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.
“In light of the results of the midterm elections our focus will be with the US Senators and their staffers that we have already been working with.”
One caller wondered why he should be required to join MMAC, asked why MMAC was not a non-profit, and compared it to some kind of extortion attempt. If he had questions like these, I assume there are others with similar questions and I will address them here.
The group spent three days helping miners with access issues, teaching them how to politely and respectfully educate federal regulators and law enforcement officers, and how to win these issues in court if necessary.
...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...
Suction Dredging is Back in Most of California!
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.
The path to winning this case should have been to make the plaintiffs prove that a foreign substance was introduced and then discharged, which is the “trigger” for regulations under the Clean Water Act.
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