Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Fish Not Gold, May 22, 2014.
Please clarify "exercising their freedom" for the benefit of the thread.
You know: the freedom to suck up the streambed into a 4" hose, send the gravel and all the critters and fish eggs residing there down the sluicebox and into disorganized piles within the Ordinary High Water Mark, winch large boulders and woody debris out of the way to get to the heavy metals that may rest underneath, and then don't put anything back the way you found it. That freedom.
Never mind your and my and everyone else's freedom (responsibility?) to enjoy, preserve and protect our last best places. There might still be gold down there (even though practically the whole state's been mined and the gold isn't replenishing itself real quickly).
Just to clarify, I'm on board with the cause. I think we must be careful in the extreme to avoid divisive language, though.
The people on the other side of this equation (and Pebble as well) could point out the seemingly self indulgent nature of our argument by pointing to the fact of our use of high technology to spread the word about the destructive nature of gold mining. High tech devices are large consumers of gold, as we all know, and they may justifiably ask where do we think that gold should come from? Or, for that matter, any of the other gold (or other metals) we all consume.
It may be I am especially sensitive to the "not in my backyard" mentality and my conviction is to build consensus for change, not to make war. War may come, but we must do everything possible to avoid it. We do ourselves no favors by giving those opposed to our position any reason to become more entrenched in their beliefs.
Mark, I can appreciate your caution about divisive language that might alienate or provoke the hobby miners. You've been here long enough that I'm sure you'll agree that I'm normally the guy advocating for balance, caution and reasonable compromise (well, at least I think I am!) Yet here I am telling you those attributes are a waste of time in dealing with the hobby miners.
Since you seem to have conflated hobby mining with industrial-scale mining operations like Pebble, it might be worth drawing a distinction between the two. Although they're both focused on the riches associated with extracting gold, the hobby miners and the large hard-rock mining companies like Newmont and Barrick or the folks behind Pebble couldn't be more different.
The big mining companies have both feet held to the regulatory fire regarding long-term environmental impacts. They're regularly required to put up millions of dollars in security bonds to guarantee cleanup and remediate damage after their activities cease. Is it enough? No. Is it a good start? Absolutely.
By comparison, hobby miners in Washington don't even have to fill out a permit or pay a dime in fees. They don't restore the stream beds they've destroyed or put back boulders or large woody debris they winched out of their way. Yet for them, the issue isn't about the damage they cause, it's about their 'liberty' and 'freedom'.
Some have suggested that the hobby miners are sponsored by and act as shills for the big mining companies. Any association with them would likely be a public relations disaster of epic proportions for the big mining companies. Here's why:
Hobby miners are a small, raucous and disparate group of individuals who share a common desire to 'strike it rich' along with with a deep disdain for government, the preservation of our environment, and regulation of any kind. In other words, it's all about them and f--k anybody or anything else.
In this state, the best estimate is that there are a thousand or so hobby miners, of which perhaps 5-10% mine and cause damage on anything like a regular basis. But as a group, their strident, property-rights rhetoric is distinctly at odds with the mainstream population - especially those of us who have watched some of the millions of our tax dollars spent to remediate damage to fish habitat wasted as hobby miners happily vacuum up stream beds that are otherwise so sensitive that fishing is prohibited. After all, it IS all about them and their 'freedom' and 'liberty'.
The holy ghost for the hobby miners is the General Mining Act of 1872, an obscure and otherwise inconsequential law signed by then-president Ulysses S. Grant and intended to use the prospect of instant wealth through the extraction of gold as a lure to entice Americans to settle the sparsely-populated west.
Since the Act permits largely unregulated mining activities, the hobby miners hold it forth as a carte blanche to do as they wish without government interference in any form. Attempts to regulate them based on newer laws or regulations provoke howls of protest that their 'freedom' and 'liberty' are being jeopardized and that their 'right' to mine is guaranteed by the Constitution. (One only needs to read the Constitution to confirm that it isn't, but I digress.)
In practice, the hobby miners are really the kindred spirits of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy who recently made national news for an entire week (along with LA Clippers owner and world-class bigot Donald Sterling) by refusing to pay fees to allow his cattle to graze on public BLM land. As you'll recall, faced with enforcement action by BLM, a self-styled 'militia' sprang to his defense, proclaiming their loathing for government regulation while flying the American flag in every photo. Like Bundy, the hobby miners pick and choose which laws they decide to abide by and which ones they refuse to acknowledge.
The sad fact is that in Washington, regulation of hobby miners has fallen onto WDFW, which when faced with fierce opposition, effectively abdicated its responsibility. In daily practice, WDFW has no idea who is mining, where, or when, which of course, is exactly what the miners want. That's also what other hobby miners who have migrated here from California, Oregon and Idaho want, now that their activities are either banned or vastly restricted in their home states.
There will be no consensus-building with hobby miners for the simple reason that they have no motivation to settle for less than they already have. They will continue to stonewall any attempt to regulate or modify the scope of their activities.
As an example, when a committee of the the Oregon legislature held public hearings in 2012, hundreds of hobby miners descended on Salem with banners and bullhorns, each demanding their 3 minute allotment to address the committee and state their opinions for the record. While most simply parroted the talking points they'd been fed, their leaders brazenly lectured the committee members, scolding and taunting them as having no authority to regulate mining since their 'right' to mine was 'guaranteed' by law.
The hobby miners' strategy backfired when the irate legislature overwhelmingly voted to impose a quota on mining permits. The hobby miners are now between a rock and a hard place since the original legislation included a poison pill that imposes an outright ban on ALL placer mining if the state and the miners can't hammer out a compromise by the end of this year. Once again, the miners are stonewalling, screaming and yelling about freedom and liberty. It's obvious to any who care to look how well that strategy is working since there's no compromise in sight. Barring a last-minute change in direction by the hobby miners and their lawyer, Oregon is on track to joining California in imposing an outright ban on ALL forms of powered placer mining.
Yet Washington continues to stand alone in looking the other way while allowing hobby miners continue to desecrate our rivers and fish without regulation, fees or oversight.
Neither Fish Not Gold nor any of us who have seen how the hobby miners operate suffers from the misconception that there's a brokered peace to be hammered out with them. We cherish no illusions there will be some noble compromise, a grand bargain with the hobby miners from which we'll all walk away feeling like we'd shared in crafting a mutual success.
It will be war, and those of us who stand up for fish and the preservation of riparian ecosystems will win. If fish could vote, we wouldn't be having this discussion.
Nice play on words Ed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 things...to include fishing itself. Here's to hoping the price of gold plummets.
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.
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?
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.