New York Times Op-Ed re Gogebic

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State's environmental heritage 'under attack' by Walker-backed mine, says New York Times op-ed

Although the Penokee Hills rest quietly under a blanket of snow, debate over a proposed iron mine in northern Wisconsin is again heating up.

The New York Times took note of the issue this weekend with an op-ed piece from Dan Kaufman, a Wisconsin native who has written about state issues previouslyfor the influential national publication.

Kaufman’s latest piece is titled “The Fight for Wisconsin’s Soul” and references the state’s proud environmental heritage, which dates to 1910 when voters approved a constitutional amendment promoting forest and water conservation. Kaufman also notes pioneering leaders like Aldo Leopold and Sen. Gaylord Nelson, who founded Earth Day in 1970.

The Capital Times made similar references in a story pegged to Earth Day 2013. Earth Day 2014 is April 22.

For those who have followed the Wisconsin mining fight closely, Kaufman doesn’t break any new ground but does a good job weaving the story together. He details how mining interests have contributed $15 million to Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators to grease the skids for what could be the largest open-pit iron ore mine in the world.

“Wisconsin’s admirable history of environmental stewardship is under attack,” Kaufman maintains.

For Kaufman, the main issue centers on the impact of the proposed mine on the surrounding streams and wetlands. The area rests entirely within the watershed of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater source in North America.

Kaufman recalls a speech by President John F. Kennedy delivered in Ashland 1963 where he lauded the region as “a central and significant portion of the freshwater assets of this country.” He notes how Walker was seemingly unmoved by the JFK speech when it was played for him by Mike Wiggins Jr., the chairman of the Bad River Chippewa tribe and the mine’s leading opponent.

The New York Times piece also contrasts the difference between the native people and supporters of Gogebic Taconite, the company owned by coal mining magnate Chris Cline that has promised up to 700 new jobs from the project.

“In the Chippewa tradition, a decision is made based on how it will affect people seven generations forward. By contrast, the company’s optimistic estimate for the life span of the first phase of the mine is 35 years,” Kaufman writes.

Voters in Iron County where part of the mine would be located are getting a taste of the national spotlight as well, with reports that the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity has paid for negative campaign mailings against local candidates viewed as against the mine project.

Steven Verburg of the Wisconsin State Journal reported that story last week.

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