The Wolf River Headwaters Protection Purchase
(FOR THE PUBLIC ACQUISITION OF THE CRANDON MINE SITE)
MTN & External links :
For immediate release, June 20, 2002, 9:30 am
An alliance of environmental, conservation, local and tribal governments, who long have been concerned about the impacts of development of the proposed Crandon Mine, today released a detailed proposal designed to permanently end the controversy over permitting the Crandon mine.
The proposal states "At this unique moment in Wisconsin�s history we make a uniquely Wisconsin proposal -- public acquisition of all of the property (nearly 5,000 acres of land and mineral rights) owned by Nicolet Minerals Company (NMC) in the vicinity of the proposed mine site as a conservation area devoted to sustainable land management practices, tribal cultural values and tourism suitable to this environmentally sensitive area. This will be the Wolf River Headwaters Protection Purchase."
Beginning in December 2000, the broad-based alliance to protect the Wolf River began demanding that BHP Billiton (the owner of Nicolet Minerals Co.) withdraw applications for mining permits and to open a dialogue with state, tribal, and local governments to negotiate a turnover of the mine site to the public. Recently, BHP Billiton communicated to the alliance a willingness to consider a public purchase of the site. The alliance has responded with the proposal sent to Governor McCallum and legislative leaders today.
"The State of Wisconsin has an exciting opportunity to end the state's most controversial environmental issue by helping to acquire this pristine and environmentally sensitive site," said Chuck Sleeter, Board Chairman, Town of Nashville. "Our proposal will support low-impact sustainable development instead of destructive mining in the headwaters of the Wolf River. We want to protect natural and cultural resources and grow our economy wisely instead of endangering it with risky, short-term mining."
"This proposal is a winning plan for the State of Wisconsin," said Dave Blouin, Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter Mining Committee Chair. "Some may ask whether this is a payoff or a buyout of the mining company. It most certainly is not. We will not support a public bailout of this company�s bad investment. The public has spoken loud and clear about their desire to protect the Wolf River and this purchase proposal honors their wishes. Not only does this purchase end the potential for mining in the Northwoods, but the public will gain almost 5,000 acres of land that future generations will cherish for its natural and cultural resources."
The groups identified four principles to guide the Wolf River Headwaters
The proposal specifies that only a reasonable price based on fair market value of the property for conservation use be paid by the State or public support by the groups may be withdrawn. The groups in support of the proposed purchase are also open to additional sources of funding to help reduce the cost to the public.
The proposal offers conditional public support for a purchase of the Crandon mine properties and mineral rights using a mix of public and private funding. The proposal details conditions leading to control of the mine site by multiple stakeholders to ensure access to the site for the public and tribes. The purchase would result in a protected conservation area devoted to sustainable land management practices, tribal cultural values and tourism suitable to this environmentally sensitive area of the headwaters of the Wolf River.
The groups called for a "permanent and inclusive solution that rules out the future resurrection of the Crandon mine proposal." Zoltan Grossman of the Midwest Treaty Network's Wolf Watershed Educational Project noted that the Exxon mining company withdrew from the site in 1986, after a decade-long permit battle only to return in 1992 to reapply for a permit. Grossman explained, "Simply defeating the mine permit is not enough, unless the land is permanently taken out of the hands of mining companies. We do not want to repeat history and fight another 10-year battle." Grossman asserted that "exclusive control by a sole owner, such as the State, would not permanently end this threat. We need either a mix of land ownership within the property, or an integrated board representing state, tribal and local interests. The only way to safeguard the natural and cultural preservation of the site is with a partnership that includes as many jurisdictions and legal powers as possible in defending the land." He pointed to the Kickapoo Valley Reserve Board as an example of a state-tribal- local partnership that protects natural and cultural resources.
Lisa Waukau, Chairwoman of the Menominee Indian Tribe stated: "For 10,000 years the Menominee have been stewards for over nine-and-one-half-million acres of northeastern Wisconsin. It is Indian philosophy. Humanity is charged with protecting life, including the environment. We as Menominee, indigenous to what is now known as Northeast Wisconsin, encourage and praise the thought that the State would follow suit as stewards of the pristine headwaters of the Wolf River. A Crandon mine purchase makes sense so that future generations, whether Indian or non-Indian, will enjoy the clean water, natural resources and a pristine environment just as we and our ancestors have enjoyed."
