The Huron Mountain Club has been in the news a lot lately, particularly in the last several years.
That is because of their opposition to the Eagle Mine and their efforts to stop the public from fishing the Salmon Trout river. There have been other issues as well, none of which reflect favorably on the club.
In two recent news articles, it was revealed that this is their ninth attempt in the last six years in four different forums to stop the mine. This litigation cost the parties, including the state, tens of millions of dollars. We are talking about the one percenters here.
A definition of insanity is doing the same things repeatedly while expecting a different outcome.
Considering that Michigan has one of the strictest nonferrous mining laws in the nation which stresses protection of the environment, that it provides for an extensive public review process and that because of intense opposition to the mine, the company is under a microscope, this latest lawsuit is overkill.
Another hot issue is the fishing controversy on the Salmon Trout River. For several decades, the club has tried to stop fishermen from legally accessing and fishing this public trout stream.
While they have the undisputed right to protect their private property interests, they don't have the right to violate Michigan's Fisherman Harrassment Law or people's civil rights in doing so.
Deputized security guards, who are active or retired law enforcement officers, have allegedly harassed fishermen with what appears to be the backing or the tacit approval of local law enforcement officials.
Because of the public outcry and the involvement of the Marquette County Commission over this issue, things have quieted down for now. This arrogance and disrespect for others doesn't sit well with a lot of people.
And they are hypocrites of the first order. In their court filings to stop the state from leasing 120 acres of land to the Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company for mining purposes, they cited the Michigan Public Trust Doctrine. It mandates that state land and resources are held in trust for the use and enjoyment of the people. They claim that leasing this land violates the public trust.
The Salmon Trout river is likewise a state resource that is held in trust for the use and enjoyment of the people. Because it was used to float logs many years ago, it is designated a navigable stream. Therefore, it is legal for people to float and fish this river. There is legal public access at County Road KK and upstream from Lake Superior.
The club has always disputed that right. Following the ill advised attempt by the Marquette County Road Commission to abandon a portion of County Road KK and the bridge over the river, this matter is in litigation. In the last 50 years, there have been no less than four attempts by the Club to gain control over this road and river access.
When it comes to Michigan's Public Trust Doctrine, it's do as they say, not as they do.
About 15 years ago, the club approached the Powell Township Board to ask for their support to deputize club guards. Representatives of the club, the sheriff's office, the prosecutor's office, the Michigan State Police, the Department of Natural Resources and the Marquette County Road Commission attended the meeting. After a lengthy public debate and discussion of the pros and cons of deputizing the guards, the board voted unanamously to deny the request.
Obviously, this vote didn't matter. The sheriff went ahead and deputized the guards anyway. Clearly, this man doesn't respect the wishes of his constituents. While the club benefits enormously, Marquette County recieves no tangible benefit in return and assumes a legal liability. This matter is being reviewed at the present time so as to hold the County harmless in incidents involving armed guards.
The sheriff has too much statutory power. Unfortunately, the county commission is powerless to overrule the sheriff on appointing deputies. This liability affects their fiduciary responsibility to the voters who elect them.
About 12 years ago, the club tried to use Michigan's Farmland and Open Space Preservation Act to evade local real estate taxes. Fortunately, this effort failed in court. This law is intended to preserve undeveloped land in urban areas such as southeast Michigan.
Had they been successful, local taxing units, especially the Powell Township Schools, would have lost millions of dollars. The club is the largest taxpayer in the township. More than anything else, that selfish act reflects their attitude toward the local community.
So much for being a good neighbor.
Editor's note: John Hongisto is a resident of Deerton.