Help support Fish Not Gold eliminate the damage caused by Hobby Miners to our streams

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Fish Not Gold, May 22, 2014.

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  1. F--K this kind of dredge mining. I have no trouble shutting that stuff down. "Freedom" comes with responsibility. Nobody gets a god given right to do whatever they want whenever they want wherever they want. You don't, I don't, and these "miners" sure shouldn't either.
  2. So that this isn’t one sided, I have decided to interject my thoughts into this topic and let those who may read it make decisions based on not only Fish Not Gold’s, but also this small-scale miners perspective.
    Kent Lufkin and Kim McDonald posted my information in the form of a picture of a sign on my valid placer mining claim on their website, thus placing a target on my back since it includes my name and information of where to find it. Kim McDonald has been stalking me for at least 2 years as I have found in posts on this forum. Kent Lufkin made it a point to also post that same personal information here on this forum in a separate thread, which is a clear violation of the terms of service (TOS) for this board.

    I appreciate reading that the first several responders are clearly not in agreement with the way Fish Not Gold is going about their campaign. There are ways to change laws that one does not like, but the tactics being used here are in my opinion are radical. Please do not touch my personal property, my car, my mining equipment or anything I own with your sticker, you do not have any right to do that and it is vandalism!
    Stop acting like children Kim McDonald and Kent Lufkin.

    I would expect that any one of you reading this would feel mortified to find that someone was stalking and posting information about you with the sole purpose of intimidation. I am a law abiding citizen of Washington State, conducting a lawful activity under current Washington State statute

    There a laws to protect citizens when they are harassed… Kim McDonald, Kent Lufkin and I will be meeting soon before a judge in a court of law where they can explain why what they are doing to a private citizen is such a good thing.
    Ron Larson
  3. A target on your back? You're flattering yourself Ron.

    As you well know, federal law requires you to post your gold claim publicly and include your name and contact information. And since you followed the law, any member of the public who happens to come across it can look at it. And photograph it. And post it on the internet.

    Your gold claim didn't come with an expectation of privacy. If you wanted it to be anonymous, perhaps you shouldn't have filed it in the first place. But since you did, it's hardly likely the courts are going to find you can have it both ways.

    Stalking? Intimidation? Harassment? Damage to your personal property? Think carefully Ron. Those are serious allegations that can backfire if you're unable to prove them.
  4. If all Kim and Kent have done is to draw attention to information you made publicly available by filing a mining claim in accordance with the law, you have no basis for claiming they are harassing you. Go consult an attorney and have him or her tell you the same thing.
  5. the first part of fighting against those with the facts on their side is to attempt to portray yourself as a victim. good job ron.
    Dan Nelson, NateTreat and Kent Lufkin like this.
  6. For some reason I think that if Kim McDonald were truly stalking you, you would not even know it until right before...well, anyway I don't think you would even know it was happening. And perhaps you really don't have any idea.
    Gary Knowels and Kent Lufkin like this.
  7. I took Mark's point as not sticking it to someone who is mining in a lawful manner. The focus and ire should be with the absolutely insane laws allowing this activity on our rivers, streams and creeks. Granted, one can say that the person doing the "hobby mining" should know better and not partake in the activity... but we can say that about many include fishing itself. Here's to hoping the price of gold plummets.
  8. This should work out just fine. With all the rivers soon to be closed to fishing, WDFW and particularly the hatchery staff can be re-assigned to river patrol duty... looking for poachers and gold diggers. Maybe some selective gear rules for this activity are in order. One gold pan, one serving spoon and a daily limit of 1 oz.
    FinLuver likes this.
  9. Just out of curiosity, have any of you guys involved in this discussion ever read the Gold and Fish pamphlet published by the WDFW? These activities are actually fairly regulated so as to protect fish and the stream-beds of rivers where native fish populations are a concern. There are "seasons" and boundaries which are quite specific and can be very restrictive to the point of closing a stream to even simple panning during certain times of the year. They're basically just like fishing regulations. I both fish and occasionally pan for gold, and while I have never dredged and probably never will, I don't believe that there is a large enough presence of this activity in our state to make a large difference. The WDFW doesn't seem to believe so for the time being either, and hopefully if it every gets to that point they will increase regulations. With respect to the damage it causes, there are heavy rains and high water periods several times a year that put far more dirt into the water than some guy's small scale suction dredge. In reality the only reason I can think of for being bothered by that activity going on in a river would be that it clouds the water below for a few hundred feet...and potentially interferes with the fishing in the somewhat immediate vicinity. If you're going to be really critical about it, there are numerous more common human activities that contribute to water cloudiness, and many of those are brought about by fishermen. Wading, putting in a boat, taking out a boat, churning up the bottom with an outboard motor, etc. I feel like us fly fishermen have a tendency pretend we are above causing damage of any kind, and that's just not true.

    Anyway, while I do respect taking a stand for things we feel are important causes, are hobby level prospectors really the best target for us to expend our energy on? Aren't there much much bigger fish to fry out there?
    FinLuver, Drifter, Old Man and 4 others like this.
  10. That's a reasonable question Icanfly and one which deserves a reasonable answer.

