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 the Penokee Hills

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About Terry Daulton and Jeff Wilson

Terry Daulton is the volunteer coordinator of the Iron County Citizen’s Forum. Her profession is as a consultant in environmental education and field biology. Jeff Wilson is also consulting biologist, having retired after a 26 year career with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Bureau’s of Wildlife Management and Forest Management.  

Why Terry and Jeff are involved with protecting the Penokee Hills

Originally from Iowa, Jeff Wilson moved here to attend college, but fell in love with northern Wisconsin’s lakes and forests and decided to devote his career to this region.   Terry Daulton has lived in the Lake Superior region since 1977,  along with her work in biological sciences, Terry is a pastel artist whose paintings are inspired by the natural world. Their love of wild country and backgrounds in biological sciences made Iron County an ideal place to live.

“I fell in love with lake country,” said Jeff. “But the other thing that drew me here was the public land. About two thirds of northern Wisconsin is open to the public.  We can hunt, fish, trap, ski, berrypick, and hike through miles of county, state, and national forests.  Opportunities like these are very limited elsewhere .”

When Terry first heard about a proposal to change state laws regulating iron mining, and that the Gogebic Taconite company had a plan to create an open-pit iron mine that would be at least four miles long and 1,000 feet deep, she had many unanswered questions.

“I immediately thought about some of the other areas where there were mining projects in the Midwest,” said Terry. “I tried to visualize this proposed mine here in our ‘backyard.’ As more information came out on this huge project – unprecedented in size – I thought it would be a very significant change to our county… it would change the nature of the place we live in. We needed to think very carefully about what a mine would mean, not only for our generation, but for future generations. The big question was, what is the legacy we’re leaving for the future?”

Jeff and Terry wanted to collect all of the facts about legislation and mining proposals before reaching conclusions. Much of the contentious public debate in the North Woods and across the state centered on jobs vs. environment. But they knew their whole community deserved more than political spin, biased information, or vague promises from the company that would stand to profit from mining.

That was why Terry took the lead to organize a citizen group to bring education programs to the county. She worked with community members to bring in experts on ecology and economy, forestry and ferrous mining, industrial and geological history. By providing a neutral space for community members to gather and learn or ask questions, the Iron County Citizen’s Forum allowed dialogue to happen when previously pro- and anti-mining factions pitted neighbor against neighbor.

 “It’s democracy, with a little ‘d,’ when you have public input and lots of tools in your toolbox.  Then you can make sure that projects like this proposed iron mine, if approved, happen in the best way possible,” said Terry. “And if they can’t happen in an ecologically sound way, then we need a permit process that works so that we don’t end up with pollution disasters.”

Terry realized that in a healthy democracy, citizens need complete information – real transparency and discussion among all stakeholders – before making major decisions. It takes a long time to learn, discuss, compromise and bring all stakeholders together. But if state legislators won’t provide enough opportunities for the public to be heard, citizens like Terry will.

“If we’re going to have a democracy,” said Jeff, “we need to have open meetings, not closed-door agreements signed without our knowledge. We need to keep having hearings so that the public can at least ask questions and voice their opinion at every step of the way. That’s what I hope for.”

Please help today

Share Jeff and Terry's story. You can learn more about the proposed iron mine in the Penokee Hills on our website or sign up for email updates. If you donate to Midwest Environmental Advocate’s legal effort, you will be supporting the work of our attorneys who are working with the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa – the Tribe with the best legal standing to challenge the open-pit mining proposal - and community members who live near the proposed mine site. We provide technical and legal support that informs permit reviews and future litigation.