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Legislative and Regulatory Update

• AB 1032 update
“Thank you” to all who have sent in letters to Governor Schwarzenegger opposing AB 1032, the bill that will severely restrict dredging in California if he chooses to sign it. We have received many positive responses from our readers.

The bill currently sits in the hands of the Senate Appropriations Committee at the time of this writing. Lobbying of legislators by the New 49er’s prospecting club and Public Lands for the People continues.

For those of you who missed our last issue, we will provide a quick recap.

California Representative Lois Wolk introduced AB 1032, which was authored by CalTrout and the Karuk Tribe—the same tribe that lost in court, twice, trying to place additional restrictions on dredgers without the science to back up their claims.

The bill, if enacted, would give the California Department of Fish & Game the authority to close waters to suction gold dredging “when necessary to protect wild trout or other sensitive native aquatic or amphibian species.” The agency would not be allowed to issue a dredge permit unless it could show that dredging would not be deleterious to various species, which would be nearly impossible.

The bill passed the House of Representatives. Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee chairman Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat, allowed only four minutes of testimony against the bill. Committee members voted along party lines, Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed, allowing the bill to proceed to the full Senate for a vote.

If the bill makes it through the full Senate, and Governor Schwarzenegger signs it, the Journal will be first in line to contribute funds towards a lawsuit to strike it down.

September 14 is the last day to pass any bill in the California legislature for the year. October 14 is the last day for the Governor to sign or veto any bill. If these two deadlines are not met, the bill dies.

• Heritage Areas
Now that we have some of you in the fighting mood, there are several other matters of importance that still need your attention.

There have been 16 bills introduced, affecting ten areas of the country, which will place restrictions on mining, development, and other uses of your private property under the National Heritage Area designation.

These designated areas include:
Alabama (HR1145)—Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area.
Arizona (HR1885)—Santa Cruz National Heritage Area.
Colorado (HR859, S443)—Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area.
Colorado (S444)—South Park National Heritage Area.
Illinois (HR929, S956)—Land Between the Rivers National Heritage Area.
Illinois (HR1625, S955)—Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area.
Kentucky (HR646)—Kentucky Artisan Heritage Trails National Heritage Area.
Massachusetts & New Hampshire (HR1297, S827)—Freedom’s Way National Heritage Area.
New York (HR713, S800)—Niagara Falls National Heritage Area.
Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia (HR319, S289)—Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area.

These designated areas would be under the authority of the National Park Service and controlled by an un-elected management group.

According to David Ridenour, vice president of The National Center for Public Policy Research, “Once established, National Heritage Areas become permanent units of the National Park Service, and as such, permanent drains on an agency that currently suffers a multibillion-dollar maintenance crisis.”

A property owner cannot opt-out of a Heritage Area. The federal government appoints those who will serve on the management board. There is no voting involved.

Heritage Areas are defined as areas where “Local communities and leaders cooperate on efforts to preserve the resources that are important to them. The partnership approach to heritage development involves collaborative planning around a theme, industry and/or geographical feature that influenced the region’s culture and history.”

The next step in the process is to have National Heritage Areas designated as World Heritage Areas. Can you see where this is heading? It involves taking the free use of your property out of your hands and placing it into an un-elected regulatory body based in the US, followed by control and influence of the United Nations.

Looking up “World Heritage” on the United Nations website you will find, “World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.” The United Nations website states that areas must be recommended for inclusion by member countries or states. According to their interactive map, there are eighteen areas or sites in the US that have already received the World Heritage designation.

• On to the next one…
Just as a reminder, there are plenty of other bills out there that threaten the use of public lands for mining and access to public lands in general. US Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) and Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis (D-California), introduced the California Wild Heritage Act of 2007, legislation that would place over 2.4 million acres of federal public lands in California off limits.

“I am excited to build on last year’s successes and continue efforts to preserve even more of California’s magnificent wild lands for future generations,” Boxer said.

A Boxer press release states, “The California Wild Heritage Act protects these places by designating public lands owned by the American people as ‘wilderness’—the highest level of protection in federal law—and segments of California rivers as ‘wild and scenic.’ These areas would remain open for recreational activities such as horseback riding, fishing, hunting, hiking, backpacking, rock climbing and canoeing. It would also protect vital watersheds in our national forests, which are a source of California’s drinking water supply. In addition, the bill would help protect vulnerable ecosystems and threatened species of plants and animals, such as salmon and trout.”

• Are you angry enough to get involved?
We’re hoping your depression turns into anger. We mention these bills hoping that you will get involved. We know your time is valuable, and you would much rather be out prospecting or otherwise enjoying yourself. But we sincerely hope you get angry enough to set aside some time to write a few letters and make a few phone calls to let these legislators know how off base they are with their grandiose ideas. Be polite, be brief, but please let them know your opinion.

We also hope you will join one of the many organizations that fight for your rights. We actively participate with and contribute financially to Public Lands for the People, so we have no qualms recommending this all-volunteer group. Whether you choose PLP, or one of the many other groups that fight our battles to keep public lands open to the public, please pick one to support with regular financial contributions so our children and grandchildren can enjoy our public lands free of excessive regulations and restrictions and benefit from the metals and minerals they produce.

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