It has really become evident in the past several years that extreme environmentalism has become a major problem for gold prospecting/ mining, for the recreationalist and the professional alike. It seems to me that the environmentalists are always crying fire, fire, fire when there is no fire. Extreme environmentalist would like to shut down prospecting or at least reduce it to panning only. Extreme environmentalists are organized and they have money, lots of money and they are very good at lobbying. They are heard loud and clear even though their argument is based on opinion and conjecture. Often times they present their arguments out of context, for instance when presenting something against suction dredging they present their case using data from commercial dredging and get state biologist’s professional input based on that data when that biologist is not aware of a difference between the two dredges. The biologists are giving a text-book answer to the question asked out of context. When environmentalists lobby for legislation their concern is believable to the legislatures because they don’t know the difference. The legislature often times don’t know the first thing about prospecting. This is not just a local problem it is a national problem, just look around the country to see. States that have either proposed legislation to ban dredging and or other forms of prospecting or bans that are in effect: California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado just to name a few, this type of activity is not limited to the Western United States but Eastern States as well such as Vermont, Maine and Tennessee. Extreme environmentalist groups will use other local clubs against us, they convince local clubs that there is a cause, clubs such as a fly fishing club or a rafting club who would just assume to have the river to themselves. They make us out to be environmental terrorist, they try to portray us  like a bunch of uneducated backwoods idiots. Many of us are from the backwoods but we are not idiots. We are concerned about the environment because that is where we live.

Here is part of a conversation from a fly fishing group forum in Maine between several fly fishermen concerning LD 1671 many of which were at the public hearing:

GQ: Let me get this straight.  You want to eliminate dredging for gold to protect the stream and the fish?  So in turn you can go trudging through the stream, disrupting the streambed, so you can stick a metal hook in the mouths of the salmonids you are trying to protect?  Or maybe you just want the streams all to yourself?  I don’t prospect for gold, but I do flyfish.  Why should my activities be legal while others are not allowed access to play?

Very disturbing,
GQ

TGIF: GQ’s argument is real, and it is a hard one to object to. I think the key point is that mechanical destruction takes individual destruction to a new level. Key term, destruction, if the issue were just sharing, I think the focus of the rebuttal needs to be on the destruction of habitat, that seemed pretty clear to my untrained eye.
It doesn’t take a biologist to know that pools are good for fishing, gravel is good for spawning.
I also found it curious that gas engines are allowed, but I suppose that is no different then an outboard.

It’s a slippery slope we are on.  Most gold prospectors would argue that we are only concerned about the habitat because we want to have higher populations of fish to impale with our stainless steel, barbed hooks.  And we want more waters to tread around in with microbes of didymo attached to our gear…and we want to do it all by ourselves.

GQ: Picking and choosing who has a right to a body of water/activity and who doesn’t is a dangerous game.  The same could be said for motorboats.  How much polution do they emit?  How many invasives have fishermen introduced?  I don’t think the gold prospectors are running around with invasive fish in their trucks.

Unless you are willing to end all activities in a given body of water, don’t go after another man/woman’s activities.  It may come back to haunt you.

Would you support an end to all flyfishing in these waters in an effort to protect the mouths of the fish in the water?  I wouldn’t.

Just my thoughts,
GQ

TS: GQ I’d counter with the question as to why biologists & IF&W have chosen to regulate fishing these waters (closed seasons, etc), have regulated development & logging around them, have made it illegal to cross them with ATV’s, etc

we are talking about a bill that would extend critical habitat protection in select wild brook trout waters & atlantic salmon waters….it wouldn’t ban the activity, just ensure that the protection these waters are already afforded is consistent across all uses…..

your argument, honestly, is bordering on hyperbole

GQ: TS That’s great!  I’m all for protecting critical areas. But why take half measures?  Let’s close them to everyone. No fishing, no mining, no logging, etc. Anything short of that and the appearance becomes that we are protecting fish so fisherman can catch them.

GQ

MH: GQ I’m hoping that you’re playing Devil’s Advocate a bit.

I don’t really see how anyone can equated wading in a stream (which is closed to my wading in spawning season to protect eggs) to the total and complete destruction of the streambed as it exists.

