Penzeys Spices’ Penokee Stories

Giving Thanks Where Thanks is Due

You’ll enjoy meeting some of the people who live in the Penokee Hills area and are working to protect the area through these well done stories on the Penzeys Spices  website. Plus you’ll get some great recipes.

There are links on the first page to all the stories — or use the direct links below.

Giving Thanks Where Thanks is Due
A celebration of our Native American communities.
Introduction by Bill Penzey

Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins Jr. loves to be out on the water. "Our great-great-great-great-grandfathers traveled these waters," he says.

Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins Jr. loves to be out on the water. “Our great-great-great-great-grandfathers traveled these waters,” he says.

Mike Wiggins Jr and Joe Rose Sr

Pete Rasmussen and Joy Schelble

O’Dovero-Flesia Family Farm

Dick and Wendy Thiede

Michelle Carlile-Heglund


Sean Duffy Attacks the Wisconsin Chippewa Federation

Sean Duffy Attacks the Wisconsin Chippewa Federation

October 24, 2014 by Barbara With

Rep; Sean Duffy talking a selfie with Rep. Paul Ryan, both Tea Party Republicans and part of the effort to shut down the government last year.

Rep. Sean Duffy (WI­-R-­7) is leading the fight to dismantle the regulatory power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which could greatly damage air and water quality in his own district in northern Wisconsin, which is located in Ceded Territory.

On June 4, 2014, in an effort to address climate change, the EPA announced the Clean Power Plan. The proposed rule, which calls for reduction in carbon emissions, also determines which streams and wetlands are subject to federal regulation under the Clean Water Act.

In July 2014, Duffy signed on to two bills designed specifically to gut the power of the EPA, including one that is aimed directly at the Wisconsin Chippewa Federation and their treaty rights.

The bills—HR 5078 and HR 4854—are co-sponsored by Tea Party Republicans and Southern Democrats in mining states and are based on a corporate manifesto written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization funded in part by David and Charles Koch. They are designed to severely limit the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers from implementing the Clean Power Plan.

The bills passed the House in September and are part of ALEC’s “model legislation” based on the Tea Party ideology found in “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Assault on State Sovereignty.” Portraying the power of the EPA as dangerous federal overreach, the manifesto aims to protect mining interests across the country from being held accountable for their impact on the environment.

Regulatory Certainty Act of 2014 

Duffy’s bill HR 4854 defines the exact period of time the EPA is allowed to restrict or deny a Clean Water Act dredge and fill (wetlands) permit under Section 404(c). Additionally, it clarifies that the EPA does not have the authority to disapprove or revoke such a permit before the Army Corps of Engineers has completed its review of a permit application or after the Corps of Engineers has issued the permit.

Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014

Duffy’s other bill HR 5078 restricts the EPA’s ability to utilize Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Established in 1972, Section 404 authorizes the EPA to “restrict, prohibit, deny, or withdraw the use of an area for the disposal of dredged or fill material, including mining wastes, when it is determined that discharge will have unacceptable adverse effects on fisheries, wildlife, shellfish beds, municipal water supplies, or recreational areas.”

As soon HR 5078 passed the House, the White House issued a statement opposing the measure, recognizing that “clean water is vital for the success of the nation’s businesses, agriculture, energy development, and the health of our communities.”

Section 404 was recently used in the widely publicized Bristol Bay Pebble Mine controversy in Alaska, where the EPA determined that fill material associated with mining would do irreparable harm to the environment and economies of the region. Bristol Bay is the second largest of the world’s salmon spawning waters.

Tyler Forks, one of thousands of streams and waterfalls that make up the Bad River watershed.

In August 2014, the Wisconsin Chippewa Federation met with the EPA to request that Section 404 of the Clean Water Act be invoked to prevent similar devastation by a proposed 22-mile open-pit mountaintop removal iron ore mine in the Bad River watershed by Gogebic Taconite (GTac).

According to their Facebook page, the Chippewa Federation is comprised of and governed by the Tribal Councils of the Bad River, Lac Courte Oreilles, Red Cliff, Sokaogon, Lac du Flambeau and St. Croix Bands of Ojibwe, or “Chippewa” Indians. Each Band is a federally recognized tribe, and is a Sovereign Nation within the United States of America. The Bands have united to pursue common interests in business, politics and socio-economic development, including the defense of treaty rights. Preservation of the inherent rights to hunt, gather and subsist within the area known as the “Ceded Territory” is a primary initiative of the Federation.

