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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

 2:11 PM 

Senate debating mining land access bill

The Senate is still debating an amended version of a bill that limits access to mining lands in northern Wisconsin.

The original bill would have allowed mining company Gogebic Taconite to remove its mine site from the managed forest program. That would have allowed the company to restrict public access to the site, whereas right now the site is open to the public. The substitute amendment from Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, restricts public access within 600 feet of roads and mining equipment in the area and requires to company to pay for land removed from the managed forest program.

Democrats are attempting to pass several amendments to Cowles' version, including one that would have given the Natural Resources Board, rather than the Department of Natural Resources, the ability to further restrict access to the mine.

Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, argued that while he knows there may be other situations that require further restrictions, he would rather the board discuss those decisions in public than leave it to the DNR to discuss in private.

"What I'm not comfortable with is leaving it up to the DNR political leadership, who've been clear about their intentions," Cullen said.

Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, opposed the bill entirely, saying it was a "sweetheart deal" to void the managed forest program contract.

"They want to close it all, they want to close as much as they can. It isn't to protect those workers, it is to prevent law abiding citizens...who want to go on that land to do the sort of scientific research necessary to verify that permit," Jauch said.

Cowles said he didn't like the original version of the bill and argued the amendment was a good compromise that kept the interests of the public in mind.

"I understand that the minority party still doesn't like it, I'm disappointed in that because I think we've got a pretty good bill here," Cowles said.


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