The Republican leaders of the Wisconsin state legislature say they may not be able reach a mining deal that will get the support of northern Wisconsin's Indian tribes. They might not even try.
The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa vehemently opposed last year's failed mining bill, not only because they feared what it could do to their watershed but also because they objected to not having a seat at the table. Republican leaders met with the tribe, but that was the extent of the discussion.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he does not expect to consult with the tribe as Republicans draw up this year's mining bill, "Consultation usually occurs after the legislature has acted. The Bad River tribe, in addition to every single citizen of the state, has an opportunity to participate in the legislative process. They can come and testify at the hearing that we will have. They can offer constructive changes. But even when I met with the chairman last time, they don't want a mining bill under any circumstances. So it is very difficult to negotiate with somebody who says they don't want it under any circumstances."
Senate Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's remarks were more tempered, saying he wanted the process to unfold first. But Fitzgerald did not leave much room for talks, "Discussions with the tribes have been, I think, certainly explored over the last two years. But whether or not you're going to come to any resolution that's going to be acceptable to them, I think it's a long shot. It's going to be difficult, I think, to ever get them onboard with a piece of legislation."
Bad River Chair Mike Wiggins issued a statement saying citizens of the tribe found it remarkable that legislators are pushing legislation, "drafted by mining interests to deregulate treatment of waters, lands and impacts to the environment." Wiggins and others are traveling to Milwaukee for a press conference on mining Tuesday.