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More information on Iron County’s “eviction” plans for LCO Harvest Camp

Harvest camp sign

I don’t often get out and about (“oot an’ aboot” in some dialects), so I am dependent upon the hard work of cyber pals like Barbara With, Nick Vander Puy, Paul DeMain and others for information on the ongoing anti-mining effort in the Penokee Hills.

One of the best bloggers for Iron County Information is Woodsperson. Published by Richard Thiede and edited by Wendy Thiede, it is a delight. The writers are Cousin Jack, Rita M. and Enola Gay.

Yesterday, July 29, they published encouraging information about the threat, or lack thereof, bandied about by the Iron County Forestry Committee, who wants the LCO Harvest & Education camp kicked off of county land in the Penokee Hills.


We just returned from an early morning meeting with Iron County forest administrator, Joe Vairus, who graciously allowed us to bend his ear for a few minutes and actually seemed pleased to have a civil conversation. We had heard from several sources in person and online that the county was being threatened by the state Department of Natural Resources with loss of its ability to manage the county forests if it did not bring legal action/eviction of the Lac Courte Oreiles tribe from their harvest camp in the Penokees. Other sources told us that it was highly unlikely that the DNR was threatening Iron County.

Mr. Vairus said that he is in an untenable situation. It may be that the tribal harvest camp is in technical violation of the rule limiting camping to 14 days at a time. However, he doesn’t have any enforcement ability. Neither the sheriff nor the DA is willing to try to evict the tribe – the DA says there is no criminal violation and the sheriff simply doesn’t have the manpower or any possible kind of legal or logical strategy to carry it out. See Tony Stella’s July 25th post on this subject here.

Attorney Anthony Stella agrees. Both sides have arguable legal positions.  However hashing this out in federal court, pitting our little county against federally granted treaty rights, would take years and years and would cost a fortune.  According to Stella, there are several ways this can be accomplished including granting conditional use permit or changing the ordinance which would allow tribes to exercise their treaty rights and camp on the land under certain mutually agreed-upon conditions.

It would be best for all concerned if Iron County just blew off of the Forestry Committee and did the sensible thing. Embrace their environment and the good graces of the Ojibwa Tribe too. The Anishinaabeg only want to think ahead seven generations. That’s not much to ask.

Stay tuned for results of tonight’s full meeting of the Iron County Board of Supervisors.

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