October 2020 by Scott Harn
The extreme fires in California, Oregon and Washington, along with fires in other Western States, have obviously been tragic, not only for the loss of life and property, but for the fact that the risk could have been drastically reduced by active forest management practices such as managed logging, clearing of underbrush, removal of dead and dying trees, controlled burns and maintenance of roads. As I write this, fires in 2020 have consumed 3.6 million acres in California, over 1 million acres burned in Oregon, and Washington State is approaching 750,000 acres lost.
Like many of you, Public Lands for the People (PLP) board members were faced with statewide Forest Service closures of all National Forests in California during the recent spate of wildfires.
The Code of Federal Regulations specificifies who is exempt from closure orders. Section 36 CFR § 261.50(e) states:
An order may exempt any of the following persons from any of the prohibitions contained in the order:
(1) Persons with a permit specifically authorizing the otherwise prohibited act or omission.
(2) Owners or lessees of land in the area;
(3) Residents in the area;
(4) Any Federal, State, or local officer, or member of an organized rescue or fire fighting force in the performance of an official duty; and
(5) Persons engaged in a business, trade, or occupation in the area.
(6) Any other person meeting exemption requirements specified in the order.
We wanted to take this opportunity to point out that claimholders are considered private property landowners under the law.
PLP northern director Clark Pearson stated, “Thanks to the U.S. v. Hicks case, the courts have acknowledged that claimholders are owners of land within the National Forest who are exempt.”
Pearson recommends having a copy of your mining claim filing papers and a copy of the U.S. v. Hicks case with you if you are heading into a safe but closed area so you can politely present these items to law enforcement or Forest Service personnel if neede.
In this court case from 2002, Hicks was convicted in the US District Court for the District of Montana for operating a vehicle (motorcycle) in an area of the National Forest closed to motor vehicles by a Forest Service closure order. Hicks appealed, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Hicks was acting as an agent or employee of a corporation that owned subsurface mineral rights in the National Forest and was not subject to a Forest Service closure order that exempted landowners. (The case is available online at www.publiclandsforthepeople.com or you can find it by searching for “US v. Hicks No. 01-30146.”)
But let’s be clear: At no time will we advocate heading into any area that could put you in danger or endanger those who might have to come to your rescue. Common sense must prevail.
Many miners have failed to exercise their rights by using the power of their Mining Districts and laws that are already on the books, such as 43 CFR 9712.1, which states…
I’ve received quite a few inquiries from miners who are beginning to realize that traditional Mining Districts are powerful entities and they are looking to get their district organized if it’s in disarray.
Present conflicts and realizations having to do with dependence on China have illuminated the fact that suction dredge miners have a vital role to play and are an ignored and untapped domestic resource—until now.
The current administration is receptive; we believe the time is ripe to push for a return to reasonable regulations and to restore mining to a priority for public lands as long as some new crisis doesn’t take precedent.
The process of updating the Rand Mining District is underway and you’ll see a Public Notice in this issue requesting interested parties to submit an application to serve on the board.
A two-pronged approach is necessary to restore suction dredging; federal preemption needs to be established as addressed above via petition; and clarification from the EPA is needed to establish that no Section 402 permit is necessary when there is no “addition” of a pollutant.
Face-to-face meetings in Washington, DC, with Trump administration officials and members of Congress are still on hold due to the coronavirus, but Public Lands for the People is continuing to work on mining-related issues via phone and email.
The Bawl Mill • Ask The Experts - Too early to build the crusher? • Ask The Experts - Time for small mine exemptions • Ask The Experts - Should I be checking the culverts for gold? • Sniping for Gold—The Next Best Thing to Dredging • Hard Rock 101: Advanced Micro Blasting • Now Is The Time For Exploration • Gold in Unlikely Places—And 'Eating Crow' • From Iowa to Alaska—How I Became A Gold Miner • Jamestown and Our Mother Lode Gold Rush Adventures • Why Assaying Placer Gold Deposits Doesn't Work • Gold Prospecting for Better or Worse: Those Blasted Boulders! • Melman on Gold & Silver • Mining Stock Quotes and Mineral & Metal Prices