The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa took legislators to task on Friday for their failure to reach out to tribal leaders and discuss a proposed iron ore mine in northwestern Wisconsin.
A letter from tribal chairman Mike Wiggins Jr. said that lawmakers have failed to engage in “government-to-government consultation” with the tribe. He said members of the Legislature have met “wealthier, nontribal communities in the north while making no effort to visit affected Native American communities.”
Wiggins reiterated his previous opposition to Republican-backed legislation that he says weakens protections for wetlands, navigable waters and groundwater.
Assembly and Senate committees will vote on the GOP bill on Wednesday. The proposed mine would be constructed in portions of Ashland and Iron counties in the Bad River watershed.
The tribe’s reservation is located downstream, and leaders have expressed concern that mining activity will degrade water quality and harm water resources, including wild rice beds.
Tribes operate their own government. In Bad River’s case, it has received approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to administer its water quality program and set standards. The EPA would enforce those standards.
As the legislation has unfolded, Democrats and environmental groups have said that Republicans have ignored tribal concerns and the role of other regulating agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The tribe’s role in setting water quality standards, they say, could stop the mining project.
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