014. If you live outside of District 7, find out who in your district supports We the People and clean water.

Help others learn the truth and get out the vote on November 4th.

Your very life may depend on it.


One of many undocumented streams and waterfalls of the Bad River watershed. Photo: Maureen Matusewic

GTac Bulk Sample Trucks Routed Through Bad River Reservation

GTac truck hauling bulk sample rock out of Moore Park Road. Photo: Pete Rasmussen

GTac truck hauling bulk sample rock out of Moore Park Road. Photo: Pete Rasmussen

Due to bridge restrictions in the town of Mellen, Gogebic Taconite (GTac) is routing their trucks carrying bulk sample rock through the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Reservation.

The route of the trucks hauling the samples is from Moore Park Road, east into Hurley on Highway 77, north on 51 and then to Highway 2, back west across the Bad River Reservation, and through Ashland on their way to Minnesota. The loads can’t travel through the shorter, more cost-effective route through Mellen because of a bridge restriction in the center of town.

Controversy continues to follow GTac, as asbestiform minerals have been found and confirmed at several bulk sample sites by Dr. Tom Fitz, geologist from Northland College. Asbestiform particles are responsible for mesothelioma, an incurable lung disease common around iron ore mines. GTac loads stand to spread the airborne particles along the route.

Due to bridge restrictions in Mellen, GTac is being forced to use a longer route through the Bad River Reservation.

Due to bridge restrictions in Mellen, GTac is being forced to use a longer route through the Bad River Reservation.

In an interview last October with WPR, Bad River Chair Mike Wiggins Jr. accused GTac of covering up the presence of the dangerous mineral. “A cover-up of asbestos [that] geologists and children could walk in there and see with the naked eye,” he said. “[It] is such a compelling, premeditation for disaster, a disaster that would befall the Bad River Reservation and non-tribal people of the Bad River Watershed. It’s a deal breaker. Explode an asbestos rock that Tom Fitz has found with the highest level of asbestos he’s ever seen in some of those rocks and tell me how that’s creating the circle of life. I’ll say this: It’s recreating the circle of life by causing death.”

Wiggins noted that Bad River wardens briefly detained one of the nine trucks that passed through the reservation yesterday.

Meanwhile, about 100 concerned citizens gathered Sunday at the entrance to one of the bulk sample sites to demonstrate support of clean air, clean water and the new mining laws. At least 20 people crossed over into the “forbidden zone” that the latest in GTac-bought legislation created around the bulk sample sites to prevent the public from observing their activities.

EDITORIAL: This is a peaceful action

photo: Ros Nelson

photo: Ros Nelson

Last week, charges were filed against a woman for allegedly assaulting a GTac employee near LCO Harvest Camp and the site of the core drilling taking place in the Penokee Hills. According to the report, about $2500 worth of damage was done to vehicles and personal property and she was charged with three misdemeanors and a felony.

The group that allegedly perpetrated the act was welcomed at Harvest Camp, as all visitors are. According to sources involved, however, the group did not inform the creators of camp of their intention to cause damages, as alleged.

As can be expected, media propaganda immediately began associating the group’s action with Harvest Camp. After the incident was resolved, the Penokee Hills Education Project and LCO Harvest Camp reiterated their policies of education and non-violence. In an interview with Rob Thomas, entertainment reporter for the Cap Times, I was asked if the people who took part in the direct action were associated with the Harvest Camp. My response was that the anarchists[1] who took the action were not acting on behalf of the camp, and that the camp did the right thing to assist law enforcement with finding the perpetrators.

Peaceful hikers going to visit the drill site. Photo: Ros Nelson

Peaceful hikers going to visit the drill site. Photo: Ros Nelson

Much like the Madison police who refused to become the palace guard for Walker during the 2011 uprising, we have allies in our local law enforcement. One of my neighbors said it best: After a long walk to the drill site she reported, “Their bodies are on one side of the yellow tape, but their hearts are on the other.” They are working together with us to protect the community they serve, not the corporation.

These are stressful circumstances for everyone. We are all suffering from shock and awe. The elected officials who support corrupt legislation are traitors to the Wisconsin Constitution. They sold out our resources to their corporate sponsors, passed unjust and dangerous laws and continue to lie about it.