When Dredgers start the dredge in a spot they use a new phrase to me they say – Go for Bedrock. Then they make 10-square foot holes to whatever depth the hose and scuba give them time to do.  (10-square feet if they are legal – watch the video and tell me the first hole is only 10-square feet)

We aren’t asking to ban gold panning, pail and shovel work with a 5-gallon pail.  We are asking to prevent wholesale destruction.  I ask you to watch the video – it’s like a magic show – now you see rocks breaking water shore to shore – poof- now you see a hole.

And – just so you know – the holes you will see if you watch the video – those holes are supposed to be filled in.  Yes, in the permit they sign is a requirement to bring the streambed back to the surrounding level.

Do you think any of those holes were re-filled.  Do you think they put the tons (many tons) of rock back. Not a chance.

JR: Maine law certainly doesn’t say “anything goes” when it comes to our streams.  Not for fishing, and not for activities that disturb the stream bottom.
I suppose the key question is whether we should treat this activity like fishing, or like other activities that disturb the stream bottom.  Every other activity that disturbs a stream bottom needs a permit under the Natural Resource Protection Act. Motorized recreational gold dredging is unique in being exempted from that act.

TS: GQ you’re equating someone picking an occasional flower from a meadow to someone coming in and bulldozing it under

as i said, hyperbole……

GQ: TS You wouldn’t know hyperbole if it fell out of the sky, landed on your face, and wiggled.

MH,

I watched the video. I understand your position. But I just disagree. We are becoming too adept at protecting our own turf at the expense of another. We are going to regulate ourselves right out of the very pursuits we enjoy the most. I say work with the minors without destroying them.

GQ

I added this part of the conversation to show you what we are up against. I would like to point out in MH’s comment about 10′ square holes he references the law 10 square feet if they are legal. This is what the law states: d. Sluice Size. The area of a sluice must not exceed 10 square feet. Taken from Chapter 10, Sub Chapter III 10.27G of Maine’s land use standards. This was part of this mans testimony to the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. This is one of the items that I mean out of context. Not only is it out of context but completely wrong. He suggests that the hole was not filled in, if you go to that location today you can’t tell that anyone was there dredging, I know because it was my video that he clipped for the propaganda video that he made. He references a permit, there is no permit required in that area. My friends dad had said many times that if you live in a glass house, don’t throw stones. There are environmental groups out there that would like to shut down fishing, I would stand with the fishermen to help defend their sport.
 

We as prospectors need to ban together and get organized. If we are going to keep our tradition alive, we need to stand up for our passion, for our activity. For some it is a form of recreation for others it is their bread and butter. What must we do?

