Posted at: 02/09/2013 6:47 PM
Updated at: 02/09/2013 6:48 PM
By: Maarja Anderson
Wisconsin lawmakers held a public listening session in Ashland Saturday to allow the people of northern Wisconsin to speak on mining legislation moving through the legislature.
At least 200 people packed the hearing at the AmercInn and more than 10 state lawmakers from all over the state were there to listen.
Northern lawmakers, Sen. Bob Jauch of Poplar and Rep. Janet Bewley of Ashland organized the listening session because they were concerned the north wasn't getting a voice on the mining legislation. Every person wanting to speak was offered the podium and no time limits were enforced.
Five people signed up to testifty in favor of the mining legislation, 60 others asked to speak in opposition. One of those speakers was Bruce Noble of Madison. He said an open-pit mine would amount to genocide in Wisconsin.
"Taconite mining is a long repeated scenario of government and corporate exploitation of land, water, and people in the interest of a short term bonanza," said Noble.
Those in favor of a mine countered the region needs the jobs that a mine could bring to the area.
"They want a living wage job, they don't want to work at McDonald's for the rest of their lives," said Frank Kostka of Ashland. "They don't want a minimum wage job, they want to be able to buy a house, buy a new car once in a while."
But some questioned whether a mine would sustain growth and be worth the environmental impact.
"Water is life, so if you care about the people of Wisconsin, stop this insanity," said Linda Wyeth of Curtiss.
Others said the poverty is too great in the area to pass this opportunity, and regulation will keep northern Wisconsin's water and air safe.
"If I thought for one minute that this area was in jeopardy... I'd be singing a different tune right now, but it's not," said Perry Elsemore of Hurley.
Both sides given the chance to speak, lawmakers will now head back to the capitol with testimony from the Northland.