We know the mining company wrote the law. We know it is an unjust law. It leaves the door open for not only the Bad River Watershed but all of Wisconsin waters to become a “sacrifice zone.” The pollution a 22-mile open pit mountaintop removal iron ore mine would rain upon our area would turn us into another West Virginia. Our economy, our agriculture, our children, our environment, our health, our infrastructure—everything would suffer.

Ashland County Zoning Committee holding a public hearing for the new Metallic Mining Zoning Ordinance, which passed 18 to 1.

Ashland County Zoning Committee holding a public hearing for the new Metallic Mining Zoning Ordinance, which passed 18 to 1.

Because this is a just cause, and because those who live here have a rich history of standing together in nonviolent-direct action, we are making important headway. This coalition of community leaders, local and state activists, law enforcement and ordinary concerned citizens have produced what I personally consider a miracle. Ashland County, which rushed through a “Responsible Mining Resolution” two years ago, just passed their new metallic mining zoning ordinance last week. Iron County is about to do the same. It is no guarantee of safety by any means and we fully anticipate Gtac will continue their assault. These steps do, however, herald the turning of the tides of our deepening relationship to our neighbors in Hurley and Iron County, and our faith that we can change the hearts of our neighbors and elected officials with education, nonviolence and a commitment to doing what is best for the whole.

vistaMany people have never been to Lake Superior. They have no idea what it’s like to live near such clean, clear water, with friends and neighbors who support you and what’s best for the entire community. I have always believed the good people of Iron County have been misled, and that if they knew the truth, they would join us. This is proving to be true. You simply cannot fit a theoretical idea of aggressive direct action such as damaging property over our area and think it will work.

With the new budget in place, more and more people will be waking up. We must be prepared to welcome them, not damage their property.

For those who are inclined to break the law, please remember, there are laws that ensure the people’s right to the protections of their person and property. These laws are not unjust. If you choose to break them, be prepared to serve the time.

Better yet, if you want to help preserve the Penkoee Hills and the Bad River Watershed, join us in our peaceful commitment to doing what is best for the good of the whole. Work with us, not against us.

Standing up to the corporate takeover of our government will take everyone acting for the good of the whole. Many paths, one goal.

Choose wisely.

The Penokee Hills Education Project is a non-profit educational organization whose mission is public education, networking, and grassroots organizing on the environmental, health, social, and economic issues of mining in northern Wisconsin.

[1] a state of society without government or law.

80 Hikers Visit Mine Drill Site Guarded by Local Police

Yesterday, approximately 80 hikers made the trek from LCO Harvest Camp up to the site of exploratory drilling taking place in the Penokee Hills. It was a peaceful event and hikers got to meet about 14 police officers from five different jurisdictions who were guarding GTAC, the mining corporation’s interests. There were no incidents, and hikers returned to Harvest Camp for some food and conversation. Photos: Ros Nelson

UPDATES: LCO Harvest and Educational Camp (LCOHEC) 2013

Background and Mission

camp2The Penokee Hills region may become one of the world’s largest open pit mines in North America unless we act today to help preserve its pristine nature. The mining  company, Gogebic Taconite (GTAC), plans to start mining for iron ore taconite at the headwaters of the Bad River northern Wisconsin.

Bad River flows downhill through reservation of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, their wild rice beds, and into Lake Superior near Ashland, Wisconsin.  Acid mine drainage from GTAC’s mining activities would poison the environment and lead to human health and wildlife hazards in the Penokee Mountains Heritage Park. GTAC has already starting drilling, June 8th, for core samples from the Penokee hills.

Fry bread  Photo: Ros Nelson

Fry bread at Harvest Camp. Photo: Ros Nelson

The Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) Band of Lake Superior Chippewa opened a treaty harvest and educational camp on public lands in the Penokee Hills.  The LCOHEC mission is to make a presence in the Penokee Hills and do research in the region.  It’s also to become a part of it — breathe the air, partake of the water, and experience the open wilderness and natural beauty.  The main tasks of LCOHEC are to host LCO tribal members and other guests who are doing an inventory of resources, trail blazing, archaeology work and harvesting.  Visitors to the camp ought to prepare for the elements and be self-sufficient.  (See list below).  Donations to LCOHEC are accepted and greatly appreciated.

