UW-Stout professor highlights social impact of Chippewa Valley f - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UW-Stout professor highlights social impact of Chippewa Valley frac sand mines


Menomonie (WQOW)- While the field has hit a lull, for years frac sand mining was one of the region's most influential industries. However, for what experts call a volatile business, another boom could be around the corner.

Tom Pearson, associate professor of anthropology wrote a book on frac sand mining. It's focused on the Chippewa Valley and western Wisconsin and it's titled "When the Hills Are Gone." Instead of what many people believe to be an economic versus environmental issue, this takes on the social impact. It looks at how the industry impacts a person's sense of community and their connection to local government.

Pearson joined in and researched community activism groups during the 2009-2015 industry boom, and why some of those groups were successful and other were not. 

Pearson believes the industry is too complex for blanket statements of being for or against frac sand mining, and that there is more at stake than just environmental and economic pros and cons. The book is meant to raise questions about who has a say in the decision making process, and how those decisions impact more than just the physical landscape.

"Part of what I wanted to do was document what people were experiencing and the kind of issues that they were navigating and the struggles that they were enduring, and because a lot of the focus in the discussions about impacts tends to be geared toward environment or economic impacts, I felt that something was kind of being left behind," Pearson said.

Right now the Wisconsin DNR has 92 active industrial sand mining locations listed in the state, most of which are throughout west central Wisconsin. 

"When the Hills Are Gone" was published through the University of Minnesota Press. Pearson said it can be found online and at most local book stores.

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