Over the many years I have covered the aggregates industry, I have written about the Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) movement on numerous occasions. While I have written about how NIMBY groups challenge aggregates operations and how to deal with that, I have never personally experienced a NIMBY group in action.
That all changed May 10-11, in La Crosse, Wis.
For the third installment of Rock Products’ Frac Sand Insider conference, we decided to hold the event in the heart of frac sand production territory: Wisconsin. The reasoning was, we will bring the show to the industry. The idea worked pretty well. But we did not count on protestors.
The first inkling that there was going to be community opposition to the show came in the days leading up to the event, when we heard that a number of local groups, such as the Land Stewardship Project, Houston County Protectors, Citizens Against Silica Mining, the Ho-Chunk Nation and Coulee Region Climate Alliance, were organizing to protest the event.
During set-up, a lady wrapped in an American flag was wandering around outside the La Crosse Center telling people they were killing the earth. I wanted to ask her if she knew proper protocol for handling the American flag.
The next day, during the show a handful of people carrying signs began parading in front of the entrance to the venue. We were okay with that. They were entitled to their space. But then several tried to come into the lobby of the La Crosse Center to accost show attendees. They were immediately thrown out by management. Local police were also on-hand for extra security.
A little bit later in the day, about 50 people held a rally outside the La Crosse Center. They had their say, misinformed as it was, and they dispersed peacefully. Local media, including television, newspapers and radio were on hand. They did a nice job, balancing interviews with people from the show, including me, with the NIMBY participants.
So now I have first-hand knowledge of what it is like to deal directly with people who have an entirely different take on sand mining than aggregates producers, and the media that covers such things. It was a valuable experience and one that I will draw on to address this issue in the future.