The Menominee, Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa, Forest County Potawatomi and other area tribes have stressed the protection of wild rice resources downstream from the mine site, air and water quality issues, burial sites within the site, and tribal religious access to the site.
"Many local and tribal governments downstream from the mine site are deeply opposed to development of a mine, said George Rock, Vice president of Trout Unlimited�s Wolf River Chapter. "BHP Billiton can demonstrate that it is responsive to local communities� concerns about potential problems with its proposed mine by agreeing to allow the nearly 5000-acre site and mineral rights to be purchased.
"This alliance will launch a new grassroots campaign to help ensure the success of this proposed purchase," said Liz Wessel, Executive Director, Wisconsin�s Environmental Decade. "We will ask our supporters to contact the Governor, elected officials and political leaders and ask them to support the proposal. We believe that leaders of all stripes can support this exciting purchase that protects the headwaters of the Wolf River."
Sleeter summarized: "The Crandon mine battle has been a life-and-death struggle for the local Native and non-Native communities. This proposal is not just for another land acquisition, but a way to prevent potentially expensive damage to the Wolf River and the northern tourism industry. This proposed buyout is the end result of a huge broad-based grassroots movement of local residents, tribes, environmentalists, sportfishers, unions, students and many others. It is a historic opportunity in the Crandon mine controversy, and a way to heal the divisions of the past quarter-century."
Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin Inc.
Principles guiding the potential Wolf River Headwaters Protection Purchase
For more than a quarter-century, environmentalists, conservation groups and American Indian tribes have been fighting proposals by various mining companies to open the Crandon zinc and copper mine at the headwaters of the Wolf River, next to the Mole Lake Chippewa Reservation. The groups, along with the majority of the people of Wisconsin, feel that the temporary benefits of a mining "boom" are not worth the risk to our northern tourism industry that is dependent on clean water, or the damage to the local economy from a mining "bust." The Crandon mine risks groundwater drawdown and the resultant destruction of wetlands and ancient wild rice beds, risks pollution from acidic and toxic wastes that will persist for eons, and risks the destruction of the beauty of the headwaters of a federal Wild and Scenic River. The Crandon mine is too big a risk--either for the people of Wisconsin or for the Nicolet Minerals Company (NMC).
The broad-based alliance to protect the Wolf River headwaters
has consistently made two demands of BHP Billiton (the owner of NMC.).
Numerous communications to BHP Billiton's London office have asked that
Crandon mine permit applications be withdrawn, and that the
Wisconsin faces an extraordinary opportunity to permanently end this controversy, in an inclusive fashion that guarantees the natural and cultural preservation of the approximately 5000-acre Crandon mine properties. Environmental, tribal and conservation leaders propose that the State of Wisconsin, in partnership with other governments and private interests, acquire the proposed mine site in the towns of Nashville and Lincoln (Forest County).
If a buy-out of the mine site and mineral rights is to occur,
certain principles must be specified, and certain conditions met. Ultimately,
any possible purchase requires a guarantee that no
1. Guarantee a permanent and inclusive solution that
rules out the future resurrection of the Crandon mine proposal.
It is tempting to suggest that NMC do what previous owners of the mine site have done --to simply give up and go away. However, our experience is that this or another company will eventually return and apply for a permit (as Exxon returned in 1992 after a six-year withdrawal). Frankly, we do not want to repeat history and fight this battle again. We want the threat of mining at this site to permanently end, and the only way to end the threat is to take the site out of the hands of mining companies.
During any buy-out process, whether or not the permit processes are suspended, we will continue to oppose mine permits. Without a denial or full withdrawal of state or federal permits, we will assume that permit applications are still active. We will support pending mining reform legislation even if the Crandon site is acquired.
2. Safeguard the natural and cultural resources of the site into the future, with control of the mine site by an integrated board of state, local and tribal governments, and land trust organizations.
The potential acquisition of the property is fully dependent on the inclusion of tribal and other local stakeholders in any negotiating process and in the outcome of any land acquisition. Sole control of the entire mine site by the State alone would not take into account longstanding local and tribal interests, nor would it permanently prevent BHP Billiton or its competitors from returning to the site. Full state control could also preclude other possible sources of funding for land acquisition, and additional legal tools for the natural and cultural preservation of the site.
