Today, AMRA is two years old.
This is the story of AMRA:
Spending decades wearing a suit and tie in the executive corporate world, I was becoming frustrated with the politics, sitting in court rooms, administering lawsuits, public speaking, doing investigations all across the west and interrogating criminals. Some of these criminals were so bad, it would make you want to strangle them for the atrocities they committed. I was getting death threats from calls coming from the inside the penitentiary system of people who confessed their worst sins to me. I decided I needed a break so I put up the suits, the ties and headed up the mountains of CA to chase my passion, one that started when I was 12 years old in OR when my grade school friend’s dad took us dredging in the mid 70’s. It was then that I got bit by the gold bug.
Back in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009, we were finding a lot of gold dredging in the south mother lode. Lisa was enjoying all the bottles of gold, the huge nuggets which turned into jewelry for her and her family and the time we got to spend together out on the public lands. I had an RV parked up on the mountain and we had just picked up this fat little white fluffy biting puppy thing we named “Charlie, the Chupacabra” (and the reason AMRA has claims named “Chupacabra”). One of my fondest memories was of one day Lisa, Chupa and I went to our favorite claim on Bull Creek aptly named “puppy cookie” and brought back a 5 gallon bucket of material to the RV. She sat on the floor with the biting beast and with a fork dug in the bucket and pulled out 14 pickers while I cooked dinner. These were great times. Shortly after that the moratorium hit. The day it was passed I was dredging with my 4″ dredge enjoying a nice clean-out when a dear friend (now passed) walked up to me and said “they stopped dredging”. My immediate response was “what the ****, what for?”. Al had no answers for me. I pulled my dredge up the bank and there it sat for the next year. We all believed the moratorium would end quickly since I knew numerous studies had already been done and had conclusively proven we don’t hurt fish and hell, 80% of the CA gold claims didn’t even have anadramous fish (salmon and steelhead) which was the heart of our oppositions argument.
At the time, I had dredges sitting on several waterways and would just chase the water as it slowly receded in spring and summer. I’d just hide the dredge (very, very well) and come back to it when the waters returned. I had also just purchased another brand new 4″ Proline and hadn’t even put oil in the motor. I was chasing my dream and loving every second of it. Then the dream was shattered.
I started writing large personal checks to anyone and everyone I could think of who would save my dream. PLP and the New 49’ers were the two leaders in the fight. 2009 was the first time I met Jerry Hobbes and Dave McCracken. Both men had the same goal, don’t concede rights and get us in the water. I attended every court hearing on the moratorium and even joined and was named in the original litigation as a plaintiff against the state. I was pissed, really pissed. I was thirsty for information on just why this moratorium was passed but couldn’t seem to find any answers. Coming from that investigation and litigation background, I started digging, on my own, on the internet and from other miners and friends like Rachel Dunn (thank you Rachel) who organized the petition writing campaign back in 09′. What I found was huge money behind a movement not based on science, but political ideology and a very scary agenda. Huge money being given to politicians who had zero knowledge on what a dredge is, how it works, how it helps fish habitat and that they had zero intention on knowing.
There wasn’t anywhere to go for what my rights were for the most part. Sure, I could call Jerry and Dave and they would explain the court cases and answer all my questions, but none of my fellow small miners knew their rights, rights of access, surface rights, what was happening in the litigation and it was frustrating. Dave updated his website frequently, but there was still an empty hole of information for all of us small miners. Rachel’s petition movement surprised me, it was extremely difficult for her, if not impossible to get the message out to the miners and I learned right then and there the miners were not united, had no true way of communicating with each other effectively and were fighting a massive uphill battle. They relied basically on forwarding emails to one another and relied on word of mouth.
A few years passed and Lisa and I had decisions to make. I really didn’t want to start wearing a suit again, I truly hated wearing the strangling ties and the corporate politics I had experienced for the last 20 years. I enjoyed the freedom mining gave me, the fresh air, the reward of hard physical labor and loved swimming with the fish. Then came the idea from my friend Jeff Kuykendall, owner of Proline mining. Jeff knew my career history and started the idea of me forming a company to unite everyone. I knew many people had tried this and failed in the past so I soundly rejected his idea, I think my exact words were “you’re an idiot”. Over the next few months as I would stop at his shop for my weekly session of bugging him and to just generally bitch and it was then he started to really push me, and push me, and push me. We started having serious conversations about it. I kept coming back to the one problem most of these companies had in the past and that was they didn’t really offer anything other than the promise they would fight for the miners but I also knew we needed to do something more to generate money for this fight for our lives. The small mining community didn’t need another non-profit just muddying the waters. Dave had the New 49’ers and kicked a ton of money into the fight from his memberships, but he was a gold club, a good one, but was not in my area for me to mine. PLP was constantly in the fight and I think Jerry was getting fatigued I was incessantly bugging the hell out of him. PLP rarely updated their website and information was sporadic at best. I knew, without a doubt that both of these organizations were fighting, and fighting hard for me, but they both stated on numerous occasions that it was hard for them to raise money to continue the fight.
