Posts Tagged ‘recreation’

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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Maine LD 1671 (SP646) “An Act To Prohibit Motorized Recreational Gold Prospecting in Certain Atlantic Salmon and Brook Trout Spawning Habitats”

Presented by Senator BOYLE of Cumberland.

Cosponsored by Representative McCABE of Skowhegan and

Senators: MAZUREK of Knox, PATRICK of Oxford, SAVIELLO of Franklin,

Representatives: FARNSWORTH of Portland, GATTINE of Westbrook, ROCHELO of

Biddeford, SANBORN of Gorham, THERIAULT of Madawaska.

This new legislation is not necessary due to the fact that last year legislation was introduced and passed to impose a dredging season from June 15 to September 15. With this law in effect the spawning period for trout and salmon are protected. This should be enough right? Wrong. Trout Unlimited seems to think otherwise, they are the driving force behind this legislation.

On January 27, 2014 there was a public hearing on LD 1671 before the Environment and Natural Resources Committee at the Cross building in Augusta Maine. John Clark (Hillbilly John) and I were in attendance along with members of Central Maine Gold Prospectors,  Prospectors from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and New York.

LD 1671 Public Hearing Jan. 27, 2014

LD 1671 Public Hearing Jan. 27, 2014

Testimonies started with those in support of LD 1671, each person was given 3 minutes to speak for a 30 minute period and then those in opposition had the floor for the same amount of time and back and forth until every ones testimony was heard. A lot of the testimony I heard from those that support this legislation was based on opinion and conjecture. Laws should be based on facts not on opinion and conjecture.

Over the past several decades there have been studies performed and reports written by professionals  on the effects of small scale recreational gold suction dredging. Many of which were presented to the Environment and Natural Resources Committee for their review.

Here are some excerpts from Fact Sheet June 9, 2013 Written and prepared by:

Claudia Wise, Physical Scientist (USEPA retired), Miner

Joseph Greene, Research Biologist (USEPA retired), Miner

Guy Michael, Miner

Tom Kitchar, President, Waldo Mining District

Scientific studies have identified both detrimental and beneficial effects from this level of mining.

Dozens of studies on the environmental effects from small scale mining, and in particular “in-stream suction dredge placer mining”, have been performed by various agencies since the 1980’s, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, U.S. Geological Survey, and other federal and state agencies and universities at the cost of millions of dollars. To date, other than a few short-term and highly localized detrimental effects that are already mitigated to the point of being “less than significant”; the only other effects studies identified were beneficial to fish, the aquatic habitat, and the economy.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS

Relevant Science showing miniscule effects:

There have been a number of studies on the effects of small scale gold suction dredge mining that have concluded that these operations have impacts on the environment that are temporary, highly localized, and less-than-significant:

  •  1994, The Alaska District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued Special Public Notice 94-10, which concluded that, the effects from small suction dredges and hand operations were de minimus and did not require Army Corp permitting;
  • 2004,The Alaska District of the Army Corps issued Special Public Notice 2004-06, which restated that these placer mining activities still have “de minimus impacts” on the aquatic environment:
  • 1994,In an Environmental Impact Report, the California Department of Fish and Game, reached the conclusion that suction dredge mining had a less than significant impact on the environment;
  • 2012,The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, under a court order, completed another Environmental Impact Report on small-scale gold suction dredging, at a cost to the state of $1.2 to $1.5 million dollars. The overall conclusion was that the environmental impact from operation of these small scale dredges was less-than-significant for 56 of the 60 factors reviewed;
  • 2001, The Siskiyou National Forest, Oregon Draft Environmental Impact Report, Suction Dredging Activities are less-than-significant;
  • 2004, The Clearwater National Forest, Idaho completed the draft Environ-mental Impact Statement for Small-Scale Suction Dredging in Lolo Creek and Moose Creek Clearwater and Idaho Counties. The report stated that “EPA generally supports the terms and conditions for dredging and we believe they are designed to protect fish habitat and seem to minimize the potential to damage stream channels and banks.”, which supports a less-than-significant outcome;
  • 2012, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Oregon FINAL Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement reached the conclusion that suction dredge mining had a less than significant impact on the environment; and,
  • 2013, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Biological Evaluation Small Suction Dredge Placer Mining in Idaho reached the conclusion that suction dredge mining would have a less than significant impact on the environment.

