President; Ron Miller,
Vice President; Dave Erlanson Sr
Sec and Tres; Jeff Williams
Well, to start off with RMMR had 4 members apply for a Joint Application Dredging Permit (3804b) for the South Fork of the Clearwater River (SFCR). This was done in January of 2016. We decided to do this action to protect our Federal Mining Claims from a “Recreational Designation”, i.e. Recreational Suction Dredge Permit, makes a Federal Mining Claim VOID. Claim owners, please understand your rights and responsibilities!
Near the first of July we began to receive our permits.
To our dismay, we received “Recreational Permits”, NOT the Joint Application Permit (3804b) that was applied for! (Joint Application Dredging Permit: IDWR/Army Corps of Engineers.) IDWR had changed the Permit we had applied for!
Since this action, bordering on an unlawful act by IDWR our 4 members decided to file Notices of appeal and Request for an Administrative Hearing. IDWR assigned James Cefalo, Water Resources Program Manager as Hearing Officer in this matter!
On October 27th 2016, members Dave Erlanson Sr. of Swan Valley, Idaho and Kevin Landon of Shelley, Idaho appeared, on behalf of the Federal Claim Owners who mine and dredge on the South Fork of the Clearwater River (SFCR).
Many issues concerning, but not limited to, the South Fork were discussed with Dave entering into evidence fishery reports as to migration patterns and spawning/rearing habits of the fish which use this waterway! “No Prudent Man” would only operate his business (Federal Mining Claim) one (1) month per year! Dredging is the most economically viable method to extract gold from the bottom of SFCR.
Also brought up was the fact that IDWR has excessive mitigation practices already in place for the SFCR to ensure optimal survival of the fishery in addition to a one (1) month seasonal restriction. In other words, they are restricting use of your Federal Mining Claim area, in not only an unrealistic seasonal restriction, but telling the Federal Mining Claim Holder where he may or may not mine on his/her own Federal Mining Claim. (This is an unlawful act cannot be stressed enough!!!!)
Two of our members in Northern Idaho, Ron Miller and Tark Meyer also produced testimony on November 2nd of 2016 at a hearing in Grangeville Idaho. At this meeting it was mentioned that not only IDWR requiring a permit, but that the USFS also required a Plan of Operation (PoO) in order to gain an EPA permit to legally dredge on the SFCR. The USFS is NOT a regulatory agency and yet they are requiring a Plan of Operation. IDWR failed to show any study or evidence that the species have been harmed or their numbers negatively affected by suction dredging! Also noted at this hearing, was the fact that another form of “Recreation”, namely fishing, is permitted for the Threatened and Endangered Species which migrate through the South Fork even though no spawning takes place there! (also note, there are no native ocean going fish in the Columbia Basin).
In February, 2016, one of our members, Dave Erlanson Sr., was served with a “Notice of Violation” by Edward J. Kowalski from the EPA’s Seattle office.
RMMR reached out for assistance to PLP (Public Lands for the People). Mr. Clark Pearson was very helpful in this regard. Because this case is ongoing we have nothing more to report at this time. We will win!!!!
Spring came and some members got out and did some prospecting with some good finds! A great outing is to pick out a gravel bar in the Snake River between Idaho Falls and Rupert and get some gold while getting out of the house after a long winter!
Summer finally arrived and so our many members started their yearly pursuit of prospecting, camping, meeting new and old friends and educating the public about mining. A great time to enjoy our prospecting heritage.
Then comes fall, the miners are finishing up their work and adding up their gold totals. A few brave souls still mine and dredge till the winter snows.
Up in Central Idaho, our President, Ron Miller has been busy also! On behalf of RMMR and along with the assistance from Idaho County Sheriff’s Department, succeeded in getting a case by the USFS against Darrick Grimm (fellow miner and member) dismissed Without Prejudice.
Winter is the time to check your gear, drain and repair pumps and winterize your equipment. It’s a really good time to reflect on the places you want to prospect and think about the nuggets that got away. Keep in touch with all your mining buddies and keep the friendships intact! One of our fellow miners is missing with no trace anywhere! Enjoy your mining buddies while you still can!!!!
On a disturbing note, this past winter a fellow miner admitted guilt as the headlines said” Idaho Suction Dredger fined by Federal Authorities (EPA)”. He was fined $3600 for his actions, which were perfectly legal, on the SFCR in 2015. His careless and ill- advised admission of guilt will not have an effect on the ongoing case against Mr. Erlanson Sr. which will be discussed more fully in our summer newsletter.
Ron, as well as myself, helped settle disputes over claim ownership to a positive conclusions.
As with any member wanting a claim, we can assist him/her in locating, staking and filing their claim as well as notifying members when filing is to be in for their claims. This is a huge benefit to all our members!
Ron Miller was also notified by Advocates of the West on behalf of Idaho Conservation League for Jeff Oppenheimer with a Notice to Sue for not having an NPDES Permit. With the grateful assistance from Public Lands for the People and one of Minerals and Mining Advisory Councils founders, Mr. Clark Pearson, a Direct and Constructive Notice was delivered to Mr. Oppenheimer and communications ceased!
Rocky Mountain Mining Rights has also been instrumental in modernizing The Elk City and Tenmile Mining Districts in Idaho County, Idaho. Please look into the Mining District concept and its regulatory influence on State or Federal entities. It is a great push forward in protecting the rights of claim owners in its boundaries.
At press time, miners in Southeast Idaho are also working diligently to modernize the Mount Pisgah/Caribou Mountain Mining District in Bonneville County Idaho. Warren Mining District will also be coming online in July. Look for updates on Mining Districts in the ICMJ Mining Journal.
Last but not least is the ongoing battle over seasonal restrictions as related to suction dredging within the State of Idaho. I have fought this fight single handed for the past 25 years in Southeast Idaho. This year however, I received much needed support from Jeff Bowman (Board Member) of Bowman Prospecting Store in Pocatello, Idaho! He has taken on the fight where I left off getting the dredgers season moved from October 1st to September 1st. We want to get that moved into July or at the least an August 1st opener so that the claim owner can have a better opportunity for financial gains as well as camaraderie and family time! Thanks again to Jeff and his wife January for their dedication to this cause, which will, in the end, benefit all miners in Southeast Idaho.
Rocky Mountain Mining Rights will continue to fight for your rights to pursue your ability to access areas to prospect, mine, fish, hunt and enjoy the outdoors as is our right and privilege to Governmental Lands!
Now, you can say we not only talk the talk but walk the walk defending the rights of all miners in and around Idaho and surrounding States!
So folks, there you have all that your club has done this past year!
Please consider renewing your membership, take a friend or family member mining and share with them your love and care of our beautiful outdoors. God Bless You All!!!!
Dave Erlanson Sr.
Vice President and fellow miner