Midwest Environmental Advocates is a nonprofit environmental law center that works for healthy water, air, land and government for this generation and the next. We believe that every citizen has the potential to make a difference.

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Citizen Voices Matter: In Ashland, Wisconsin

In the summer of 2013, Allie Raven attended a hearing at a local high school to urge the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to reject an iron mining company’s request to dig the iron-rich earth and wetlands of the Penokee Ridge in northern Wisconsin. It was a rare opportunity for local residents, like Allie, to have the DNR listen directly to citizen concerns about the company’s proposed open-pit iron mine.

“At every point since 2011, Gogebic Taconite tried to convince our state that they could dig an open-pit iron mine in a safe, environmentally responsible way,” said Raven. “While at the same time, the company was working to change – rewrite in fact – the state laws that gave our DNR the enforcement and oversight powers over mining activity. When the DNR is stripped of its powers to protect our water, the power and meaningful participation of the public is stripped away too.”

Allie signed on to the Petition for Corrective Action as a way to point out the decreasing opportunity for public participation in the DNR’s decisions regarding protection of water quality and other natural resources across the state.

She is a Bad River Tribal member who lives in Bayfield County, near her Tribe’s reservation. She, her family and her community rely intimately upon Lake Superior, the Bad River watershed, and local natural areas to exercise their faith, enjoy the wilderness and harvest wild rice. Because Allie’s identity and culture tie her to the land near Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin, her family could not simply move in the event that mining or other industrial or agricultural pollution compromises water quality.

One of Raven’s biggest concerns is that the Wisconsin DNR is losing either its power or its will to monitor polluters and enforce water quality standards. The controversial open-pit iron mine was only one example of changes in state laws that will keep the DNR from enforcing the Clean Water Act.

Since the mining law took effect in 2013, even more budget cuts, staffing cuts and rule changes have further reduced the DNR’s ability to enforce the Clean Water Act. Allie signed the Petition for Corrective Action as a way to ask the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency for help to get the DNR’s focus back on putting the health of people and our water first. 

“With a proposal that would pose such long-lasting dangers to our environment and our health, the DNR should be listening to the public, to our needs, and to the studies of mining impacts in other places,” said Raven. “But the opposite of that happened when the demands of the industry were put before the concerns of the public. If the DNR can’t make meaningful public participation a priority, the EPA needs to help put Wisconsin back on track.”

 

Allie Raven is a 66-year resident of the northwoods of the Chequamegon National Forest, an educator, outdoor enthusiast, grandmother, mother, wife and member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Raised at the shore of a small, inland lake replete with sport fish, water birds and turtles, she has lived her life to be a humble steward of the land and water.

She signed the Petition for Corrective Action to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to encourage the State of Wisconsin and its Department of Natural Resources to fully comply with the Clean Water Act.