Dear Senator Schultz,
I do not currently live in your district, but I grew up in southwestern Wisconsin, in the lead and zinc mining town of Shullsburg. Much of my family is still there, including my mother, brother, niece, and others. The last mine there closed when I was a child, but as you know mining is an integral part of the heritage of that corner of the state, so much so that the high school team nickname is the Miners. It is what brought the earliest settlers to Wisconsin. The Badger nickname for the state came from the early miners who dug into the sides of the hills. My grandfather was a miner, as were many residents of the town. It is a proud heritage.
Shullsburg is also in one of the historically poorer counties of the state, so we understand the importance of good jobs. We understand the need that those in northern Wisconsin have for jobs. Yet it is important to note that when the last mine closed the city didn’t fold up. Admittedly, it did go into decline for a while, but then rediscovered itself and its history and is now a successful tourist destination. The people discovered that there are many ways to make money.
Residents of Shullsburg also understand the need for safety and environmental concerns. In the 1940’s one of the mines there suffered a mining disaster that is still recorded as the worst in Wisconsin history. In an initial collapse two men were killed. An additional six heroic rescuers were killed in a subsequent cave-in during their attempts to save the first two. No greater loss of life has ever occurred in a Wisconsin mine. Mine safety is critically important.
As part of the beautiful driftless region of the state those of us from that corner of the state also understand the need to protect the geology and beauty of the landscape. Around my home town there are still scars on the landscape fifty years after the mines and the type of mining done there was not the kind of mining that is being proposed in the Penokees, which would leave larger scars for a much longer period.
I believe that the Senate Select Committee on Mining Jobs was trying to address the needs for jobs, safety and environmental concerns, in addition to the protection of the tribal land and wild rice of the people who live at Bad River. They were trying to balance the need for jobs with the imperative to preserve our land and health for future generations. Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald’s disbanding of the committee to push through the Assembly version of the bill is a slap in the face to the Senators who worked so hard to find compromise, to the people of northern Wisconsin, and to all the people in this state who seek to find compromise and the best solutions for the benefit of the most people.
My understanding is that you have spoken out against the Assembly version of the bill. I wanted to thank you for taking that stand. I believe that you understand the need to include the voices of all the people affected by the bill. I encourage you to stand strong in that decision. As I’m sure you are aware, you are about to get deluged with people trying to get you to change your mind. You are bound to face enormous pressure from your Senate and Assembly colleagues. The Governor just yesterday encouraged a thousand business people at a Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce meeting to put pressure on legislators to pass the mining bill.
You have taken brave stands in the past. I admire your courage against the face of pressures that would cause other men and women to give in and vote with their party. I can’t imagine the threats you may face, but you need to know that there are countless citizens who believe that this mining bill should not go forward in the form that came out of the Assembly. We will stand behind you as you stand strong for the people rather than the politicians and power brokers.