by Joe Tarr
When the idea for a moratorium on mining projects in Wisconsin was floated in the early 1990s, few people gave it much chance of succeeding.
The speaker of the state Assembly, Scott Jensen, vowed the bill would never pass. Gov. Tommy Thompson pledged to veto it.
But what happened next is something that Spencer Black, who was then a Democratic assemblyman, lectures about in his natural resources class at the UW-Madison. Environmentalists, Native Americans, sports enthusiasts, college students and others all came together to support the bill, pressuring legislators in every district.
“It was the strongest grassroots effort I’d seen in Wisconsin,” Black remembers. “Exxon spent more money lobbying against the moratorium than had ever been spent lobbying against a bill. Exxon spent millions of millions to lobby against it. But there was this tremendous support for it.”