The Bad River watershed of northern Wisconsin is similar to Bristol Bay—an exceptional world-class water system that provides fresh water to the entire Lake Superior Basin and is one of the rare spawning grounds for lake sturgeon. The Kakagon and Bad River Sloughs make up 40% of all the wetlands in the Lake Superior basin and have been designated wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.

Duffy said in his speech on the floor of the House last summer that he favors “streamlining” the process to allow mining companies like GTac to have easier access to mining.

Kakagon Sloughs. Photo: Joel Austin

Documents released in August 2014 from the John Doe investigation revealed that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker directed GTac to funnel a $700,000 donation to his recall campaign through Wisconsin Club for Growth, an organization funded by multinational corporations and industrialists — most notably Charles and David Koch—that raises money for Tea Party candidates. Soon after the 2012 recall elections, Walker and the Republicans passed Act 1, Wisconsin’s new mining law that removed environmental protections and allows GTac to legally pollute without consequence.

The Kakagon Sloughs are also home to the wild rice beds that the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa relies on for food and spiritual practices. Acid mine drainage is known to destroy wild rice. As part of the Wisconsin Chippewa Federation, Bad River has a vested interest in Section 404 and its power to protect them from Act 1.

Duffy’s support of these bills is a direct attack on his constituents in northern Wisconsin, and especially the Wisconsin Chippewa Federation, their federal Treaty Rights, and Bad River’s efforts to protect the watershed.

Original post:

Mine Company May Limit Project to Iron County

Tim Myers, an engineer, checks out a wetland sedge meadow near Highway 77 in an area inventoried earlier this year as part of Gogebic Taconite’s planning process as it seeks state permission to construct a $1.5 billion open pit iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin.

Rick Wood

Tim Myers, an engineer, checks out a wetland sedge meadow near Highway 77 in an area inventoried earlier this year as part of Gogebic Taconite’s planning process as it seeks state permission to construct a $1.5 billion open pit iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin.

A Gogebic Taconite spokesman said Thursday that the company is considering constructing its massive iron ore mine solely in Iron County because of opposition from officials in adjacent Ashland County.

The company’s plans have called for the proposed mine was to include Ashland and Iron counties.

Ashland County composes about 400 acres of the 3,200 acres of the site.

But with opposition in Ashland County, Gogebic officials will spend the winter studying how the site could be reconfigured to operate in Iron County without the loss of major iron ore reserves, spokesman Bob Seitz said.

If Ashland is left out, Seitz said, the size of two open pit mines would remain roughly the same. But the long-term operation might shorten, perhaps from 35 to 30 years.

Seitz discussed the possible changes after a report in a blog,, that said Gogebic’s owners had instructed the office in Hurley to “stop all spending on the project.”

Seitz said that is not true.

No staff members have been laid off, as the blog reported, he said. The company has six employees, which includes geologists and metallurgists.

The Journal Sentinel reported Aug. 26 that Gogebic was pushing back its plans to submit an application to the state Department of Natural Resources from the spring of 2015 until at least the fall of next year to gather additional environmental data.

Because of this, some of the consultants aren’t working on the project until activity picks up in the winter and spring of next year.

The biggest factor in not completing environmental work this year involves analyzing groundwater flow where two open pit mines would extend over about 4 miles, according to Seitz.

The company has drilled five monitoring wells where it owns an option on mineral rights. One well plunges 1,000 feet to the base of the proposed mine. Four other wells measure the flow of groundwater at various depths, Seitz said.

Data from the wells will be used to simulate the mine’s impact with computer models.

Mining company, allies spent freely to get bill approved

Mining company, allies spent freely to get bill approved

 Tim Myers, an engineer with Gogebic Taconite, in May checks core samples, drilled several hundred feet into the iron vein below, at the site of a proposed mine.

Updated Sept. 1, 2014

The recent disclosure that Gogebic Taconite donated $700,000 to a Wisconsin political group is the latest example of how the mining company and its supporters used money, influence and the allure of jobs to persuade lawmakers to relax state environmental regulations.

