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UP lawmakers target state history office | News, Sports, Jobs

A decision by the Michigan Historic Preservation Review Board to support adding a Menominee site to the National Register of Historic Places is under fire from Upper Peninsula lawmakers, who say the action comes in response to a request from a Wisconsin-based anti-mining group.

Saying that the State Historic Preservation Office has become an obstacle to economic development in UP, several lawmakers are planning legislation to defund and reform it, along with an official resolution condemning recent actions and calling for the removal of its staff.

The protest comes after the board voted unanimously Friday to support the nomination of Anaem Omot — a Menominee Tribe cultural landscape crossed by the Menominee River that separates Wisconsin and Michigan.

“This action is a blatant taking of private property rights and opportunities,” State Sen. Ed McBroom of R-Waucedah Township said in a statement. “Our state entities should not have even considered this non-Michigan group. What’s even more shocking is that the owners only get a vote to reject this, not pass it, and it’s based on individual owners with no weighting for acres owned.

According to Earthjustice, which supports the preservation effort, the vote follows years of advocacy by historians, scientists and leaders of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin to recognize the district’s cultural and historic resources, including burial mounds, garden beds and dancing. rings.

The land is in close proximity to the proposed Back Forty project, primarily a zinc and gold operation which has been under consideration for 20 years. In December 2021, Gold Resource Corp., a US-based mining company, became the lead developer of the Back Forty mine when it purchased Aquila Resources.

Gold Resource expects to publish a new definitive feasibility study in the coming months and expects a series of permit applications to follow.

State Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, said the State Historic Preservation Office and review board “ignored the work they and the mining company had already done regarding the Native American history of the site.” He accused the board of directors of “blind capitulation to these out-of-state interests to grant this designation now when they had not found it justifiable in the past.”

State Representative Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette, also said the proposed mine should go ahead.

“The constant fight against such mining projects, when we have the strictest environmental safeguards in the world, only forces investments and jobs to be made elsewhere with lower wages and concern for the environment” , she said in a statement.

Last month, SHPO determined that vacant buildings at the former KI Sawyer Air Force Base could not be removed until a more thorough vetting process and history gathering was completed, McBroom said. Marquette County had been awarded more than $12 million to remove buildings to make way for economic development, but the SHPO’s determination has triggered additional review by federal agencies that could lead to years of delays, said the legislator.

“Even after visiting these buildings and recognizing the need to demolish them, this agency chose to work against county results and opportunities for economic growth and jobs,” McBroom said, noting the buildings had been vacant for 30 years.

“SHPO also caused us problems when rebuilding the trail in Houghton County,” State Representative Greg Markkanen, R-Hancock, said in a statement. “There is an urgent need for new leadership of this office and board before they impede other important projects for our communities across UP and Michigan.”

The Michigan Review Board’s vote on Anaem Omot’s site came after a November 2021 vote by the Wisconsin Review Board, which also unanimously approved the site’s nomination. The decision to include Anaem Omot on the National Register of Historic Places – the official list of historic buildings, neighborhoods, sites, structures, and objects worthy of preservation – will now be transferred to the State Historic Preservation Offices of Michigan and Wisconsin, to the National Park Service and finally to the Keeper of the National Register.

Anaem Omot, translated by “The Dog’s Belly” is an area approximately 50 miles upstream from the mouth of the Menominee River where it meets Green Bay Bay. According to Earthjustice, it includes the famous Sixty Islands site, steeped in Menominee history. The origin of the Menominee tribe takes place at the mouth of the Menominee River.

In a news release Friday, Menominee Tribe Chairman Ron Corn Sr. said the review committee’s vote “recognizes a rare and sacred Menominee heritage site that has survived centuries of violent dispossession and where Menominee members continue to visit and hold ceremonies today.”

“We are absolutely delighted” he said.

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