Italian Bar disaster update, Stanislaus National Forest Tuolumne County CA:
We have confirmed this past weekend that all but one of the squatters down in the recreation area have decided it is in their best interest to vacate the area (at some urging). The one man we had the confrontation with on film is still there and there is now even a larger pile of trash and junk near his illegal camp.
We have tried (as you know) to urge the USFS to do their job and remove this man so the rec area can be returned to the public whom the area was designated by congress in 1952, but the USFS seems more interested in just ignoring the problem.
We have partnered with our friends at Blue Ribbon Coalition and they have enjoined in this issue with us to legally encourage the USFS to do their job. We are now exhausting all of our administrative remedies and are going to move on to phase two of our legal challenges with the USFS if a timely response does not happen, or they fail to provide legal justification for their ignoring the disaster. Our certified letter to the Supervisor of the Stanislaus NF is below.
To: USFS Stanislaus National Forest Supervisor
19777 Greenley Road Sonora, CA 95370
Date: March 22, 2022
Dear Mr. Kuiken,
We are once again revisiting the issue concerning the illegal mining activities, illegal dumping, camping, dumping of raw sewage, trash, illegally cutting of trees and overall destruction of the area known as Stumbletown along Italian Bar Road, a federally withdrawn area from mineral entry and a designated recreation area created by Congress in 1952.
We reached out to you and your staff when we learned of this disaster in early August of 2021. It is at this time we informed you of the illegal activities in this recreation area and requested you remove the men who have been illegally occupying the campground for the past 2 ½ years. Under the 14 day camp rule of the USFS, occupying a campground in the public domain for longer than that period is illegal. The area in question is in your jurisdiction and is also your responsibility to manage. We informed you the mining claims the men are asserting are valid are in fact invalid and have been declared “null and void” by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 2019. We informed you these men were threatening the public who wished to use this designated recreation area with physical violence, intimidation and provided conclusive evidence of this in a video we produced and provided to you and your staff. These men had no right to dump raw sewage into my drinking water. Batteries, trash, drug needles and even vehicles were dumped into the Stanislaus river. Also included in the video provided to you and your staff, was Public Land Order 4329 passed in 1952 conclusively proving the area was withdrawn and designated a recreation area for the public to use. Additionally, we provided a copy of the Master Title Plat (MTP) showing the area was withdrawn and with these two documents, the question of “if” the area cannot be claimed became undeniably validated. We also informed you that we, American Mining Rights Association would clean up the entire area and return it to its natural state at no cost to the USFS once the men were removed.
After months of not hearing any response, we again made a trip down to the area to see if the men were still illegally occupying the area only to discover they were and the area was still a disaster. We contacted your office again and scheduled a face to face meeting with you on November 4th, 2021, the District Ranger, the Captain of the LEO’s, council and a few others of your choosing. In that meeting, a conclusion was made that the area in question is in fact your responsibility and you committed to following up, and to informing us of your progress.
It is now March 22, 2022 and the men still illegally occupy the Stumbletown area, are still dumping trash, the area is still a disaster, the public is still being threatened if they attempt to camp there and you have not contacted us one time for an update. We have been quite active on social media and this issue has garnered significant attention from thousands of concerned citizens wanting this area to be restored and returned to them, the public for whom this recreation area was created.
We have involved Congressman McClintock in this issue and know that his office has reached out to you to offer assistance, which it would appear you and your office has ignored.
To recap, your office has been provided with all legal proof, evidence and facts supporting that this area has been withdrawn from mineral entry, is a federally designated recreation area, the men are illegally occupying the area, have impacted water quality, are creating environmental disasters and have been for 3 years now. The claims they purport to have title to are in fact null and void with the BLM and it is your jurisdiction as stated by you. It is also clear that nothing as of today has been done to remove these men.
We have briefed BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) on this issue, and they are concerned that federal agencies across the country are closing areas to dispersed camping, They started the Dispersed Camping Access Alliance to mobilize responsible dispersed camping users to advocate for increased access on public lands. One of the primary justifications for dispersed camping closures is presence of impacts that are occurring in Stumbletown. Lack of enforcement by federal agencies against clear instances of wrongdoing sends a terrible message to those who refuse to follow federal regulations on public land. BRC doesn’t want to see another acre of land closed in our National Forests because of impacts that could have been prevented by reasonable acts of enforcement. Prosecuting wrongdoers to mitigate undesirable impacts is also one of the best ways to signal to responsible users that their responsible use is appreciated and welcome on USFS lands.
We believe that it is within your authority to issue Notices of Non-Compliance to the offenders for failing to follow USFS regulations, and it is time to start exercising this authority. We request that you do this immediately. If you do not feel it is appropriate to issue Notices of Non-Compliance to the offenders, we ask you to respond to us in writing to explain why issuing the notices would not be appropriate.
Consider ourselves an interested public on this matter, and we request to be included on any official correspondence between the USFS and the offenders. We can be reached at the contact information on our signature lines.
We request in a timely manner, a written response to our questions above.
Mr. Shannon Poe
President/Founder American Mining Rights Association (AMRA)
PO Box 467
Coulterville CA 95361
PO Box 5449
Pocatello, ID 83202