Archive for the ‘Prospecting Etiquette’ Category

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.

I have recently learned that there is a state-wide ban on any and all mechanized gold prospecting in the state of Tennessee with a few exceptions. Which means no dredging or highbankers. This ban has come about because of the simple fact that prospectors have been leaving a mess behind. Here is a press release from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency: http://news.tn.gov/node/9342 . These complaints have led to the ban. Here are some photos of some of the damage that has taken place at the Doc Rogers area of Coker Creek.

Lets keep this from happening in any more states, we don’t need to lose any more areas where dredging is permitted and here is how we can prevent it. Whether you are brand new to gold prospecting or you are an old sourdough. Make sure you know the rules and regulations of the state and location before you go to prospect. Some states allow dredging in some regions and not others. It is very important to know the rules and just as important to follow them. I have found that many states require that you return the river bed to its original grade that means  fill your hole in when you are done, whether you are dredging, sluicing or panning . Most states I know do not allow digging in the river bank, this is an environmental mortal sin. If you pack it in,pack it back out with you. Trash is a big issue, when I am out there prospecting and I see trash that other people have left behind I pick it up and take it out with me. There are other people out there that are using the same water ways that we prospect in for recreational purposes who will complain about our activity. You know as well as I do that there are environmentalist out there that would like to ban prospecting activities nation wide. We need to ban together as prospectors and we need to follow the rules, clean up after our selves and sometimes clean up after others.

There are laws in place so that when they are broken the perpetrator is prosecuted in a court of law with a fair trial and if one is found guilty then that person pays the penalty with a fine or incarceration and not make all pay for the actions of  one. If a convenience store is robbed or a few convenience stores were robbed would a state shut down all convenience stores state-wide. No, the authorities would go after the person or people responsible. I find the ban on all mechanized prospecting in the state of Tennessee to be unreasonable and unfair to those who have and do follow the rules.If you are a prospector you should feel the same way. If it happens in this state yours could be next. Lets join together as prospectors and prevent this ban from becoming a law.  One way you can help Tennessee is by joining or making a donation to Public Lands For The People (PLP) http://plp1.org/home.html . All prospectors should not have to pay for the actions of a few.

We have added more discussion topics at www.appalachianprospectors.com so stop by click on the forum tab and join in on the discussion. Together we can create an informative prospecting forum. Weather its gold prospecting, rock, gem or mineral collecting, metal detecting or treasure hunting your input would br greatly valued. If you don’t find a discussion topic you would like to join in on start a new one.

Thats me Prospector Jack

Demonstrating the proper place to dig and that is in the stream bed.

On our last trip to Byron Maine, it had been brought to our attention that a very selfish individual, one who knows the regulations of the state of Maine, chose to disregard the regulations and dig in the bank while prospecting for gold. It was said that this individual had dug approximately 20 feet into the bank in a nearby stream, he was not on the swift river. Along comes hurricane Irene dumps all her water on the region and swells all the rivers and streams in the area. In this particular stream where this individual had dug in the bank, all this flood water had undermined trees and fell into the stream and causing it to dam thus creating a huge mess. The land owner was not pleased at all. The land in mention is owned by one of the large paper companies who graciously allows recreational prospectors to prospect for gold. Needless to say the land owner was so angry they closed down the property for public use. May I also add that the state of Maine was none to pleased either. This kind of activity could cause the state to make more stringent laws concerning gold prospecting or shut it down entirely thanks to the actions of one selfish, carless individual.

GENERAL REGULATIONS ( Taken from the Department Of conservation State Of Maine Geological Survey Web site)

With the exception of areas administered by the Maine Land use Regulation Commission, gold panning activities in Maine do not require a permit as long as the following restrictions are adhered to:

    1. The activity is confined to sandy/gravely/cobbly unvegetated stream beds, with no disturbance of stream banks.
    2. The activity is limited to the use of gold pans, sluices of less than 10 square feet, or suction dredges with a hose diameter of 4 inches or less.
    3. Permission from the land owner must be obtained. Why? First, it’s a matter of common courtesy to the land owner. But also,trespassing on posted land in Maine can be a matter of civil law. The water in a stream is under the jurisdiction of the state; but the stream bottom and streambank- as well as the access across land to the stream is most likely private property (exceptions include public lots, state parks, etc.). If you cause any damage to that property, even if it is not posted, you may be subject to civil action brought by the land owner. You can avoid these problems by talking to the landowner ahead of time.
You can find this at: www.maine.gov.  type in ” gold in maine” in the search maine.gov.
If we all just follow these simple rules we can ensure that we have a place to prospect tomorrow. These regulations change from state  to state so always check with the state conservation department you wish to prospect in before you engage in such activity.