    Yes, we have read the Gold and Fish pamphlet. Thoroughly. And we have discussed it at length with representatives from WDFW, who in private express great frustration that dredge mining is still allowed in our state. WDFW's hands have been tied by the legislature and they're frankly intimidated by the miners, who descend on Olympia with their banners and bullhorns to threaten and shout down any reasonable discussion of the impacts of their activity.

    The simple fact is that Gold and Fish doesn't provide for anything like effective regulation that prevents damage to fish and fisheries. It does allow for 'work windows', negotiated periods within which dredging is permitted. The work windows were intended to prevent gross damage to redds, eggs or juvenile fish during critical spawning and rearing periods.

    On the surface Gold and Fish seems like a reasonable compromise between hobby mining and fish. But scratch a bit deeper and you'll find the problems.

    First, the work windows were a hard-fought compromise between WDFW and the hobby miners. Despite being saddled by the legislature with the burden of 'regulating' small-scale mining, the WDFW also needs to be able to abide by its mission to protect and enhance fish and fisheries. The hobby miners want to be able to dredge without limits and have fought every single work window. And continue to do so. Their position is that there should be no such restrictions, so every discussion represents a tense, tooth-and-nail confrontation between the parties.

    During a recent session, one miner's wife went ballistic, screaming at and threatening a WDFW biologist. The WFDW staff isn't paid nearly enough to endure such verbal assaults, so many simply 'shut down' and acquiesce to the miner's demands, no matter how unreasonable.

    Further, the methodology used to establish the work windows was based on spawning behavior observed and measured in hatcheries, not in each stream itself. As a consequence, the work windows don't accurately represent when spawning activity is actually happening so indeed damage may be caused by hobby miners operating 'lawfully' within the work windows.

    Second, the work windows in Gold and Fish don't address permanent damage to streams caused by dredging. Just because redds, eggs or juvenile fish may not be present during a work window doesn't prevent the hobby miners from destroying critical biomass further down the food chain. Dredging indiscriminately kills aquatic insects, invertebrates, larvae, crustaceans and all the other life forms that fish depend on. When the miners describe how fish are occasionally observed feeding at the end of their plumes, it's because it's a sort of 'last supper' for the fish - the last time those morsels will be served up. Even if it occurs during a specified work window.

    Further, dredging destroys the hydrology of streambeds, disturbing and redistributing sediment, gravel and rocks and rendering them unstable and vulnerable to scour during high flows, thus compromising their suitability for future spawning activity.

    There's a large body of scientific research that's accumulated on the effects of dredge mining on streams and their biomass. Even more studies are being conducted now. Their overwhelming conclusion is that at best the damage caused by dredging is a push and at worst it's an outright ecological disaster. While the hobby miners predictably choose to discount or ignore any research that doesn't support their case (which is nearly all of it). Nonetheless that very same research played a pivotal role in convincing California to impose an outright ban on suction dredge mining, Oregon to impose a drastic reduction in the number of mining permits (respectively), and the EPA to close streams on federal land in Idaho to all dredge mining.

    Third, Gold and Fish contains no requirements for miners to file an application, obtain a license, pay a fee or even fill out a simple form with their name and contact information. Like we do to obtain a fishing or hunting license. It's entirely on the honor system. The pamphlet simply requires that miners download, print out, and keep in their possession a copy thereof. Period. The state has no idea where miners are operating, when or for how long (as long as they abide by the work windows specified in it.)

    If miners wish to operate beyond the work windows stipulated in Gold and Fish, they can download, print and file a HPA (hydraulic permit application) which is routinely rubber-stamped by WDFW despite errors, omissions, incomplete or missing information, or outright misinformation. Of the nearly 1,000 HPAs we obtained through PRA requests covering the last 5 years, WDFW has denied exactly 1.

    Every HPA specifically requests the applicant to contact relevant federal agencies such as USFS and file a Notice of Intent (NOI) stating where and when they intend to dredge. During the 5 year period we studied, USFS states they haven't received a single NOI, likely because the miner's property-rights attorney in Oregon has specifically advised the miners not to file NOIs).

    Like Gold and Fish, there are no fees required of applicants nor are there any provisions for remediation for the damage they cause.

    The simple fact is that nobody really knows how many miners are operating, when or where. WFDW is already short-staffed and their enforcement is spread far too thin - even if they did know where to look.

    As to your last question about whether damage caused by hobby miners, we'd ask instead how much damage is acceptable?

    The destruction caused by hobby miners is cumulative - not limited to that caused by one miner operating alone. On many streams, one can find miners literally just hundreds of yards apart, vacuuming up the riverbeds and fouling the riverbanks with their camps and waste. How can any of that be acceptable?

    FNG doesn't have a beef with gold panning. It's a wonderful way to introduce families and children to the outdoors and the minimal damage it causes is limited by its human-powered scale. Our issue is with gasoline-powered dredges and high-bankers that can cause more damage in a day than a panner can in a year or perhaps a lifetime.