 

There have also been a number of other more recent reports with the same conclusion, starting with:

  • Results from the 1992 Chugach National Forest, Alaska Report of Water Quality Cumulative Effects of Placer Mining which stated that, “The results from water quality sampling do not indicate any strong cumulative effects from multiple placer mining operations within the sampled drainage” (Huber and Blanchet).( NOTE: The operations studied here were large on-stream and off-stream commercial operations.)
  • In 1999 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported the results of a cumulative field study evaluating the performance of 10, 8, and 4 inch gold dredges and concluded environmental impacts from these operations were less than significant (Royer et al., 1999).
  • Bayley (OSU), 2003, (for Siskiyou N.F., Oregon) Response of fish to cumulative effects of suction dredge and hydraulic mining in the Illinois subbasin concluded,”The statistical analyses did not indicate that suction dredge mining has no effect on the three responses measured, but rather any effect that may exist could not be detected at the commonly used Type I error rate of 0.05.”

All of these reports agree that the effect of small-scale gold suction dredging on the environment is less-than-significant, minimal, or immeasurable.

Net Environmental Benefits of Small-scale Suction Dredging: These important studies of small-scale suction dredge operations show impacts on the environment have a less-than-significant footprint. Furthermore, they make note of beneficial factors that create an overall net benefit to some areas. These factors need to be taken into consideration when interpreting suction dredge activities and further incorporated into best management practices agreements.

Experts agree that fish survival improves under moderate turbid conditions (25 NTU):

  • Results of the Gregory 1993 report notes that any reduction in feeding efficiency of fish may be offset by reduced risk of predation at moderate levels of suspended sediment.
  • CH2M HILL in 2000, added to that result showing that elevated total suspended solids (TSS) conditions, similar to turbidity plumes created from dredging activity, have been reported to enhance cover conditions, reduce piscivorous fish/bird predation rates, and improve survival.
  • Stern 1988, stated that, “Pools created by abandoned dredger sites can provide holding and resting areas for juvenile and adult salmonids”.
  • Harvey 1991, studied fish size and habitat depth relationships in headwater streams. During times of low flow in a river or stream, increased water depth can provide a refuge from predation by birds and mammals.
  • Nielsen 1994, examined excavations from dredging operations finding they can result in temporarily formed pools or deepen existing pools, which may improve fish habitat. Deep scour may intersect subsurface flow creating pockets of cool water during summer, which can provide important habitat for fish
  • 2001, Siskiyou National Forest, found if excavated pools reduce pool temperatures, they could provide important coldwater habitats for salmonids living in streams with elevated temperatures.
  • In1999, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported the results of a cumulative field study evaluating the performance of 10, 8, and 4-inch gold dredges. The findings showed an increase in macroinvertibrate density and improved diversity in mined areas.
  • In 2010, The American River Spawning Gravel Supplemental Environmental Assessment (EA) points to the benefits of additions of spawning gravels even coming from an outside source. The addition of spawning gravels are to increase and improve Chinook salmon and steelhead spawning and rearing habitat.
  • Again in the 2011, American River Spawning Gravel EA; the supplemental Environmental Assessment Report supported the previous EA reporting benefits of supplementing spawning gravels

Tailings from small-scale suction dredge mining provide excellent spawning gravel. Suction dredging breaks up compacted steam beds; the gravels are dispersed by the high stream flows, making up suitable spawning gravels each year. If insufficient substrate is available Salmonids are left with the choice of spawning over and destroying previously built redds, or using cleaned dredge tailings.

Additional benefits of small-scale suction dredge mining include:Measureable improvement in water quality due to removal of wastes left by other users of the waters or that have eroded into the waterways. 100’s of pounds of lead fishing weights, bullets, water bottles, sunglasses, car debris, nails, broken glass, etc. are removed from our waterways and camping and recreational sites by miners every year.

Laws should be based on facts not on opinion and conjecture.

Here is a list of studies and reports that have been compiled over years of research that can be referenced available to all:

CDFG, 1997. draft Environmental Impact Report: Adoption of Amended Regulations for Suction Dredge Mining. State of California, The Resource Agency, Department of Fish and Game

Cooley, M.F. 1995. Forest Service yardage Estimate. U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, Siskiyou National Forest, Grants Pass, Oregon.

Griffith, J.S. and D.A. Andrews. 1981. Effects of a small suction dredge on fishes and aquatic invertebrates in Idaho streams. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 1:21- 28.

Harvey, B.C., K. McCleneghan, J.D. Linn, and C.L. Langley, 1982. Some physical and biological effects of suction dredge mining. Lab Report No. 82-3. California Department of Fish and Game. Sacramento, CA.