Gogebic zoomed into Wisconsin politics in 2011. The company had plans for a massive open pit iron ore mine, but it demanded changes in mining laws before starting a multimillion-dollar regulatory review.

The $1.5 billion project quickly drew support from Gov. Scott Walker, Republican lawmakers and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business group.

In 2012, WMC used an issue ad to attack Sen. Jessica King (D-Oshkosh) for voting against the first of two mining bills. She was defeated by Republican Rick Gudex by 600 votes.

Taking its cue from Gogebic, WMC also urged leaders of a new pro-mining association not to collaborate with Democrats on a compromise mining bill.

Gogebic’s spending was thought to be relatively modest until court documents related to a Milwaukee County district attorney’s investigation of ties between Walker’s political organization and outside groups were unsealed Aug. 22.

Political donations from Gogebic representatives totaled $31,800 since 2010, according to theWisconsin Democracy Campaign, which tracks political spending. Walker received the most, $8,000, on Sept. 24, 2010.

Gogebic also had $199,346 in lobbying expenses between 2011 and 2013, state Government Accountability Board figures show. That put the company well down the list.

Meanwhile, the company was quietly spending hundreds of thousands of dollars more than was previously known with a conservative political group, according to documents from the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

The records were mistakenly unsealed in a case involving prosecutors’ investigation into alleged ties between Walker’s campaign and conservative groups.

Walker and the outside groups have said they broke no election laws, and two judges have blocked the investigation. Prosecutors have asked the appeals court to dismiss a lawsuit against them and allow the investigation to continue.

In court documents, bank records showed in 2011 and 2012 that Gogebic Taconite donated $700,000 to Wisconsin Club for Growth, a group that is organized so that it does not have to disclose its spending. It supports Walker, runs TV ads in key races and is directed by a campaign adviser to the governor.

“Because Wisconsin Club for Growth’s fundraising and expenditures were being coordinated with Scott Walker’s agents at the time of Gogebic’s donation, there is certainly an appearance of corruption in light of the resulting legislation from which it benefited,” prosecutors claimed in appeals court documents.

Gogebic disputes claim

Bob Seitz, a spokesman for Gogebic, disputed that claim. He said money to Wisconsin Club for Growth represented a shared mutual interest of two parties that favor mining and believe it would be a boon to the state’s economy.

“Mining has always been supported by the citizens,” Seitz said. “The economy, jobs have always been a priority with the citizens, and Club for Growth talks about those issues.”

If built, Gogebic’s mine on a remote stretch of hilltop forest in Ashland and Iron counties would run for four miles and plunge as deep as 1,000 feet.

The mine drew quick objections from environmentalists and Indian tribes who worried that plans for two pits, the waste rock and an adjacent processing plant would cause irreparable harm to a watershed that cuts through the Bad River band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s land and empties into Lake Superior.

But advocates see the project in a far different light — and a rare opportunity for northern Wisconsin. The mine would operate for 35 years, employ 700 workers and, according to a consultant, spur 2,800 spinoff jobs in transportation, housing and other sectors. The mine would rank behind We Energy’s Oak Creek power plant as the largest private investment in state history.

Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) helped push the mining bill through the Senate. Some areas of the north are seeing drops in population, he said. Iron County’s median income of $37,112 is 29% lower than the Wisconsin median.

“If we cannot utilize our natural resources in northern Wisconsin, we will continue to see economic decline,” Tiffany said.

Former Department of Natural Resources Secretary George Meyer said it’s impossible to say whether Gogebic’s political contributions served as the “tipping point” for Walker to favor the legislative changes Gogebic had demanded.

Walker said he had no role in Gogebic’s donation to Wisconsin Club for Growth, which was active in the 2011 and 2012 recall elections.

Was Walker aware Gogebic made the contributions to the group? “Not to my knowledge,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Aug. 23 during a campaign stop in Kenosha.

“I don’t know what went through the governor’s mind, since he has a natural pro-business perspective,” said Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and a critic of the mining legislation.

“But the optics on it are terrible.”

Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) said the advantage Gogebic had in giving to Wisconsin Club for Growth is that the money isn’t disclosed.