    Simply put, our issue is with the way the state has systematically looked the other way, even when presented with the overwhelming case against dredging. Gold and Fish and all its baked-in shortcomings is exhibit number 1. It will indeed take an outright ban to effectively stop any more mining toothpaste from oozing out of the tube.
    triploidjunkie, Josh, smc and 4 others like this.
  11. Of the many years that I have fished in Washington State, I have only ran across a few hobby miners plying their hobby in Skinny waters. The most I have ever see were on Olney Creek, they seem to mine the shit out of that creek. Also on some other creeks/rivers they can only pan. No dredging allowed.

    Can't we just share the water with other people. They pretty near shut down Steelheading in the Puget Sounds rivers with the no planting of Hatchery fish in the rivers.

    If you can't blame fish loss on the loggers and the Commercial fishers you now have to point your fingers in another direction. I guess the Hobby gold seekers are going to be the ones.
    FinLuver and Drifter like this.
  12. I'm thinking about being a hobby boulder dynamiter and river re-router. I'm really interested in blowing up big rocks into many smaller rocks and moving streams from here to there. I don't see how this could damage anything in the stream, after all, there are already rocks there and the water will still get where it's going. I'm just going to distribute them a bit differently.

    I expect you all to share the water with me.
    Dan Nelson and Kent Lufkin like this.
  13. Good point Jim. In fact, I've never run across anyone running a dredge in WA waters. We use to see them on the Yuba and Feather...but mostly just pans and garden shovels... the wife and I are guilty as charged. Interested to hear who has seen these hobby miners and whether there are as many as suggested.
  14. I've had two encounters with "hobby miners" on the Yakima. The first time in summer, full flows, and a motorized, floating pontoon outfit with a huge hose, gas engine/pump, and two guys trying to control it as they floated down the river, just below Swauk Creek. They lost control of the dredge and it pinwheeled down the rip rap bank towards Thorp. Not sure what happened to them. The second was a couple using pans on Swauk Creek.

    I've encountered a young couple using a sluice on the Raging River, just below the Hwy 18 bridge.

    If you Google "Swauk Creek" the first few results are for sluicing and other mining operations.
  15. The issue isn't one or two guys running a suction dredge for one weekend, although that's not great either. The issue is a number of these hobby miners literally pounding small sections of headwater streams over and over. The miners mine not only during the work windows of the gold and fish pamphlet, but also routinely obtain permits to mine a specific claim for months at a time. Fish like the same spots in a stream where gold settles. And the miners trash the riparian habitat, moving boulders, root wads, brush. Then there is the issue that the hobby miners literally occupy (their term not mine) sensitive riparian areas without adequate camping faculties for months. Think leaking septic systems cause problems?

    Drive Cle Elum to Leavenworth over Blewett Pass. Even this weekend, at Kings Creek there was a large encampment of hobby miners (and no, Ron who I don't even know who you are, I wasn't stalking you!). These are prime headwaters for steelhead, salmon, and bull trout.

    WA state will be seeing a lot more miners now that Oregon, Idaho, and California have either shut suction dredge mining down or seriously restricted it.

    The cumulative impacts from all of this can be serious.

    Sorry in advance for typos...using phone and bad eyesight.

    Kent Lufkin likes this.
  16. If you want to see suction dredging in action, come to Peshastin Creek and it's tributaries. It often seems as if there is not a single stretch of river without mining claim signs. I know one claim that leaves the dredge in the stream for weeks on end, even when not actively mining.
    Kent Lufkin likes this.
  17. If you ever make it to Montana, check out Alder Creek area. They dredged the hell out of it in the late 1800's. You can still go into those dredge piles and pull out Garnets. My ex son in law found a Ruby about 6" long and about an inch around. In one of those piles.

    Just about any trickle of water in the hills in the Dillon area has dredge piles on it. And Montana is a fly fishers paradise.
  18. Very familiar with the Alder area...our property is just outside of Sheridan. Until gold prices spiked, the old tailings were hardly used, now their alive again. The wife and I filled a mason jar full of garnets in a long afternoon a few years ago... they are of pretty poor quality however and why most from that area are simply used for abrasive media.

    I've never fished either creek...had know idea it was a magnet for gold mining. Driven past the areas over the years, but never noticed any mining activity. It sure seems like some common sense regulation, limiting this type of activity to manual panning and no mechanized equipment is in order. Hell, the state does not allow us to use metal detectors on state lands, parks, etc., digging holes everywhere and fouling the places up, what gives?
    Kent Lufkin likes this.
  19. Unlike fish, gold doesn't reproduce every year. Once it's gone it doesn't come back, so the hobby miners have to either work the same claim over and over or move on to another one. The damage they cause is compounded year after year, as they work harder to find less and less gold.

  20. I don't understand why some of these activities couldn't be prosecuted under the Endangered Species Act, and the Clean Water Act, if the mining has a damaging effect on watersheds that hold endangered wild fish and other listed species. Lawsuits may be filed by any private U.S. citizen under these federal laws.
    Kim McDonald and Derek Young like this.
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