Harvey, B.C. 1986. Effects of suction gold dredging on fish and invertebrates in two California streams. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 6:401-409.

Hassler, T.J., W.L. Somer and G.R. Stern. 1986. Impacts of suction dredge mining on anadromous fish, invertebrates and habitat in Canyon Creek, California. California Cooperative Research Unit, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Humbolt State University. Cooperative Agreement No 14-16-0009-1547.

Huber and Blanchet, 1992. Water quality cumulative effects of placer mining on the Chugach National Forest, Kenai Peninsula, 1988-1990. Chugach National Forest, U.S. Forest Service, Alaska Region, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Lewis, 1962. Results of Gold Suction Dredge Investigation. Memorandum of September 17, 1962. California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento, CA.

North, P.A., 1993. A review of the regulations and literature regarding the environmental impacts of suction gold dredging. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 10, Alaska Operations Office. EP 1.2: G 55/993.

Prussian, A.M., T.V. Royer and G.W. Minshall, 1999. Impact of suction dredging on water quality, benthic habitat, and biota in the Fortymile River, Resurrection Creek, and Chatanika River, Alaska, FINAL REPORT. US Environmental Protection Agency, Region 10, Seattle, Washington.

SNF, 2001. Siskiyou National Forest, Draft Environmental Impact Statement: Suction Dredging Activities. U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, Siskiyou National Forest, Medford, OR.

Somer, W.L. and T.J. Hassler. 1992. Effects of suction-dredge gold mining on benthic invertebrates in a northern California stream. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 12:244-252

Stern, 1988. Effects of suction dredge mining on anadromous salmonid habitat in Canyon Creek, Trinity County, California. M.S. Thesis, Humbolt State University, Arcata, CA.

Thomas, V.G. 1985. Experimentally determined impacts of a small, suction gold dredge on a Montana stream. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 5:480-488.

US EPA, 2001. Mercury Recovery from Recreational Gold Miners.

Wanty, R.B., B. Wang, and J. Vohden. 1997. Studies of suction dredge gold-placer mining operations along the Fortymile River, eastern Alaska. U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet FS-154-97.

I have said it time and again the first step in finding gold is to find a location to prospect. A sure fire way to find gold is to look where gold has been found before. I find the internet to be a very useful tool in gold prospecting. Mindat.org is what I use very often, it’s very easy to use. From the home page you will find a box that says search mindat. In the box for mineral name type in Gold and then in the locality name type in the location that you have in mind and that could be a State, County, Town or Mine name. If one doesn’t work try another and hit search. I usually start with a state and hit start. Then it will bring me to a page with a list of mines, then I will choose one of those mines. When you click on the mine it will show you the specific minerals that were found present in that mine. I then locate the mine on a map and make a note of it.

English: Klondike Gold Rush miners in Alaska a...

English: Klondike Gold Rush miners in Alaska around 1900. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next I will search for a geological report of that mine with the USGS. I would give you a link to this site but it is currently down at the time of this writing due to the Federal Government shut down. I find the report and find out how much gold was assayed. Even though I find that the mine didn’t contain enough gold to be profitable, there may be enough gold for the hobbyist.

The next thing I will do is to go to the map, I will then locate it on a topographical map. I often use the USGS store and go to the map locator. I look for rivers and streams that are near the mine. Near the mine I mean up to a couple of miles. If the mine is on a mountain I will look for rivers running off of that mountain. Once I locate a river or stream I will then look for points of accessibility (public access like a bridge easement.) Be careful some states do not allow prospecting activities on state lands, state game lands and so on. Look for state rules and regulations for the location you have in mind because each state is different. If it is on private property get permission first. When I look at the river on the map I am looking for the vertical drop of the river, I am looking for bends in the river and so on.

The next thing I will do is physically go to the location, I will look for that access point. If I have to knock on some doors to get permission then that is what I will do. Once I make contact with the river and then start testing, depending on the results I may stay right there or I may move up or down stream.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I am in an area the curious may come to see what I am doing, I let them know that I am prospecting for gold and sometimes that will open a conversation to a good lead. I have had that happen on many occasions. I like to hear about legends of gold finds, I make a note of it and when I get home I will track that lead down.

There are other methods of locating a prospect, this is just one I use often and it works well for me so I will continue. If you have a different method please feel free to share it. Now get out there and find some gold and good luck.

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.