Monroe County citizens address zoning concerns - Observations from Driftless resident, Dena Eakles
I was invited to attend the Monroe County hearing on ordinances for nonmetallic mining. My interest in community rights and ordinances springing up across the country, so as to return local control over environmental issues facing us, brought me to the meeting. I am a resident of Vernon County. The following is my observation of the meeting.
“Protect us”. This was the consensus of Monroe County citizens as they faced their County Board in a zoning hearing on June 17, that saw over thirty people exercising that right. Citizens came to request that a moratorium on nonmetallic mining be on the agenda. Speaking with impassioned and carefully articulated facts, they spoke about the unchecked increase in the size and scope of mining operations around their communities. They also spoke about the real and observed health risks of the operations, particularly to children, and expressed their love of land and of community, refusing to accept the new norm.
Shredded by those concerned citizens was the “we bring jobs and money” arguments of the corporate mining representatives that fielded a response that was unwavering. Those concerned about the destructive operations stressed that jobs can be found elsewhere and the pittance of money will not bring back health or return the natural beauty of this region.
When finally addressing the people, Monroe County Board Chair, Pete Peterson expressed that yes, it was true, there were no laws in place, no ordinances, no considerations of health and well-being when mining was allowed in Monroe County. While Peterson acknowledged something must be done, he stopped short of allowing the requested moratorium. The moratorium would have excluded current operations, and allow citizens the time to become informed before having a referendum.
A consensus felt that Peterson bowed to mining representatives and in addition deference to them and his inability to be swayed by the citizens were obvious.
It might take more than common sense, more than historical and scientific facts to undue the ignorance of the few, who made closed door deals, and allowed unchecked nonmetallic mining in the area.
It will take the unwavering voice of “We the People”, and from what I can tell, the citizens of Monroe County are stepping up to the task.