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Fight for Public Lands in the Eagle Mountains of the Mojave Desert

Fight for Public Lands in the Eagle Mountains of the Mojave Desert

By Greg Herring

We, miners, constantly face off with those who want to take our public lands and jeopardize our small miner’s claims. Sometimes the opposition needs education to help them see why we want to keep public lands public.

Such is the case in the Mojave Desert of Southern California, where lies the relatively small Eagle Mountain Mining District (EMMD). Established in 1882 and reorganized in 2016, the district possesses six active small miner placer claims and many lode claims from the old Kaiser iron mine days that are still active claims.

A certain “group” whose purpose and goal is to expand National Parks and propose new Parks, Monuments, etc., is working to annex the District into the Joshua Tree National Park (JTNP), which surrounds the EMMD on three sides, the 4th side being landlocked by the Kaiser Iron mine. The “groups” effort is part of a much larger primary project to establish a new Chuckwalla National Monument that will encompass a portion of the Bradshaw Trail in the desert of Southern California.

I have been a First Class Miners Inc (FCM) member for 23 years. For 22 years of that, I have been the person taking on the fight to protect our claims and the lands. The FCM and Public Lands for the People (PLP) members are among the placer claim owners in the EMMD. I have taken on the task of finding an equitable solution to keep the Eagle Mountain Mining District intact.

In mid-June, I took the lead Representative of the “group” for these “lock up the land” efforts out to see the Eagle Mountains for his first-ever visit to this remote and pristine area. The area is alive with Desert Big Horn Sheep, for which this district is a major corridor for them. Just a few people at a time go mining here and rarely does a tourist go here because of the difficulty of the one road going in through the JTNP.

I explained that annexing this area into the Park will increase traffic dramatically. Hundreds and maybe even a few thousand visitors will come, especially when the Park improves the road. This will completely disrupt the Sheep and subject the historic mining camps to vandalism. With just one access road through the Park to this BLM Land, it is remote, already protected, and seldom does it see man.

I further explained the limitations of tools used by Small Scale Miners, our great stewardship of the lands, and that we always leave it better than we found it. I also introduced the concept of Mining Districts to the Representative and how we are Federally recognized. Any group attempting to change a Mining District’s land status must, by law, Coordinate with said District. Coordination with Mining Districts has been successfully used to help diverse groups work together to protect public lands, keep them open to multiple use, and keep areas open to mineral entry. For example, Coordination was done recently in Washington State in the Slate Creek Mining District- see ICMJ article here: https://www.icmj.com/resources/news-and-events/miners-news/reminder-slate-creek-mining-district-meeting-in-washington-state-may-27-2016-334/

Did I convince him that continuing to move forward with attempts to transfer the lands to the Park will be met with stiff opposition and would be bad for the area? I am not sure. But I know he is better informed about what we do there, how protected it is already, the pitfalls of making such a transfer, and that the Mining District and other organizations will certainly not make it easy should the “group” decide to proceed.

We will keep everyone updated as this develops. Thank you.

© ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal, CMJ Inc.
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