I believe that it is critical that the Oneida County Board rein in the Mining Oversight Committee and stop the irrational and unrepresentative “process” that the committee continues to advance. There are only two scenarios here, one true, one untrue, and both clearly unacceptable.
In the untrue scenario, the committee maintains that is doesn’t have the information to reach a conclusion about mining at the Lynne site, so they propose leasing the property first, and then waiting for some unknown point in the future to become enlightened. The idea that the county should lease public resources for an activity as destructive as sulfide mining from a position of ignorance is clearnly unacceptable.
In the true scenario, the committee has access to more than enough information to reach a rational, informed decision about mining at the Lynne site, but it all points away from leasing this area. The idea that the county should lease public resources for an activity as destructive as sulfide mining when the existing information says it should not is also unacceptable and irresponsible.
The stated rationale for leasing our county forest lands is that “It is now felt by the committee that ample guidelines have been formulated and sufficient laws have been passed to ensure safe and sensible extraction of metallic minerals,” and “the committee has studied the situation and drawn on the advice and experience of experts in the field.” These statements that form the justification for leasing county forest lands are simply untrue. “Safe and sensible extraction of metallic minerals” is not “ensured” by “laws” or “guidelines.” In fact, it is clear that they cannot be compiled within many parts of our county forest lands because of how wet these areas are. A simple suitability study would bear this out, but has never been conducted. Anyone who has observed this committee in action knows that it simply has not “studied the situation” and does not intend to.
How can we explain that the Town of Lynne can “study the situation” and reach a reasoned conclusion, but the committee cannot? In this “process,” questions are not allowed, and there is no accountability.
The idea of leasing public resources for an activity as destructive as sulfide mining in an area where water is so precious should have required the highest level of public participation many years ago, but was denied. It should not be denied today. It is up to the county board now to fix this.
Karl Fate, Rhinelander
(This letter was edited to meet space guidelines)