Mark Erickson (Resources Coalition) reported that his organization found out that the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) had been meeting with members of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration in an effort to further restrict the activities of small-scale miners in Washington State.
Meetings occurred behind closed doors and via email for several months when the Resources Coaltion learned of their activities through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
You may recall that the miners spent several years working with WDFW staff to promulgate new regulations that went into effect last year.
The miners immediately sought to intervene, and a letter to the agencies was sent out by the Resources Coalition attorney.
WDFW responded by scheduling a meeting with the miners, which was abruptly put on hold. The meeting was rescheduled and fnally took place on June 2, 2010.
Erickson reported that WDFW officials withdrew their plans for impromptu regulations at the meeting, agreeing to consult with the miners if additional changes or restrictions are sought.
Erickson noted that WDFW is currently working on a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), which will undoubtedly incorporate some regulatory changes for small-scale miners as it comes to fruition, but this action is being taken following the Adminstrative Procedures Act and miners will have time for comments.
The biggest problem with the HCP process has been the common problem with all rule changes directed at small-scale mining -- a lack of sound science to back up claims made by the agencies. We'll keep you posted.