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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

 3:41 PM 

Environment a theme in State of the Tribes speech to Legislature

Protecting the environment was among Michael Isham’s top priorities today when explaining the State of the Tribes to a joint session of the Legislature.

The chairman of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin said threats to the environment have trumped old arguments over, for instance, “who gets to harvest which fish.” He highlighted, in particular, a GOP bill that would overhaul many of the state’s navigable water regulations.

“This is why LCO and other Tribes strongly oppose measures like AB 600,” Isham said, “which would permit the destruction of our wetlands and our wild rice.”

The Assembly has approved that bill, but the Senate today was expected to amend it.

Isham also applauded the death of a bill that would have allowed for the potential development of effigy mounds. And he pointed out other tribal priorities related to legislative proposals.

Among them were: frac sand mining regulations; shoreland development; regulations of cranberry operations; dealing with chronic wasting disease; and regulations for concentrated animal feeding operations

“The tribes would rather fight with than battle against the state,” Isham said, “when it comes to protecting fish, maintaining clean air, maintaining clean water and supporting fully functioning ecosystems and wetlands that provide healthy natural resources for us all.”

He also called for full recognition of tribal identification cards, touching on what is lining up to be an Assembly floor debate today over local ID cards. He said tribal members have at times struggled acquiring medicine from pharmacies and permits for conceal and carry. The tribal cards also have caused problems for members who want to vote.

But Isham balanced his criticisms with examples of the state and tribes working together. For instance, he discussed the creation of Transportation Alliance for New Solutions, a public-private

Partnership that prepares Native Americans to get work in the transportation construction industry as laborers and apprentices.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, following Isham’s speech, thanked the tribes for visiting the Capitol and said he looks “forward to continuing to work on areas of mutual concern.”

See Isham's prepared remarks here.


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