Public Access Controversy
6:00 am
Mon September 23, 2013

Managed Forest Exception Tabled For Now, But Still In the Works

A state lawmaker says he’ll keep working on a bill that would allow Gogebic Taconite to restrict public access to the site of a proposed iron mine.  Right now the area is open to public recreation under the managed forest program.  

Credit Mark Sadowski

After pulling the legislation from the Senate calendar, Senator Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst says he’ll make revisions in hopes of getting the votes he needs.

“One of the main concerns is in regards to access for sportsman, in terms of deer hunting, fishing.  So we’re gonna take a look at some amendments and see if we can get us to where we still have a good bill that’s gonna be able to protect worker safety.”

In the managed forest program, landowners get a tax break in exchange for allowing public access. Tiffany’s legislation angered many because it allowed for closure of the land without triggering a significantly higher tax rate.  But Tiffany insists the change is necessary for worker safety, after a vandalism incident involving masked protesters.

“When they come in and attack people, whether they have weapons or not, that is of great concern.  And I think any company,  once that happens, there’s an expectation by their employees that the company’s going to do something.  I mean set aside that this is the mining company.”

Mine skeptics also fear closing off the site will make it harder to monitor the company’s activities.