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A familiar face soon will fill a newly created three-fifths time assistant district attorney position for Ashland County.
Lynne K. Van Hollen of Waunakee, formerly of Iron River, has been hired to fill the position announced last week by Gov. Tony Evers, Ashland County District Attorney David V. Meany said Tuesday.
Van Hollen served as an assistant district attorney in Ashland County from 1999 to 2002. Her most recent public service was as an assistant legal counsel for the Department of Corrections in 2014 and 2015.
Her position is among 65 new prosecutor positions Evers announced statewide last week. Bayfield County also is gaining a part-time position; Bayfield County District Attorney Kimberly Lawton could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Meany said his office badly needs Van Hollen's assistance in his stressed office.
"Obviously we would have been more appreciative of a full-time position, because it is always hard to fill a part-time position, but we are truly appreciative that we are going to get some help," he said.
Meany said Ashland ranked high in the need for additional prosecutorial help when caseloads were considered, but the county's small population worked against new hires.
The caseload can be attributed to several factors, including a high number of drug cases going through court.
"That is the No. 1 factor; the other factors are a general socioeconomic conditions that lead to certain types of crime, like property crimes. We are very excited to get her on board here in Ashland County," he said.
Te Department of Administration also considered efforts being made by district attorneys to have alternative and diversion programs in their counties when it determined which should get help.
Meany said the goals of those programs are to help halt the judicial system's revolving door, with defendants rearrested for the same crimes over and over again. He noted that the county has made a strong effort to reduce recidivism.
"I think we have done a good job, and this will be very helpful in being able to do things that we haven't been able to do in the past due to resources," he said.
Meany, who was appointed to Ashland County's vacant position as one of Gov. Scott Walker's final acts, selected Van Hollen — the wife of former Republican state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen — for the position.
Lynne Van Hollen, who will start Oct. 28, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The flood of 2016 that decimated roads and bridges in the Northwoods also washed away confidence that vital services could continue to operate in the face of extended power outages.
The realization that the grid could go down long-term struck close to home on the Bad River Band's reservation to the east of Ashland, where critical infrastructure failed to function after the flood. As a result, the tribal community decided it was time to hatch an emergency preparedness plan, part of which revolved around forging ahead with an onsite renewable energy and storage system.
The band had dipped its toes into solar energy a few years back after receiving a $10,000 Indian Health Services grant to help pay for the installation of a small solar panel array at its air-monitoring station.
The array proved itself, dispelling concerns that solar power wouldn't work in the Northwoods or produce as much electricity as the band wanted, said Daniel Wiggins Jr., air quality technician.
The solar panels are providing about 20 percent of the electrical needs of the air-monitoring station and food sovereignty building. It's not huge, Wiggins said, but for the most part the panels are producing power and saving the tribe money.
With the experience of completing this $13,000 solar project under its belt, the tribe aimed higher for its next project — $2 million higher to be precise.
On Sept. 13 the Bad River Band received the funds from a $1 million U.S. Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy 50 percent matching grant to install what will be the largest solar-plus-battery storage system in Wisconsin.
William Bailey, president of Cheq Bay Renewable, a nonprofit dedicated to making renewable energy more accessible to the public, said there are larger solar panel systems in the state — look no further than Xcel's community solar project south of Ashland — but the addition of the batteries puts Bad River's system at the top.
The tribe plans to install photovoltaic solar and battery storage systems in three locations — the Health & Wellness Center, waste water treatment plant and Blackbird Administration building — all sites deemed critical in emergencies.
Bailey said the electricity generated will go to power buildings, to charge the batteries or to enter the power grid. Travis and Amy Simpkins of Denver-based muGrid Analytics will be writing the computer program that determines where best to divert the power.
Storing energy in batteries instead of sending it to the grid made sense for the Bad River Band, Wiggins said, because of the savings they'll see by not hooking up the panels to Bayfield Electric's utility meters and having battery power on hand during outages. It's an important aspect of the tribe's goal to increase its energy independence and promote economic development.
The project also will help teach job skills. The Blackbird Administration Building's array will be basically a do-it-yourself kit, enabling tribal members to learn to install solar panels.
But before plans to break ground can commence, the Bad River Band must find a contractor — and come up with the $1 million to match the grant.
The tribe is ultimately responsible for matching the grant, Wiggins said. But Bailey added that it had options to share the cost.
The Bad River Band could find additional grants, take out traditional loans or dip into tribal equity. The largest share of the $1 million probably will come from third-party investors, who can take advantage of a 30% federal tax credit, Bailey said.
If all goes as planned, the tribe hopes to select a contractor and settle on the project's design next spring, followed by installation in the summer so the system can be commissioned in the fall.
The Ojibwe will commemorate the Treaty of La Pointe this weekend, signed on Sept. 30, 1854, on Madeline Island. Although it will turn 165 years old, the pact between the U.S. and Ojibwe ceding land in exchange for hunting, fishing and gathering rights remains a living document the tribes have fought hard to have respected.
Before 1854, the Ojibwe signed a number of treaties with the U.S., selling land piecemeal from their territories in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Treaty of 1854, which created the Red Cliff and Bad River reservations, among others, was the final compact.
Though the treaty remains in effect, it was signed amid controversy and hasn't entirely shed that legacy more than a century and a half later.
Sandy Lake tragedy
Ojibwe history leading up to the 1854 treaty was marred by the 1850 tragedy of Sandy Lake, Minn., and its repercussions led to the formation of the reservations.
Up until that year, the U.S. had been making treaty payments to Wisconsin Ojibwe at La Pointe on Madeline Island. But the federal government moved disbursements to Sandy Lake. When the tribes arrived there, however, they found no money and no provisions for the winter trip home except for some rancid food. Hundreds died.
"It was deliberate," Bad River Tribe Historic Preservation Officer Edith Leosa said, describing it as one of many efforts to displace Native Americans from their homes.
As a result of the Sandy Lake tragedy, the Ojibwe agreed to the 1854 treaty only if they could remain in their homes and retain rights to hunt, fish and gather on off-reservation lands they ceded so they could sustain themselves and future generations.
Battle for rights
The U.S. immediately went back on some of the treaty's terms, Leosa said. Reservation boundaries were tightened, for example, and if the pact had been honored, the town of Washburn would be on reservation land.
The tribe eventually asked President Abraham Lincoln to investigate how the U.S. was upholding the treaty. He said he would look into it after the Civil War ended, but he never responded before his assassination. His successor, Andrew Johnson, just wanted to "kill us all," Leosa said.
The tribe resorted to taking treaty cases to court, which reaffirmed many rights, including those over spearfishing — a decision that prompted racist-tinged protests by non-natives in the 1980s. After seeing the incorrect information the media disseminated during the protests, the tribes recognized the need to educate the public and created the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, said Charlie Otto Rassmussen, who has authored a book on the treaty and Sandy Lake.
The commission addresses several issues that could affect the tribes' treaty rights, public information officer Dylan Jennings said. One such issue is climate change. As species special to Ojibwe culture adapt, they are changing the face of their native environments.
"Birch bark is a great example of that," Jennings said. "Birch bark trees are leaving the area."
The tribes' relationship to the environment is integral to their traditional way of life, as Mother Nature provides food and resources. Leosa said tribal members continue to live the way they have for hundreds of years and mentioned that Enbridge's pipeline crossing the reservation would impact their treaty rights should it rupture.
"That's a big mistake waiting to happen," she said. "It's not an if, it's when it will happen."