October 2021 by Scott Harn
Public Lands for the People has been busily preparing for their FallFest, which will be held in Southern California October 8-10, while continuing to assist members with legal issues.
One such case involves a miner and PLP member who was cited by the Forest Service for occupying his claim in the Lewis & Clark National Forest without an approved Notice or Plan of Operation.
PLP Northern Director Clark Pearson provided the defendant copies of relevant court cases along with a new approach involving the 1905 Transfer Act. This Act transferred authority over laws governing public lands to the Department of Agriculture—which includes the Forest Service—but it appears to have excluded laws pertaining to “surveying, prospecting, locating, appropriating, entering, relinquishing, reconveying, certifying, or patenting of any such lands.”
If this authority over mining was not included in the transfer, then the US Forest Service would not have jurisdiction.
Most miners are fully aware that trying to get a Notice or Plan approved by the Forest Service is difficult at best and impossible at worst. Their use of vague terminology—such as “significant disturbance”—does nothing to provide regulatory certainty. There is also a severe shortage of qualified mineral officers within the Forest Service, and it can take many years and court battles to get a project approved.
Under the previous administration—and prior to the ban on in-person meetings in Washington, D.C., due to Covid—we had some productive meetings with agency leaders about the need for regulatory certainty in order for America to produce critical and strategic minerals. I think the majority of miners would agree that excluding the Forest Service in favor of working with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would be a huge step in the right direction.
We will certainly keep you posted as this case progresses.
…I’ll be heading back to Washington, DC, on June 4 with Clark Pearson of PLP for nearly a week of meetings with the Mine Safety and Health Administration, US Forest Service, Environmental Protection Agency, and numerous members of Congress in both the House and Senate.
The legislators soon came to the realization that Mining Districts and our proposed bill can solve many of the problems they currently face in their home states.
There are some miners who are under the impression that an organized Mining District will immediately get the regulatory agencies off their backs so they can start digging or dredging again.
We anticipate there will be a change in party leadership in possibly both the House and Senate following the November 2022 mid-term elections…
Things became a bit challenging when the hot, dry weather was interrupted by 30mph winds with occasional gusts nearing 50 mph.
Pearson called the trip, “The most productive so far. We are courting over a dozen potential sponsors now. We had some members call us back for additional meetings and several of these lasted over an hour.”
We’ve built up some contacts in DC during our trips there over the past four years, and we believe we finally have the correct contacts who can get this petition reviewed by the proper people.
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