September 2020 by Scott Harn
We have put several documents in the hands of the correct people in Washington, DC, and are now just waiting to schedule conference calls or online meetings to address several issues, such as federal preemption, dredge permitting, access, and more.
In the meantime, I want to highlight some recent court cases won with the assistance of Public Lands for the People (PLP) taken from the PLP newsletter.
Recapping our recent win:
PLP Member Wins “No Addition” Argument in CA State Court
For the very first time in CA State court, a small miner has won the “no addition” argument—this time against the CA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife. Gold miner Michael Osterbrink, along with PLP’s expert testimony delivered by PLP’s legal researcher Clark Pearson, fought back a charge by the Sierra County District Attorney Mr. Osterbrink’s mining “had polluted state waters with materials that are deleterious to fish in violation of section 5650 of the CA Fish & Game code.”
Mr. Osterbrink was found not guilty of violating section 5650 of the CA Fish & Game code, which prohibits pollution of state waters with materials that are deleterious to fish and wildlife (count 2). PLP cannot understate the importance of this legal decision in our present battles with the political powers of the regulatory swamp. This is a really big deal!
So-called environmentalists in CA believe that miners are polluters—not true! There are no foreign substances added, a fact PLP has been touting for many years, and the court agreed. The court stated, “…I really think 5650, the intent of the legislature there is to deal with situations where a defendant has deposited something new, a foreign substance. Here, there doesn’t seem to be any dispute that this defendant did not add anything new. So I am going to find Mr. Osterbrink not guilty on count 2.”
You may recall back in 2015, PLP member John Godfrey also won the “no addition” argument in count 5 against the Forest Service. (See: www.publiclandsforthepeople.org/accomplishments/)
In the Godfrey case, the Forest Service even had a so-called expert lead engineer from the CA Water Board testify that what Godfrey had done amounted to pollution to no avail to the government. Godfrey won in federal court and now Osterbrink has won in CA state court. PLP had confidence that it was a solid argument that could be won, even in a California state court.
Osterbrink’s decision will go a long way in helping get suction dredging to legally return to California and other states. PLP once again successfully stood by its arguments that are successful when applied properly, even when others have waivered and compromised.
The changes we are seeking will most definitely help prospectors, small operations and dredgers. If you haven’t yet read our proposals, you’ll find a link to it at the end of the online version of this article.
I want to stress that this is just the first step to fixing many of the regulatory issues we identified in discussions with the current administration. There will be plenty more to come.
Each separate Mining District is a federally recognized entity. There are huge advantages—picture yourself going to an oversight meeting where 2, 3, 4, or even more Mining District representatives have obtained voting positions on the board.
We have an opportunity to make significant and substantial changes to provide relief for small miners with the Trump Administration and the current makeup of Congress. We realize the time to act is now, but we need your help.
...Most importantly, the mining districts can open the federal land to multiple-use by the public on principles of inclusion rather than the present-day exclusions...
While progress with Congress has been slow, the Trump administration has taken the lead to start making needed changes at the Department of Interior and US Department of Agriculture to support miners…
…what I’d like to focus on in this update is the assistance they provided to a suction gold dredger in Idaho being harassed by an environmental group.
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