Some LCO harvesters are overseeing the camp.  Melvin Gasper and Felina LaPointe are the contact persons in the camp and can answer all questions.  Other tribes and environmental organizations support the LCOHEC including Save the Waters Edge, the Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin, and dozens of others.  The Penokee Hills Education Project (PHEP) was formed to educate the public about risks to the Bad River watershed and the Penokee Hills from GTAC’s open pit drilling and mining.  The PHEP goals are to share information about the impact of mining on our economy, health, and the environment; and to connect with similar citizen-led groups locally and nationally.

photo: Ros Nelson

photo: Ros Nelson

The LCOHEC camp is on county land and within the Chippewa ceded territory.  The Chippewa have treaty rights in this region to hunt, fish, and harvest.  It so happens that the GTAC mining site is in the “State Forest Management Tax Credit” program making it a public space. Therefore, LCOHEC is guided by state agreements with the Chippewa tribes for harvesting of  foods, berries, herbs, medicinal plants, and other materials for baskets, shelter, etc.

Many tribal members are descendants of former land allottees in the area. The LCOHEC camp is close to the place where about 200 Indian land allotments made in the late 1800’s.  Most of these land allotments were stolen outright, or deceptively removed from Indian people. Wealthy investors of the original shaft mining got their hands on the Indian land allotments.  Researchers have so far located over 150 Indian Allotments on the ore deposit issued from 1858 through 1887. For example, John B. Corbin had an 80-acre allotment near Copper Falls State Park. We want to know how this land was disenfranchised from our relatives.

photo: Ros Nelson

photo: Ros Nelson

The LCOHEC camp is open for hunting, fishing, harvesting and public recreational use.  Several people have already requested harvesting permits for birch bark, ironwood, ginseng and other products they’re identifying.  LCO has declared its intent to harvest walleye from the nearby Lake Galilee.  Deer and other hunting permits are available.

Non-tribal people can also harvest on public lands.  Anyone who wants to pick berries, collect maple syrup, wild onions, or other harvestable products can do so.  Some people may be interested in volunteering to remove exotic species from the land like garlic mustard, and etc.

LCOHEC organizers are looking to include elders and youth, schools, colleges, AODA programs, language immersion, rehab and business development programs — all asking the questions:

1.) What can we learn from the ancient Cahokia history of the range, Ojibwe village and burial locations, and the mining that has occurred over the course of 1,200 years including the geography and topography?

2.) What can be harvested, from berries to iron wood and items that can be used or bartered to assist in making a moderate living as defined by courts under treaties with the Chippewa?

They also ask camp visitors to be self-sufficient and bring their own supplies, trail food, and water with them. The camp organizers provides one evening meal in the evening for everyone in the camp.  Items for campers to pack include:

Backpacks Tent and sleeping bags
personal camp dishes, cups, and utensils first-aid kit, personal toiletries, prescription meds
bug repellant dry trail food, snacks
drinking water hiking boots or mud boots
flashlight and batteries dress appropriately for rough camping and weather
tools for gardening, trail blazing, or improving rough campsites The LCOHEC provides one meal for everyone in the evening. Contributions to the meal are accepted.

Donations of supplies to the camp needed include: non-perishable goods, snacks, cookies, tents, shovels, hatchets, axes, lighting, screening, carving knives, camping bowls, beans, rice, drinking water, and etc.  Supplies can be dropped off at the Trading Post, 8558N Cty Rd K, Hayward, WI, 54843; or the PHEP 212 W. Main St, Ashland, WI, 54806.

LCOHEC camp organizers are requesting monetary donations to support the camp.  Monetary donations can be made online at:

LCOHEC Donations PHEP Donations Bad River Defense Fund

Online Resources for more info:

Recent LCOHEC Updates:

Maps of the Penokee Hills

Directions to LCOHEC (scroll to the bottom of this article to find directions)

Contact: Frank Koehn

PH: (218) 341-8822, Email:

Facebook:   Twitter: #lcohec #RFKvisitPenokeeHills #nomine #wimine #ojibwe

Top: The Penokee Hills, target of the 22-mile mountaintop removal open pit iron ore mine at the headwaters of the Bad River; Bottom: a mine in northern Minnesota showing the same area of devastation mining has caused there.

Top: The Penokee Hills, target of the 22-mile mountaintop removal open pit iron ore mine at the headwaters of the Bad River; Bottom: a mine in northern Minnesota showing the same area of devastation mining has caused there.