From: Matthew Schultz
The last chilly morning of deer hunting, I sat on a rocky point looking down the valley. My family’s farm lay on both sides, and tapering off in the distance was the Trempealeau River, reaching all the way to the Mississippi and Minnesota’s bluffs beyond. It was a prime spot to watch a slow November sunrise. The poetry of the moment did not escape me. The slight breeze rattled the milkweed and danced with the prairie grass. Memories had been etched in the minds of the hunting party that would be tied permanently to this landscape. Three first-time hunters and three nice does, each with their own story, their own trip to Dodge, and their own blood and gut piles laying frozen on those precious acres we call ‘our land’.
It did not take long before my thoughts left the poetry and focused on what was beneath my feet. Sand. Sand I played in as a boy. Sand that created the right microclimate for the prairie plants in these high, steep places. Sand, that a guy in a white Halliburton truck from North Dakota wanted to have my mom sell several years ago when fracking was a distant word in our local vernacular.
What if we had opened up this land, ‘our land’, to the mining of sand? One thing was for sure, the hill I sat on that morning would no longer exist.
Do we join into what is happening all over this globe and let the mining companies play their tricks, win over politicians, and get their fingers in this sand? Or do we stand firm and protect what is not really ours anyway, but our kids’ and our grandkids’. It troubles me that the once reputable Wisconsin DNR recently reported the rerouting of Trout Run in two locations and the filling in of wetlands for a railroad spur of significant size has an environmental impact that may be negligible. Did they notice the area has rare wetlands known as calcareous fens, that in the past two springs several nearby sand mines had run-off problems that will likely happen at this site?
One can only hope that in upcoming election cycles the good people of Wisconsin start to remedy the problem. In Minnesota we still believe in local control and I hope Wisconsin fights hard to keep that right.
The DNR is supposed to protect resources for future generations, not turn them over to the pawns of a corporate entity that without restraint will carve up the river valley one hill at a time. As a boy I found an arrowhead close to the spot where I sat that November morning. It was the first time in my life I realized this was not ‘our land.’ America was built on the idea of private land ownership as much as any other idea we hold dear. A landowner should be able to enjoy their land as they see fit. But when what they propose to do affects the neighbor’s property values, their quality of life, the air they breathe and the water for generations to come, that is where the DNR and local control has its place.