Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Time for sheriff to eject harvest camp residents

To the Editor:

Since April 2013, a group of Lac Courte Oreilles tribal members and their friends have been living on Iron County forest property along Moore Park Road in what they have called a “harvest camp.”

Although harvesting of certain miscellaneous forest products is granted to tribal members through federal treaties, living on the county forest is in direct violation of the Iron County Forest 15-year plan, Iron County camping ordinance and Wisconsin statutes that govern county forest land. Twice over the past year, the Iron County Forestry Committee has recommended removal of these individuals to the full county board.

On March 14, the Iron County Board voted unanimously in favor of resolution No. 2848 which “authorizes the Iron County sheriff to eject individuals occupying the Harvest Camp by any lawful means necessary and impose any other appropriate penalty as allowed by law.”

This resolution gave strong direction to the Iron County Sheriff Tony Furyk to do one thing — eject the residents of the harvest camp. The sheriff, however, has taken it upon himself to negotiate with the leaders of the harvest camp, and it appears as though they have no intention of going anywhere.

Paul Demain, one of the leaders of the camp, is actively inviting people to come and stay on the county property for up to 14 days. He also says that camp administrators will rotate every 14 days to stay in compliance with county camping ordinances.

The problem with all of this is that the camp needs to be removed completely in order to reclaim the property and restore it to its previous condition. The intent of the 14-day camping limit written into the county ordinances is to minimize impacts to the forest and to keep the forest open to everyone in the general public. With what turned into a small village over the summer of 2013, the “harvest camp” area has had impacts to the soil and natural vegetation that far exceed normal dispersed camping.

The Iron County Forestry Committee and the Iron County Board of Supervisors have done the responsible thing for our public land. It is time for the sheriff to act responsibly and follow through with the direction he has been given.

Joe Pinardi

Iron County Board


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