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Meteor Timber wetlands destruction propsal up for public comment

Apr 17, 2017

Since the media first started reporting on a new, industrial sand facility proposed by Meteor Timber in 2016, the plan has received a lot of attention for its record wetland impact, potential harm to threatened and endangered species, and even conflict of interest concerns between the company’s law firm and Jackson County’s attorney.

Meteor Timber, LLC seeks approval from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to destroy an unprecedented amount—16.25 acres—of pristine forested wetlands to construct a new industrial sand facility. Meteor Timber asserts that it must fill these wetlands to build a load out facility in Monroe County in the Town of Gant, which will supply sand to a planned processing facility in Jackson County. The project, if approved, would destroy high quality wetlands that provide critical ecosystem services as well as a rare habitat for a number of threatened and endangered species, including the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake.

The scope of Meteor Timber’s plan is massive in comparison to the state’s recent history in issuing permits to fill in wetlands for the frac sand industry. Since 2008 the DNR has permitted 26 acres of wetland fill for 60 industrial sand facilities. Wetland destruction for Meteor Timber alone represents more than 60% of the total wetland acres that would be filled for sand facilities.

During the boom of industrial sand mining in Wisconsin, residents have witnessed landscape-scale destruction in the Driftless region. But consistent with the boom-and-bust nature of mining, there are about 32 inactive industrial sand facilities around the state. Meteor Timber asserts that it would be too cost prohibitive to use an existing facility. The company defends the environmental damage associated with its project by promising to put parcels of land into a conservation easement.

While Meteor Timber may believe that this is an acceptable tradeoff, it isn’t in the people of Wisconsin’s interests to bulldoze wetlands to make industrial sand mining more profitable. Meteor Timber’s promises to preserve and restore other wetlands won’t undo the plan’s damage to pristine forested wetlands and high quality habitat. Before the plan moves forward, the state Department of Natural Resources, the Army Corps of Engineers and the public need to know that the environmental costs associated with this proposal are simply too great and are not outweighed by Meteor Timber’s attempt to sweeten the deal with wetland restoration and preservation.   

The Department of Natural Resources will hold a public hearing and accept public comments on its proposal to issue a wetland fill permit to Meteor Timber on April 18, 2017, at 1:00 P.M. at the Tomah Recreation Park- Recreation Building at 1625 Butts Avenue Tomah, WI. We strongly encourage area residents to attend and weigh in on Meteor Timber’s proposal. Sarah Geers, Staff Attorney, will attend on behalf of MEA.

Media coverage:

In January, representatives of Meteor Timber said the company will clear-cut parcels of land if it does not get permission to fill wetlands for the facility. Midwest Environmental Advocates joined the Ho-Chunk Nation in asking the Army Corps of Engineers to deny permission for the plan to fill wetlands. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign also raised their concerns about complex conflicts of interests for a law firm that serves as Meteor Timber’s attorneys and Jackson County’s corporation counsel.

In early march, the DNR granted preliminary approval of the project which initiated a public comment period. On March 6, we told WIZM radio that the public needs more details about Meteor Timber’s plan in order to question and comment on the permit proposal.

 

Access Meteor Timber’s application and correspondence with the DNR online (Application No. WP-IP-WC-2016-42-01514-01524)

We first blogged about the proposal in January. Midwest Environmental Advocates is posting updates to this issue on our action page.