We propose a permanent solution to the mine controversy based on control of the site by an integrated board of state, tribal and local governments and land trust organizations, which would develop a joint land use plan to protect the local watershed and cultural properties (such as burial sites). We base this partnership on the success of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve Board. This partnership would be established no matter what the mix and source of funding used in land acquisition, and no matter what the mix of property holdings and jurisdictions ultimately within the site.
3. Ensure that the State of Wisconsin and other potential buyers pay a realistic price for a mine site that is unlikely to receive permits, and allow for a mix of public and private funding.
The implementation of any acquisition is fully dependent on the valuation of the land. A mining company makes project investments fully aware of the risk and financial fluctuations in the market. We believe that the Crandon mine will not receive permits due to the difficulties associated with proposed mining at this environmentally sensitive site. We also believe that current and forecasted zinc and copper commodity surpluses as well as historic low price make an already risky proposal extremely unstable. The mining company has already written the Crandon mine site off its books (in 1999).
We would reserve the right to conduct our own property appraisal, and to oppose any purchase that emphasizes the value of a permitted mine. We are open to additional funding sources to help reduce the cost to the public.
4. Offer the mining company a dignified exit from
Wisconsin, and enable sustainable
BHP Billiton has a unique opportunity to turn a risky investment into a global public relations win. The Australian/South African company has long claimed that it is responsive to communities' concerns about its mining projects. It can now demonstrate that claim, by recognizing that a majority of Wisconsin residents (in a 2001 poll) have stated that they do not want this mine. The company also has a unique chance to "lock up" the ore body against any potential competitors.
In place of an unsustainable and uncertain mine proposal, a public acquisition would enable area governments to devise low-impact and sustainable development to support the local economy.
Crandon mine opponents have invested many millions of dollars, their local communities' economic well being, and many years of their individual lives to protect the Wolf River headwaters.
The organizations represented below are prepared to publicly support the process leading to the public acquisition of the mine site if it follows the principles outlined above, and to actively oppose any solution that does not follow these principles.
Signed by authorized representatives of:
Clean Water Action Council of
Northeast Wisconsin Inc.
CONDITIONS OF THE WOLF RIVER HEADWATERS PROTECTION PURCHASE
OPEN LETTER TO WISCONSIN STATE GOVERNMENT LEADERS:
Governor Scott McCallum
Leaders from environmental, conservation and public interest groups, local and tribal governments, and local and state mining organizations, who long have been concerned about the impacts of development of the proposed Crandon Mine, have been meeting to discuss an alternative future for Wisconsins Northwoods.
Now is the calm before the storm -- the last opportunity for thoughtful consideration of alternatives to the upcoming contentious battle over the Crandon Mine Environmental Impact Statement and mine permit Master Hearing. We believe the proposed Crandon Mine project faces many regulatory and environmental hurdles that may never be overcome.
We have dared to ask: What if the total energy and money likely to be spent by proponents and opponents of the Crandon Mine were instead diverted to a campaign for a sustainable economic and environmental future for Wisconsins Northwoods?
At this unique moment in Wisconsins history we make a uniquely Wisconsin proposal -- public acquisition of all of the property (5,000 acres of land and mineral rights) owned by Nicolet Minerals Company (NMC) in the vicinity of the proposed mine site as a conservation area devoted to sustainable land and forest management practices, tribal cultural values, and tourism suitable to this environmentally sensitive area. This will be the Wolf River Headwaters Protection Purchase. This initiative should include a mix of public and private sources, including the State Stewardship Fund
We call on Governor McCallum to support this initiative with the full commitment of his office by directing Department of Administration Secretary Lightbourn to prepare a Letter of Intent with Nicolet Minerals Company to purchase the site. We call on NMC to support initiation of the purchase agreement process. We ask that our elected officials and candidates for governor join in thoughtful discussion of this proposal and not raise barriers to consideration of this unique opportunity for public acquisition of the Wolf River Headwaters.
We would support use of public resources to acquire NMCs proposed mine site based on the following conditions:
Signed by authorized representatives of
CONSERVATION VALUE OF THE PROPOSED CRANDON MINE SITE
Natural Values of the Wolf River Watershed Require Greater Protection
BACKGROUND ON THE GROWING
ACTION ALERTS, ARTICLES & STATEMENTS on the Purchase
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