Then one night while lying awake in bed in the little house up near Yosemite we just purchased because that cute little puppy thing named Charlie had turned into a giant Chupacabra weighing 100lbs and the RV just didn’t work anymore, it dawned on me. Give people access to “MY” gold claims, the same claims I made my living off of. The best of the best and make the company a non-profit. Tax deductible donations, show them videos of the gold, how to mine, think outside the box, unite everyone and then educate everyone on their rights. Hmmmm. I called Lisa the next day and ran it past her. She has always supported me and said “go for it, make a difference”. I went to Proline the next morning and told Jeff, “I’ll do it”. Over the next 6 months, I changed the company name at least 10 times until one day I was doodling names and AMRA came to me.
At that time I owned 9 claims. I donated 7 of those 9 to AMRA. Even my baby, The Golden Anne, with gold the size of potato’s having been pulled out of there 15 years prior. Don’t give them worked out claims, don’t pick up claims just to say you have them, mine them, mine them hard and prove the members can pay for their membership in a few weekends on these claims. Shoot videos of these claims, teach people how to pan, highbank, dredge, read a creek and mine efficiently. Be available to the small mining community, answer their questions, speak out whenever possible in defense of them and create a way to communicate to them on a daily basis and educate them on their rights. Publish those rights and make them readable, understandable and lead by example. Fight, and fight hard, without fear against the regulations and a government intent upon taking away those rights. Represent small miners, anyone (if funds allow), who cannot afford to represent themselves. Don’t just talk a good game, back it up with actions. Be sincere, honest and never lie about the rights, the company and back everything up with science and actions.
We’ve come a long way since those Pepsi drinking meetings in Proline and I can honestly say I am proud of AMRA, very proud. We are the fastest growing advocacy association in America for small miner’s rights. We’ve backed up our mission statement with action and obtained results. We are very well known by the alphabet soup agencies which we continually hold accountable and are even more focused on retaining our God given rights. We slap these agencies in the mouth so hard it would knock out fillings. Although most who initially helped form AMRA are doing other things, we now have the strongest team we could possibly assemble which tirelessly fight for you, for your lands and for your right to use your lands. Our staff of John, Lisa, Dee, Mike, Tom, Jim, Ron, Paul, Chaniece, Rhonda and Jon all are devoted to stopping our endless erosion and out right theft of our rights.
AMRA has 30 claims in 3 states now and we will be making a KML file (Google Earth) available for everyone to see shortly. In CA we have claims on the Feather River drainage, claims near Quincy, one on the NF Yuba, one in the Mojave Desert, one in San Luis Obispo, one out of Fresno and 17 between Sonora and Mariposa where AMRA is based. We have a claim out of Wickenberg AZ with year round water and we have 3 claims in Idaho which are some of the best dredge claims we have. We are also working on claims in southern OR and will have two by the time we do the Portland gold show next month. We are working on claims in Alaska, Washington, more dredge claims in Idaho, claims in Nevada (as we speak), claims in New Mexico and Colorado. We are working on claims near Sacramento and more claims up on the Yuba drainage areas. We have a motto when it comes to AMRA claims and have proven this statement to be true, it is having “the best of the best”. AMRA does not advertise, we would rather use that money to defend some small miner who can’t afford to defend himself. We rely solely on word of mouth and strongly believe in our message and backing that up with actions. The miners meeting coming up on March 14th will probably be the best thing AMRA has done for the small mining community and we need to thank Robert at Delta Gold Diggers for helping, co-sponsoring and coordinating this event. We need to unite, and unite with all public land users and this meeting is a giant step in that direction. We have just secured a live radio broadcast for this meeting so everyone (including our opposition) can listen to the meeting live on the internet. Once we do this for California, we are heading straight for Washington State which is under attack from the same well funded opposition. Then on to Idaho, Montana, Colorado and so on.
I’ve missed birthdays, anniversaries and family events and next weekend I’ll miss Valentine’s day because of AMRA. Through all of this the love of my life, Lisa has stood patiently by my side, encouraging me all the way, never complaining and ever supportive of my dream.
This is the story of AMRA. Don’t thank me, thank Jeff at Proline and thank Lisa, they are the ones who deserve the credit for your AMRA. Thank our staff listed above, all of whom do not get paid for their tireless devotion to this grass roots movement.
AMRA, American Mining Rights Association
Fighting for your right to mine.