Move on! There's nothing to see here, but we must insist you go away because, between you and me, there is something to see here

In northern Wisconsin, where environmentalists and native tribes are doing political and legal battle with Walkerite Republicans who have deregulated the state's mining review laws, an odd juxtaposition occurred this week. Gogebic Taconite, a Florida firm, is planning to dig a ginormous open-pit iron ore mine miles long and a thousand feet deep in the Lake Superior watershed, slashing through absolutely stunning forests dotting the Penokee Hills in Iron County.

Now here's the juxtaposition:

First, we have the privately owned woodlands the mine would replace. Those woodlands are open to the public thanks to a Wisconsin law that cuts the owner's property taxes drastically in exchange for allowing taxpayers to hike through, which is exactly what citizens are doing in droves as they inspect what the mining company is up to, and this placid, lovely place of nature the firm intends to destroy.

Evidently, such traipsing about the controversial mine site can't be allowed by the elites, so state legislators are pledging to pass a law preventing the public from going on the property -- tax breaks perhaps even to be retained. [The current law would allow the mining company to seal its property from public use right now, but the firm would have to repay all its property tax breaks. Not good enough for bizmo-freaks, apparently.]

The excuse for these draconian measures is that a handful of protesters on one occasion allegedly vandalized mining company equipment. A single protester was arrested and  charged, so of course now all protesters and indeed anyone who lawfully hikes through the mine property -- however peaceful and lawful they may act -- are now, in county and state government view, regarded pretty much as potential terrorists. Can you say "red herring," boys and girls?

Which, in turn, explains why Gogebic felt the need to bring in camouflaged, military-style security troops with assault rifles to guard the place, until it was learned the private security firm had no license to operate in Wisconsin.

But the situation has become even more absurd. A lot more absurd.

Across a highway from the forest where the mine would be dug, protesters and other mine observers a couple weeks back set up a camp on county-owned forest land. The camp was organized by the Lac Courte Oreilles band of Lake Superior Chippewa, whose reservation lies downstream from the proposed mine and who are naturally concerned that their wild rice fields and, oh, right, their entire way of life are endangered by the project. Not to mention the threat to pristine Lake Superior itself. [Remember: This mine will in places be as deep as that very, very deep lake.]

Iron County's corporation counsel -- who evidently is only concerned about a small part of the forest that the county owns -- complains that the camp has exceeded a two-week limit for such gatherings. You see, all those camping humans tromping around might, in his officious mind destroy the beauty of the forest! However, nearby, an iron-ore mine that would turn square miles of forest into a dangerous, dead, deep pit, gashing the earth like a mini-Grand Canyon and leaving it barren and acidic forever? Apparently, not to worry! Because ... jobs!

And there you have it: Beautiful forests and hills, teeming with wildlife with camping sites and trails for all to use, versus: a moonscape. Let's go with the moonscape, why don't we?

As novelist Kurt Vonnegut surely would have said were he around to see this tragedy in the making: So it goes.

Originally posted to Ron Legro on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 03:28 PM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive.

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