Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Letter: A toast to Roscoe Churchill, grassroots activist

"Just grass over a grave" is what the late Roscoe Churchill -- pictured here at the "reclaimed" Flambeau Mine site near Ladysmith, Wis. -- called the reclamation by the Flambeau Mining Co., a Rio Tinto / Kennecott subsidiary. Churchill would have been 100 years old today. (Keweenaw Now file photo © Linda Runstrom, Winona, Minn. Reprinted with permission.)

From Laura Gauger*

Today marks the 100th birthday of Roscoe Churchill of Ladysmith, Wisconsin. Let’s raise a toast to this environmental legend!

As described in a February 2007 tribute written by Al Gedicks at the time of Roscoe’s death:  "Roscoe was the grandfather of Wisconsin’s grassroots anti-mining movement. For more than 30 years, this retired school principal, part-time farmer, former Republican, and Rusk County supervisor, along with his late wife Evelyn, were the heart and soul of the efforts to stop some of the largest mining companies in the world -- including Kennecott, Noranda, Exxon, Rio Algom and BHP Billiton -- from destroying the land and clean waters of communities from Ladysmith to the Mole Lake Chippewa Reservation near Crandon and from La Crosse County to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan."

If Roscoe were still living today, you can bet he’d be helping the good people who are fighting PolyMet, Resolution Copper, Back Forty, Twin Metals, Copperwood, Pebble, Tamarack -- and the list goes on. And you can bet he would have been in the middle of the recent GTac battle and would be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with those who to this day are trying to hold Rio Tinto/Kennecott accountable for their misdeeds at Flambeau and Eagle.

We can also thank Roscoe and Evelyn for how "their discussions around the kitchen table with friends and neighbors led to the drafting and successful passage of the 1998 Wisconsin Mining Moratorium Law, known as the Churchill Moratorium Law within the environmental community, in honor of Roscoe and Evelyn’s key role in drafting the original legislation."

So, yes, a toast to this dapper gentleman who, "for as long as there was breath in his lungs, used his voice to speak uncomfortable truths to power and to inspire hope and confidence in the grassroots."  (For Al’s entire tribute to Roscoe, please click HERE.)

* Editor's Note (updated): The author of this letter, Laura Gauger (former Wisconsin resident and now of Duluth, Minn.), along with the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council and the Center for Biological Diversity, sued the Flambeau Mining Co. in January 2011 over the pollution of a tributary of the Flambeau River that is now on the EPA's "impaired waters list" because of high copper levels linked to the Flambeau Mine. She won in U.S. District Court, but the decision was later overturned on a technicality. The Court of Appeals did not dispute the fact that the tributary was polluted. Rather, the mining company was pardoned because the Wisconsin DNR had erred by not requiring the company to secure a federally-mandated permit that would have put limits on the amount of copper discharged to the stream. The tributary remains polluted to this day. Gauger and Roscoe Churchill co-authored the book, The Buzzards Have Landed! -- the story of the Flambeau Mine and their efforts to protect the environment. (See ad for the book in our right-hand column.) Click here to read about the court's ruling.

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