The Iron County Forestry Committee met today, July 23 in a closed session to consider how the county should proceed regarding the Penokee Harvest Camp in the nearby Penokee Hills. Joe Vairus, head of the Iron County Forestry and Parks department has issued this statement via e-mail, “Here was the motion made by Scott Erickson, supported by Bill Thomas. With regard to the harvest camp, in light of the failure to obtain proper permits to occupy County Forest the Committee recommends that the County Board authorize pursuit of criminal and civil action to enforce County ordinances and to fulfill the County's obligations under state law.”
The vote was unanimous.
Members of the Lac Courte Orielles Ojibwe tribe and supporters who are opposed to the creation of an open pit iron ore mine planned by Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) established the camp this past spring.
The Committee’s recommendation must go before the Iron County Board of Supervisors for a final decision. The next board meeting is on July 30 in Hurley at 6 p.m.
Harvest camp residents and LCO chairman Mic Isham maintain that camp residents are exercising their rights to hunt, gather and fish under treaty rights on the ceded territory.
Iron County Forestry officials, however, maintain that treaty rights do not extend to camping. Therefore, the Harvest Camp is bound by county rules limiting camping to 14 days.
As reported in a previous story, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has oversight on such issues. RELATED: Who is Illegal in Wis. Mining Country? Harvest Camp or GTAC?
Although DNR attorney Quinn Williams indicated that the state has identified concerns regarding the camp, the office won’t take action until Iron County has made their final decision.