  • Organization: As an individual prospector it is tough to fight legislation, as a group we tend to get better results, as a large group we can have a major impact. It comes down to politics, the most active, largest, loudest group is the one that gets heard. It is important to be a part of that large group, a large group like the Gold Prospectors Association of America who is one of the oldest and largest prospecting organizations in the country. The GPAA is a strong organization especially out in the Western part of the United States and it is up to us to make it a strong organization in the East as well. Their strength is in local chapters and local chapters are strong out West, we have few local chapters in the East. If  you are not a member of the GPAA think about joining, if you are a member of the GPAA consider joining a local chapter, if there is no local GPAA Chapter near you think about starting one. The GPAA does not have a magic delegation that if an issue arises they dispatch them to fight our battle it is we the prospectors who are going to fight that battle with national organization. There are many local organizations out there, get involved with them.
  • Communication: We need to communicate with each other. We can do that through forums, blogs, web pages, facebook, Twitter, e-mails and so on. A great platform for communication is GoldProspectorsSpace . We need to communicate local issues that arise to get others involved, we need to communicate with other prospecting organizations, it is possible that they have gone through similar situations and can be very helpful. Other clubs and organizations may be able to direct you to supporting documentation. Don’t think that you have to fight against legislation on your own, we need each other. Don’t be afraid to sound the alarm.
  • Educate: We need to educate the masses. We need to let the public know what prospecting is truly about, we also have to educate those that are governing our country. Like I mentioned earlier  many of the legislators don’t know the first thing about prospecting. We need to do this with factual documentation. There have been numerous studies that have been performed some of which were generated by government agencies and many reports based on the findings of these studies. Case in point: Extreme environmentalist sounded the alarm on global warming, Al Gore ran with it educating the masses that the house is on fire and burning down fast, spurning propaganda that the masses believed, as time went by we found out that it was just propaganda through scientific data and recently global warming has been reduced to climate change. Climate change is a natural occurence, it has been happening since the beginning of time. We do need to be good stewards of the earth.
  • Financial Support: There are organizations out there fighting for our rights that need our financial support such as Public Lands For The People who is engaged in fighting the court battle over the California moratorium on gold dredging. Why is this important? If prospectors lose this battle in California then they have a blue print to shut down suction dredging across America. You can join Public Lands For The People or you can make a donation, every dollar counts.
  • Be good stewards: We need to make sure we know the laws of the land we are prospecting in and make sure we follow those laws to a T. In fact we need to leave the land in better condition than when we started. Make sure you fill in your holes, do not dredge or dig in the bank. If you pack it in, then make sure you pack it out. If you find other peoples garbage take that with you as well. What ever lead and mercury you recover take it with you, save it up record the amount, take a picture of it at the end of the season, you will need this picture at a latter date for some show and tell.
  • Be prepared: Be prepared for a fight before it happens. Gather data or at least know where you can find it for the day when you submit a testimony at a public hearing, or when you are contacting your Congressperson, Senator or Governor to ask them to oppose legislation against prospecting. Always remember these people work for you.
  • Take action: Every prospector can take some kind of action even if it is as little as passing the message on to friends or prospecting groups and clubs. We may have to write letters or e-mails to politicians, make phone calls. Write an editorial to a local newspaper. Make your voice heard.
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Comments
  1. Australia had the same problem, just a few years ago. Greenies, out of control….. A referendum was pasted, allowing rivers to be named “Wild Rivers”. That closed the entire river to everyone. No fishing, no industry, no building, boating, nothing. The native population was even banned from accessing these rivers, which they had always used for hunting. It took an aggressive change in government to stop an out of control policy.

    Government officials get elected to represent the majority of the people. Time to start emailing yours. Everyday, with a phone call thrown in now and again. “He who yells the loudest gets heard”.

  2. Dredgemaster says:

    Has it ever dawned on you that you are the “outside agitator” coming into Maine and stirring things up for your own profit? That the Central Maine Gold Prospectors have been working on this bill, and you are undermining them?

    • I never looked at it that way, I will have to ask Central Maine Gold Prospectors if that is the way they feel and if so then I would be willing to back off. I think that they have done an outstanding job. Just the fact that once you lose dredging you will never get it back and it is not just a Maine thing but it is sweeping across the nation, there is no reason to lose it, is my point. By the way I have profited nothing I have never profited from dredging other than the experience and a great time, I have never made a cent from it.

    • Rob says:

      I certainly don’t consider Jack an outside agitator and I was heavily involved with LD1671. Being put in a position where we have to defend ourselves and make “compromises” while being under duress of a bill when the proponents are not losing anything is not what I call a real compromise. LD1671 was too far reaching as it was “crafted” to eliminate over 90% of the areas in Maine where prospecting is done. This was not just a list of 19 streams considered “The Best of the Best” but a well planned list including tributaries which closed entire watersheds and vast areas. In fact it failed to pass legislative review for emergency action the first time until the wording was changed to make it sound better. Unfortunately proponents touting important waters like the Rapid River and Magalloway were not even telling their own following how extensive this bill was so they could get support. Making a map of the closures certainly showed the story. What I find the most telling is that most of the people against motorized prospecting have never seen a dredge in real life and that’s where the problem is because they are making their decisions based on information provided by many on the extreme green side of this issue.

  3. Al Hubbard says:

    Maine flyfishermen practice 95% catch and release. They do little to no damage to the stream beds or the fish.. Maine rafters use the rivers but hardly tough the bottom and take nothing away but memories. If gold prospectors are willing and able to do no damage and to return 95% of everything found to the river, including the gold, have at it

    • OK imagine that, where did you get that number from? Out of thin air? Catch and release stress fish. If you guys think you are exempt from the radar of the environmentalist you better think again.