Said Cullen: “The broader story here is what Republicans wanted out of 2012 was to get a ‘Schultz-proof Senate,'” a reference to Sen. Dale Schultz, a moderate Republican from Richland Center who voted against mining bills in 2012 and 2013.

“It all came down to Jessica King so they could have an 18-15 majority.”

King provided the Journal Sentinel data from her campaign consultant in the race. It showed TV spending against her from outside groups totaled just under $2million in the last three weeks before the November election.

The spending included $964,603 from WMC and $919,400 from Wisconsin Club for Growth, the records show.

“When I saw that King lost, I knew they were going to pass the (Gogebic) bill,” Cullen said. He and Schultz are retiring at the end of the year.

Role of Gogebic, allies

Throughout the mining fight, Gogebic was never an idle bystander:

■ The Journal Sentinel reported in December 2011 that the company worked with a handful of GOP legislators and WMC on an initial mining bill that did not pass. The parties consulted with the DNR but not environmental groups.

■ In a July 2012 letter, James Buchen, WMC’s director of government relations at the time, urged representatives of the Wisconsin Mining Association to refrain from discussing legislation with Democrats and environmentalists until after the election because Republicans could regain control of the Senate and have more influence over a new bill.

Buchen said it was important for Gogebic to sign off on changes in regulations. “We need to take our cues from the company on the substance of any legislation and the strategy to get it enacted,” he wrote.

The association’s chairman was Tim Sullivan, former chief executive officer of mining equipment maker Bucyrus International. Sullivan met with Meyer to discuss legislation that could help Gogebic and appease some in the environmental community.

“I was amazed at how close we were philosophically,” Meyer said of Sullivan.

■ In January 2013, legislative drafting documents showed that the company and its lawyerscontinued to play a key role in writing the bill, seeking changes involving wetlands, navigable waters and groundwater before the bill was circulated among lawmakers.

Defenders of the new mining bill say safeguards are in place and the project won’t be built if Gogebic shows it is polluting.

Last week, Gogebic said it will return to the field in 2015 to gather more data to show regulators the mine’s potential effect on streams and groundwater. It had hoped to be done by the end of the year.

“That shows there is a very robust environmental process,” said Scott Manley, the current vice president of government relations at WMC. “People who talk about the company getting a free pass to pollute, it’s just absurd.”

Film Screenings: Wisconsin’s Mining Standoff

Wisconsin’s Mining Standoff is a half-hour investigative piece for Al Jazeera’s series “Fault Lines” tells the story of how GTAC and its allies wielded money and power to influence the law, and goes behind the scenes with the burgeoning movement to resist the mine.

On March 11, 2013, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed legislation that rewrote the state’s iron mining laws, paving the way for Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) to dig an open-pit iron mine in the pristine woods of the Penokee mountain range. The mine, which could eventually reach 22 miles in length, provoked a standoff between GTAC and its supporters seeking mining jobs, and the residents, Native American tribes and political leaders intent on protecting their communities and water from contamination.

371 Productions is organizing a series of screenings and community discussions of the documentary throughout the Midwest this fall, though visit their website for an up-to-date listing: Wisconsin’s Mining Standoff Screening Dates

Wisconsin Screenings

Our new documentary Wisconsin’s Mining Standoff is touring the state in a series of screenings and community discussions, listed below (also see press release):

Thurs, August 28 – Milwaukee, WI – St. John’s on the Lake, 3:30pm

Fri, August 29 – Cable, WI – Cable Community Center, 6:30pm

Sun, Sept 7 – Waukesha, WI – Waukesha Co Democratic Party office, 7:30pm

Weds, September 10 – Janesville, WI – Basics Natural Foods, 6:30pm

Thurs, September 11 – Hayward, WI – Park Theater, 7pm

Tues, September 16 – Superior, WI – UW-Superior Manion Theatre, 7pm

Tues, September 16 – Springfield, IL – (venue TBD), 7pm

Tues, September 23 – Eau Claire, WI – UW-Eau Claire Woodland Theatre, 7pm

Weds, September 24 – Stevens Point, WI- UW-Stevens Point (venue TBD)

Thurs, September 25 – Eagle River, WI – Many Ways of Peace Center, 7pm

Fri, September 26 – Ashland, WI – Northland College, 6pm (venue TBD)

