Natalie Jablonski

News and Features Contributor

An iron mine in the Penokee Range seems less likely, now that mining company Gogebic Taconite is closing its Hurley office.

In a statement company President Bill Williams says wetland issues make further major investment too expensive.

He adds that environmental concerns could lead to U.S. EPA intervention, in light of the agency’s recent halting of the Pebble Mine project in Alaska. 

The company is leaving the door open to further exploration, saying it will continue to look into the possibility of a mine permit. 

Julie Van Stappen / National Park Service

Park officials are expecting a few thousand people to turn out this weekend for the opening of the Apostle Islands ice caves. 

After strong winds threatened to blow away the ice at Meyer’s Beach earlier this week, officials now say conditions should be stable enough to open the caves Saturday. 

But spokesperson Julie Van Stappen says visitors shouldn’t expect the caves to look exactly as they did last year. 

Monie Shackleford / WXPR News

Organizers against a mine proposal in northern Wisconsin are looking to maple syrup to provide an economic boost for the region. 

The Lac Courte Oreilles Harvest Camp, also called the HELP Village has maintained a presence in the Penokee Range for almost two years.

Spokesperson Paul DeMain says maple syrup production is a more sustainable alternative to open pit mining. 

“The tapping industry, not just maple but we’re talking about potential yellow and white birch – we’d like to talk about revitalizing that industry.” 

Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News

  Iron County has agreed to extend a lease agreement with mining company Gogebic Taconite for the next three years. The Iron County board has passed the measure by one vote.

Gogebic Taconite didn't make a $10,000 payment last month and cited budget constraints. But county board chair Joe Pinardi negotiated a plan giving GTac another year to pay.

“What we did was we gave them like a skip payment. So next year by the 26th of January of 2016, they will have to pay us $30,000 instead of $20,000.”

Northwoods supporters of organized labor are among those in Madison to rally against a right-to-work bill that’s up for a public hearing Tuesday in the Senate’s labor relations committee.

Demonstrations are planned for Tuesday and Wednesday as the bill is expected to move quickly to a Senate vote.

Right to work legislation would mean workers couldn’t be required to pay dues or join a union. 

Jackie Cody of the Northern Wisconsin Center for Working People says it would gradually erode employee wages and benefits. 

A coalition of agencies is collecting personal hygiene products to distribute to people facing homelessness. 

The Help for the Homeless Hygiene Drive is underway and runs through mid-March, organized by the Northern Wisconsin Initiative to Stop Homelessness, or N*WISH. 

As Housing Case Manager at Forward Service Corporation Penny Huffman explains, there will be drop off-points set up in Vilas, Langlade, Forest and Oneida counties. 

Wisconsin DNR

The master planning process for the Woodboro Lakes Wildlife Area is moving forward.

The state DNR has released a summary of public comments.

As DNR planner Yoyi Steele explains, many people weighed in with concern over a proposal for an ATV trail.

Boulder Junction is celebrating winter this weekend with its Frozen Tozen festival.

As Chamber Director Theresa Smith explains, it starts with an ice fishing tournament on Allequash Lake. 

There are prizes for the largest fish as well as the largest total number of inches. 

“Any fish that they catch, whether it’s a panfish or whether it’s a northern, or a bass, whatever they catch would be recorded and all of those accumulated inches will be totaled at the end of the day for the awards.”

Volunteers at Ministry Saint Mary’s Hospital in Rhinelander have donated $25,000 to the hospital foundation and one of its programs. 

Jesse Bolder of the Saint Mary’s Foundation says past donations have helped fund projects like a machine that regulates CPR. 

“And allows the paramedics and the staff to be able to focus on the other needs of somebody that has a heart failure situation.  They’ve provided robes for the radiology department and the cancer center.”

Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News

Many Northwoods skiers are headed to the American Birkebeiner in Hayward this weekend.  As WXPR’s Natalie Jablonski reports, racers carefully wax their skis in preparation for the more than 30 mile race. 

Ben Koenig, Ski Manager at Mel’s Trading Post Rhinelander, is polishing a coat of glide wax with a brush of horsehair bristles.  As any seasoned cross country skier will tell you, a lot goes into applying and choosing the fastest wax.