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Citizen Voices Matter: In the Penokee Hills

About Pete Rasmussen

Pete is the vice president of the Penokee Hills Education Project and is a professional photographer and carpenter. He lives in Marengo which is just outside of the Bad River Tribal lands in northern Wisconsin.

Why Pete is involved with protecting the Penokee Hills

Pete is involved in the Penokee Hills Education Project because he wants people to understand how the size and scope of the proposed

open-pit mine in the Penokee Hills will be larger and more destructive than any other mine in Wisconsin's history and among the largest in North America.  

“I’ve talked to people who support the idea of an iron mine here and they talk about the history and heritage of mining in this area,” says

Rasmussen. “But what has been proposed here is totally different from the limited, underground mining of the past. When GTAC talks about their proposal, the scope of it changes depending on their audience. If they are addressing environmental concerns, they say it’s a tiny project and they can engineer around stormwater concerns. If they are talking to legislators or business lobbyists, they say they will provide generations with mining jobs in order to dig up 22 miles of the Penokees.”

When Rasmussen gives talks at community forums or speaks with neighbors, he finds that people change their minds about iron mining when they learn about the details of the first phase of the project. “When people realize that this mine will be a thousand feet deep and at least four miles long, that GTAC is going to be dumping 18 million tons of talcum powder in our wetlands, they wake up. This whole area is a factory for fresh water and people think our laws will protect the water from the impacts of mining. But it’s the opposite. Legislators changed the law. The mining company got legislators to rewrite the law to be able to fill in lakes, wetlands and streams that were all protected before. When people realize that the law doesn’t protect them now, that’s when they get mad.”

"I lead tours of the Penokees because once you see them, you'll want to save them." Rasmussen leads hikes in the Penokee Hills and is a guide for people to visit area waters like Caroline Lake and the Tyler Forks. To Pete, the waters are special, not just for their connection to Lake Superior and their international importance, but because they are a place to fish blugills and trout with his son. Rasmussen grew up in northern Wisconsin, but moved to Madison as a young adult. He returned to the northwoods with his family because he loved the region.

“The Lake draws you back. The people draw you back. The people here are really committed to the area. The Penokees are so valuable, you can’t put money on it. We want a local economy that fits into this wilderness instead of blowing it up.”