Tues, September 30 – Milwaukee, WI – Milwaukee Area Technical College, 7pm

Mon, October 20 – Wauwatosa, WI – Mayfair Mall Community Room, 7pm

Tues, October 21 – Milwaukee, WI – First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, 7pm

Oct 23-26 – Stockholm and Pepin, WI – Flyway Film Festival, times TBD

Tues, October 28 – Beloit, WI – Beloit College (venue TBD), 7pm

Thurs, October 30 – Brookfield, WI – Brookfield Public Library, 7pm

Sat, November 8 – Wausau, WI – Marathon Co Public Library, 3pm

Fri, November 14 – Brookfield, WI – Unitarian Universalist Church West, 7pm

Tues, December 9 – Fox Point, WI – Congregation Sinai, 7pm

La Crosse, WI – TBD
Stevens Point, WI – TBD
UW-Milwaukee – TBD
West Bend, WI – TBD


They Know An Alien Invasion When They See It, And They’re Putting Up A Fight

An out-of-state mining company wants to dig what could be the world’s largest open-pit iron mine near some of the world’s most pristine water. These people aren’t giving up without a fight, and they’ve got a message you’ll want to hear.

Op Ed: Mine Disaster Could Happen to Lake Superior

Mine disaster could happen to Lake Superior

This Aug. 5 aerial photo shows the damage caused by a tailings pond breach on Lake Polley, British Columbia.

Associated Press

This Aug. 5 aerial photo shows the damage caused by a tailings pond breach on Lake Polley, British Columbia.

On Aug. 4, more than a billion gallons of mining waste spilled into rivers and creeks from a tailings pond at Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley gold and copper mine at the headwaters of the Fraser River watershed in the interior of British Columbia. Indigenous First Nations peoples mostly populate this area. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Co., the volume of the spill would fill 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. It is the largest mining disaster in Canadian history.

Tailings are the wastes left over from the processing of mineral ores and often contain residual minerals including lead, mercury and arsenic that can be toxic if released to the environment. Local emergency response officials warned downstream residents not to drink, cook with, bathe in or come in contact with the effluent. The spill also poses a major risk to the region’s salmon-spawning grounds. First Nations leaders ordered people to stop fishing from the area because of health concerns. The latest test results confirm that the mine wastes may harm aquatic life.

Could a similar disaster occur at Gogebic Taconite’s (GTac) open pit iron mine proposed in the Penokee Hills above Lake Superior? If permitted, the mine would be one of the world’s largest and would create over 900 million tons of waste over its 35 years that would have to be safely managed forever.

Proponents of the mine assure us that the mine would not harm the precious waters of Lake Superior downstream from the tailings dam. But the mine disaster at Mount Polley demonstrates that modern tailings dams based on proven engineering principles cannot guarantee our safety. Brian Kynoch, president of Imperial Metals, which operates the Mount Holley mine, told reporters, “If you asked me two weeks ago if this could have happened, I would have said it couldn’t.”

Under the best of circumstances, the proposed iron mine is a difficult engineering challenge. The presence of sulfides in waste rock poses the risk of acid mine drainage and poisoning local water supplies with dissolved toxic metals such as mercury, arsenic and lead.

However, the ferrous mining bill that GTac helped write has severely weakened Wisconsin’s regulatory authority over the construction and monitoring of mine waste facilities. For example, the law (Act 1) prohibits the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources from considering mine waste disposal sites except those next to the mine. The law also removes the requirements for demonstrating that the site selection process minimizes the overall adverse environmental impact of the waste site. This is a mine waste disaster waiting to happen.

The Bad River Chippewa tribe, whose reservation is downstream from the mine, is not going to wait for this disaster to pollute the water, destroy their wild rice beds or the Lake Superior fishery. Six Wisconsin Chippewa tribes, led by Bad River, have asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate the environmental effects of GTac’s proposed mine before the plan is reviewed by state regulators and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The tribes say they cannot rely on Wisconsin’s weakened environmental regulations to protect their treaty rights and resources.

In response to the tribes’ EPA request, Gov. Scott Walker said that the state takes a science-based approach to protecting natural resources. What is scientific about prohibiting the DNR from considering whether there are safer places to store mine waste than right next to the mine at the headwaters of the Bad River watershed?

Al Gedicks of La Crosse is executive secretary of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council.