By DENA EAKLES | rural Ontario
I was invited to attend the Monroe County hearing on ordinances for nonmetallic mining. My interest in community rights and ordinances springing up across the country to return local control over environmental issues facing us brought me to the meeting. I am a resident of Vernon County. The following is my observation of the meeting.
“Protect us” was the consensus of concerned Monroe County citizens as they faced their county board in a zoning hearing Monday, June 17. More than 30 people exercised this right. They came to request that a moratorium on nonmetallic mining be introduced on the agenda. They spoke with impassioned and carefully articulated facts. They spoke about the unchecked increase in the size and scope of mining around their communities. They spoke about real and observed health risks, particularly to children. They told of love of land and of community and refused to accept this new norm.
They shredded the “we bring jobs and money” arguments of the corporate representatives. Jobs can be found elsewhere, and the pittance of money is not bringing back health or returning the natural beauty of this region. That was the unwavering response of the people.
When he finally spoke, the board chair expressed that, yes, it was true, there were no laws in place, no ordinances, no considerations of health and wellbeing when mining was allowed in their county. And, yes, he acknowledged something must be done. But he stopped short of allowing the requested moratorium — the moratoriumthat would exclude current operations and allow citizens time to become informed.
Instead, he politely bowed to the mining representatives. His deference to them and his inability to be swayed by the citizens were obvious.
No. It appears it will take more than common sense, more than historical and scientific facts to undo the ignorance of the few who made closed-door deals and allowed unchecked nonmetallic mining in the area.
It will take the unwavering voice of “we the people.” And from what I can tell, thecitizens of Monroe County are stepping up to the task. For more on community rights in Monroe County, contact Andrea Hansen at [email protected]