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Seeking The Truth—A Letter From the Editor

I find that much of the difficulty in deciding how I conduct myself during this Covid-19 crisis is the lack of trust I have for the media and government.
When I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, we watched the news and read newspapers to find out what was happening in the world. Based on the facts presented, we made informed decisions.

I remember tuning in to watch Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley with my parents. Their delivery was certainly more professional when compared to the newscasters of today and opinions were kept to a minimum. But times have changed; we don’t receive just facts anymore.

My folks were sharp, accomplished individuals, and fairly avid readers. There were always a few books and magazines on the coffee table, and included in the stack were usually Time and Newsweek magazines. I remember reading several stories related to the “cooling of America” and the “big freeze” in the early 1970s. The articles seemed legitimate, with quotes from “university climatologists” and “government meteorologists,” with terms like “serious cooling trends” and “catastrophic” used in those stories. All indicators at the time pointed to a “little Ice Age” on the horizon. As it kid, it worried me, and it was reinforced when the “eminent” cold wave was mentioned by my 4th grade teacher. I didn’t mind our three-hour drive up to the snow to play around, but I didn’t want to live in it!

This is one of the first recollections I have of being “duped” by news sources and “experts.” On the other extreme, Vice President Al Gore was claiming in 2006 that all Arctic ice would be gone by 2011, and the term “global warming” was tossed aside for “climate change” to fit the narrative of the 1990s and beyond. Of course, I’ve read or viewed thousands more such exaggerations or falsehoods since my childhood days. Every single day, it seems like it’s more difficult to wade through the garbage to find the truth. 

Every story seems to be missing pertinent facts or key pieces of the narrative, and those missing pieces are replaced by opinions of commentators, political parties, pundits, or other so-called “experts” in an attempt to sway our opinions toward a particular political party or cause.

Now we are dealing with Covid-19, and there are more questions than there are valid answers.

• Did it come from a laboratory experiment in Wuhan, China, or from a Chinese “wet market” where wild animals are slaughtered and sold?
• Is it best to let the older population and those with existing medical conditions hunker down while the rest of us pass around the disease and get to the “herd immunity” stage?
• How contagious is it?
• How long will it take for a vaccine to be developed?
• What do you do if you can’t provide for your family?
• Do you keep your business open at the risk of citation or arrest so you can put food on the table?
• Why I am allowed to venture through crowds at the local home improvement store to buy a few potted plants, but my local restaurant or church is off-limits, even if they agree to practice social distancing?
• How can convicted felons be released from jail to avoid Covid-19 exposure while a salon owner is incarcerated for trying to provide for her family?
These are very legitimate concerns, but the “expert” answers vary to the extremes and every news source these days seems to have an agenda.

It reminds me of the public meetings and comment periods established for suction gold dredge permitting in 2008 for California and Washington State. Government agencies in both states made it appear as if they were willing to listen and abide by scientific evidence. It did not matter whatsoever that former EPA scientists—who left the agency over this very issue—painstakingly explained how the benefits of dredging outweighed any harm. We would learn later that the agencies already had an established, pre-determined outcome.

The same holds true for the US Forest Service’s Travel Management Plan process. The Forest Service has a mandate to “foster and encourage” mining, asks for routes/roads that should remain open, then ignores the legitimate requests of miners. Many miners might give up, but I want to remind you about one who didn’t.

Around 22 years ago, a miner and the agent who was assisting him with a property evaluation in Montana were cited for utilizing a closed Forest Service road to access a mining claim. It was a remote mineral inholding that had to be accessed through a proposed wilderness area that had been closed to motorized travel. That closure order, like most that are issued, stated that “landowners and leasees” were exempted.

If the miner believed the “news” provided by government officials at the US Forest Service, he might have just paid the fine and lived to fight another day. But this miner sought out some assistance from Public Lands for the People and received some valuable advice.

The miner represented himself in court after thoroughly educating himself about the difference between a law and a Forest Service guidebook.

A trail to the miner’s property was frequently utilized by horseback riders with the blessing of the Forest Service. During cross-examination, the miner asked two different Forest Service employees, “Would you rather step in fresh horse poop or a motorcycle track?”

Both chose the “fresh horse poop.”

The miner was convicted in the US District Court of Montana, but the educated miner appealed.

On November 14, 2002, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals—likely the most liberal appeals court in America —reversed that decision, stating that the employee of a corporation that owned subsurface mineral rights in the national forest was an exempted landowner, not subject to a Forest Service closure order.

The case is United States of America v. Steve A. Hicks, and you can find the decision online.

I guess my point is to seek the truth and look for those sources that can provide an unbiased look at the facts before you make your decision. I have three daughters who are trying to form their own educated opinions, and part of my job is to open their eyes to the falsehoods and exaggerations they see and hear every single day in the news, at school and in conversations with friends. It’s an ongoing battle, but a necessary one.

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