A message from CURE, Clean Up the River Environment
It takes courage to stand up to money and power.
Ortonville area cattle rancher, Clark Mastel, experienced this lesson first hand recently when he was asked to sign a letter drafted by the Strata Corporation asking him to renounce his efforts to speak out on behalf of his family and his cattle operation. He rents 478 acres of pasture land where Strata intends to blast and crush the stunning granite outcrops adjacent to the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge and Minnesota River. Clark has been grazing his cattle in peaceful coexistence with the granite outcrops for the past 30 years.
Clark refused to sign the letter and Strata Corp told him he has to get off the land this summer. Clark needs to find a home for his family and 800 head of cattle.
He paid the price for speaking out. His livelihood is at stake. How many of us would have such courage?
The Big Stone County Commissioners voted 5 to 0 this past Tuesday to allow Strata Corporation to proceed with its quarry plans. Their decision shows very clearly that they believe that Strata’s designs are more important than Clark Mastel’s livelihood. You can read about the decision by visiting the West Central Tribune
The decision came as a shock to the citizens of Big Stone County who testified in droves and submitted overwhelming evidence about how the proposed quarry would devalue real estate, threaten the environment and public health, and stand in violation of the county’s own comprehensive plan.
County Commissioners refused to move yesterday’s meeting to a larger room leaving citizens in the hall unable to hear the discussion leading up to the decision. Three officers of the Big Stone Sheriff’s department stood guard among in the crowd to keep the peace. And after the decision, Strata officials were escorted out of the courthouse by law enforcement.
It appears that Big Money and Out of State Corporate Power have prevailed.
But this citizen led effort is not going to give up.
We have the law on our side. Township level zoning trumps county government and persistent efforts to undermine that local authority have failed again in the Minnesota Legislature.
Ortonville Township is standing firm with its decision to put a moratorium on various forms of new development, including new quarries, for the next year, allowing township officials to study planning and zoning options within their own boundaries.
Township residents are counting on their leaders to listen, and they are.
We would have preferred for the County Commissioners to stand with the people and send Strata packing back to the “extraction at any cost” culture alive in North Dakota, but they did not, and so we must continue the resistance at another level.
This David and Goliath fight is now moving beyond the political stage to the legal arena. Strata Corporation has the power and resources to try to overwhelm and over spend, mobilizing an army of legal soldiers to trample on Ortonville Township.
Be on the lookout now as Strata Corporation attorneys threaten, sue and bully their way to their coveted Minnesota quarry.
It is not the fight that any of us wanted, but it has come despite our best efforts through the public hearing process. We are prepared.
Here are things you can do to demonstrate your resistance and to assist this ongoing effort:
1. Clark Mastel is looking for new pasture for his cattle and a new home for his family lest he have to sell off his herd. Do you have any leads for him? Let us know.
2. Township governments throughout the state need your help to protect and preserve local control and the right of local people to take action against threatening development and to determine their own local zoning standards. If you are involved with your township or know someone who has gone through this process and can help the Ortonville Town Board, let us know.
4. CURE and the citizens of Big Stone County need your help to connect us with partners who have the legal and financial resources that this campaign will need. If you know somebody who knows somebody who can help – send them our way.
This work takes courage and commitment — like that expressed by Clark Mastel and the citizens of Ortonville Township.
CURE is a passionate communicator and connector working toward Watershed Health. We are powered by Grassroots Citizen Action.
Thankfully, with your help, this is a renewable resource.