  4. I would like to thank all the folks from MMIF for stopping by and giving our blog a visit, just to let you know I don’t think your club is an extreme environmentalist group or your members but I do think you are manipulated by extreme environmentalist. This is not just a Maine issue it is a national issue. Sometimes you have to look past your own front door to see.

  5. Roy C. Gutfinski says:

    (Copy of e-mail sent to Governor Paul LePage on 4/17/2014 with copies to various member of 126th Maine Legislature)

    Dear Governor LePage,

    First of all, I want to thank and commend you for your recent veto of
    L.D. 1671.  Unfortunately, the 126th Maine Legislature voted to ignore
    the real issue and override your veto, allowing the bill to become law.

    L.D. 1671 was just the latest example of an out of state based special
    interest group, Trout Unlimited, deciding what is best for Maine and
    its environment and manipulating an activist Legislature into getting
    its own way.  Those of us who have done motorized gold prospecting have
    been very conscious of fish habitat and the cleanliness of streams.  I
    could go on and on about how much toxic lead in the form of sinkers,
    lead shot and bullet fragments, toxic mercury, and other trash
    detrimental to aquatic life that we have removed from Maine waters
    while motorized prospecting.  I would note that much of the lead in the
    streams ended up there from legitimate State-licensed activities such
    and fishing and hunting.  There is research, mostly from the western
    and southern states as well as Canada, that suggests motorized gold
    dredging in streams actually improves fish habitat.  I could show you
    many examples of good environmental stewardship that recreational
    prospectors have practiced here in Maine.  However, I know a thoughtful
    man such as yourself is already aware of this so I won’t take more of
    your time with a “dog and pony show” in this letter.

    There is little that an individual can do today to show his
    dissatisfaction with a political process controlled by powerful special
    interest groups.  In my case, I own an 80 acre parcel of land adjacent
    to my home in Pittston.  For the 39 years I have lived here I have not
    only been a good steward of the land and operated a Certified Tree Farm
    but I have also made my property available to licensed hunters,
    anglers, trappers, snowmobile enthusiasts, ATV’ers, and others.  After
    considering L.D. 1671 and the political fiasco surrounding this bill, I
    have decided to no longer allow any of the above activities or any form
    of trespassing on my property.  I am attaching a photo of one of the
    signs I have begun posting on the perimeter of my property pursuant to
    Title 17-A M.R.S.A. Section 402.  Activities such as hunting, fishing,
    trapping, snowmobiling, and ATVing generate significant revenue for
    State agencies and sales tax on associated outdoor equipment and
    supplies generate significant revenue for the General Fund.  However,
    these activities, more often than not, are done on private land by the
    good graces of the landowner.  The Maine Legislature, in recent years,
    has put more and more restrictions on the landowner, while assuming
    that Maine landowners will simply continue to allow the use (and often,
    abuse) of their land for various State sanctioned and licensed
    activities.  I will be encouraging other landowners to follow my lead
    in posting their land in protest of various actions of the Maine
    Legislature.

    I know I will be contacted by many of the former recreational users of
    my property who will be upset and disappointed by the posting of my
    land.  My response will be that they should contact the Legislature and
    determine which members of the 126th Maine Legislature voted in favor
    of L.D. 1671 and also which members voted to override your veto of this
    bill.  I will suggest that they keep this information in mind when
    going to the polling places at the time of the General Election in
    November.

    Thank you for your service to the people of Maine.

    Sincerely,
    Roy C. Gutfinski
    22 Patterson Road
    Pittston, ME 04345

    • Thank you Roy for your comment and I thank you for standing up for our rights, we are in desperate need of more Americans like you. It is time that we all stand up for our rights especially when we see a blatant abuse of power as we witnessed in Maine over LD 1671. It is a shame that opinion and conjecture ruled over scientific facts, this seems to be what is taking place across America today. I would imagine that our founding fathers are rolling over in their graves. Sad, very sad.

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