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U.P. lawmakers outraged by SHPO Board decision

LANSING, Mich. — Upper Peninsula legislators expressed outrage with the State Historic Preservation Office and the State Historic Preservation Review Board. The board, which is staffed by and informed by SHPO, determined today that the land bordering the Menominee River near a proposed mine site should be added to the federal registry of historic places. This action was taken in response to a request from a Wisconsin group that has been actively seeking to stop mining in both states for decades.

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

Representative Cambensy, D-Marquette, said “The future of our green economy depends on these minerals and the U.P. future could be bright with these jobs. The constant fight against such mining projects, when we have the most stringent environmental safeguards in the world, only forces the investment and jobs to be done somewhere else with lower wages and concern for the environment.”

The Back Forty project is primarily a zinc and gold operation with several smaller precious metals also in abundance. The mine site plan has been going through more than a decade of site permitting to make sure it can be done safely for people and the environment.

“SHPO and the board ignored the work they and the mining company had already done regarding the Native American History of the site,” said Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain. “It is clearly a blind capitulation to these out-of-state interests to grant this designation now when they had not found it justifiable in the past.”

SHPO has recently become one of the main blocks to economic development in the Upper Peninsula. Last month, the office devastated the opportunity to remove more than a dozen dilapidated, moldy, dangerous buildings on the former KI Sawyer Airforce Base. Marquette County had secured more than $12 million to remove those buildings, making way for several manufacturers to expand their operations and job forces. SHPO determined the buildings, vacant for 30 years, could not be removed until a more thorough vetting process and collection of history was completed. This triggered additional scrutiny from the federal agencies and could result in years of delays.

“When the director of SHPO told me the buildings were of ‘value to the people of Michigan’ I was incredulous,” said McBroom. “Even after touring these buildings and recognizing the need to demolish them, this agency chose to work against the county’s bottom line and the opportunity for economic growth and jobs.”

“SHPO has also caused trouble for us on the trail reconstruction in Houghton County,” said Rep. Greg Markkanen. “It is urgent that new leadership of this office and the board be had before they hinder other important projects for our communities across the U.P. and Michigan.”

The U.P. legislative team is planning legislation to defund and reform the SHPO along with a formal resolution condemning their recent actions and calling for the removal of the present director and staff.

“We don’t need SHPO becoming the new ‘DEQ’ up here,” said LaFave.

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