Discovering the Penokees

discovering the penokees cover image Discovering the Penokees

by Joel Austin

No issue touches our region so deeply as the potential permanent scarring of the magnificent Penokee Hills that stretch across Ashland and Iron Counties. They hover gracefully above the Kakagon Bad River Sloughs – some 16,000 acres of wild rice, grasses, sedges, trees, streams, and open water along Lake Superior’s southern shore. The threat is the proposed open pit iron mine 22 miles long, one-half mile wide and nearly 1000 feet deep cut through the heart of this unique and special place. While the splendid photos say all that needs to be said, the accompanying text from a variety of writers from Mike Wiggins, Jr. (Chair of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe) to Bill Heart (past Chair of the Wisconsin Council of Trout Unlimited) tells the story of the Penokees in graphic and loving terms. We recently visited the Chuquicamata open pit copper mine in the Atacama Desert in Chile. While the devastation of the pit itself is impressive, the most telling image is that of the abandoned city of Chuquicamata itself. It once had a bustling population of 25,000 people. 25,000! Now it is a ghost town. The last resident left in 2008 driven out by the effects of the still operating mine. Not here!