To the President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Donald J. Trump, April 5, 2017
I am one of many, many independent full time small scale gold miners in America struggling to survive due to massive regulation and bills passed during the past administration, both at the federal and state levels. Prior to 2009, I was living the American dream, mining for gold in California on my mining claims and making a good living. Small scale miners, like myself represent over 1 million people in the United States and are a significant producer of gold and other valuable minerals in the country. Gold used for the space shuttle, the computers we use and even the smart phones we use in today’s society. Small scale miners (typically a single operation or up to a 2 or 3 man operation) are an undeniable asset to America’s national security. I know you understand this and can see the effects it has on America having to purchase its valuable minerals from other countries like China.
I know you have made commitments to make mining great again, but the small scale miners are a very large group of people whom do not get the visibility of the large scale coal and gold miners. We are asking you please read this letter and hear us, a very large group of patriotic people whom have had their voices silenced and their livelihoods stomped down by a powerful government for a very long time.
The previous administration, through their regulatory efforts from the EPA, BLM and USFS effectively banned our most effective method of mining our claims. Suction dredging. The bans were done in a multitude of states in the west as well as severely restricting how we can effectively mine our “real property” mining claims. Layers and layers of regulation, permitting schemes, permission for access and even gating us from our mining claims has been the norm for many years now. Mining claims where, in many areas and states, we pay property taxes on them. We use suction dredging, the extremely environmentally friendly method of removing gold from rivers and streams. In fact, small scale suction dredging is the most environmentally friendly and effective method of removing valuable mineral deposits from waterways ever invented. They typically operate with lawn mower sized engines which lift gravels from the water through a small suction nozzle, run that material up a hose, then over a sluice box and then deposits the gravels back into the waterway about 20 feet from where it was lifted. This is the same method the Department of Fish and Game uses to stock rivers, lakes and streams with hatchery grown fish, in fact, they buy their hoses from the same manufacturer. Suction dredging removes 98% of the mercury (both natural and legacy from the old time miners) and about 99% of the lead from fishermen. Simple common sense would deduce removing 98 to 99% of toxins from any waterway is a good thing, but not according to radical environmental groups, Liberal Politicians and George Soros. There have been dozens of studies over the past 25 years which conclusively prove that suction dredging is a benefit to our waterways and is the most effective method of cleaning our rivers, lakes and streams from these pollutants. These studies are ignored because it doesn’t fit their narrative. Sound familiar? Even a simple Google search under the header “suction dredging to create fish habitat” will turn up over a dozen operations by Department of Fish and Game (Wildlife), states and municipalities all across America dredging to create fish habitat. But in California, Oregon, Idaho and Washington, George Soros funded radical environmental groups lobby, petition and endlessly demonize this method to achieve their agenda. This agenda is to keep Americans from mining their properties and to keep them out of our public lands. These same groups receive grants from like-minded politicians to further the assault on small scale miners who then make donations back to these politicians’ re-election campaigns. The corruption is literally jaw dropping.
As an example, allow me to describe a situation in Northern Idaho on the South Fork of the Clearwater River. The river is designated as non-navigable and a through way for salmon and steelhead (they do not spawn in that river, only its tributaries). Dredging is already only allowed when these anadramous fish are not present in the river and in fact, the dredge season is now limited to just 30 short days of an entire year, but only a handful of miners may actually and legally dredge their claims now. There are 36 mining claim owners and have been roughly 100 suction dredgers on that river in previous years and have been suction dredging there for over 50 years without any problems, degradation of the fishery or environment. The EPA illegally decided in 2013 that they control all aspects of the non-navigable waterway and sent certified letters to all claim owners on the river threatening them with imprisonment and $37,500 per day fines if they legally dredged their claims. They have no authority over this river but it did not stop their jack-booted efforts to shut down an industry they do not like for political and ideological reasons. We sincerely thank you for eliminating the WOTUS rule, that single move by your administration conclusively removed their tyrannical power to take control of every mud puddle, creek and rain gutter in America. One would have expected your move would have stopped this insanity, but it didn’t. Now, the Nez Perce National Forest Supervisor, Cheryl Probert (USFS) has decided they control the waters and have restricted mining to a degree which is nothing short of stunning. She restricted the number of dredges to just 15 for the entire river which may (if she approves it) through an unbelievable permitting scheme obtain their gold from their claims, but only in areas they deem we can dredge, not where the gold is. She is requiring the miners to obtain a permit from the EPA, even though your elimination of the WOTUS rule was signed by you. Without a shred of science to back up this devastational ideology, she has single-handedly destroyed people’s livelihoods and adversely impacted many of the local economies with a stroke of her pen. These local economies, like many in the west rely on the money spent by these miners to purchase goods in their hardware stores, gas stations, restaurants and facilities. The money spent by the miners represents hundreds of millions of dollars per year to these rural, local economies. A drive through Elk City Id, Groveland CA, Colfax CA or a litany of other rural communities in gold bearing areas in many states show the results of this ideology. Shuttered and closed businesses, dreams shattered and kids college funds being spent on bills just to survive. In order for the USFS Supervisor to have the authority to demand a permitting scheme, a USFS Ranger must declare suction dredging causes a “significant impact” to the river. Ms. Probert submitted a letter from Ranger Terry Nevius stating he declared this. Ranger Nevius, in testimony last year stated he never wrote, nor signed that letter. It would appear as though fraud and forgery are now the norm within the USFS to obtain their agenda.
This perpetual cycle of government agencies pretending to be POTUS with their regulatory boots force the small miner and citizens of the United States to grass-root fund raise to sue these agencies to prove their over-reach is illegal and after years of litigation, to which they have an unlimited supply of attorney’s and money (ours), they eventually get over-turned. This is typically when they just pass another law or regulation to force this perpetual cycle to go around the circle again. I, like 10’s of thousands have not been allowed to legally dredge in California for 8 years now and have not been able to use my more than $100,000 worth of mining equipment to make my living. I was so upset by this I formed what is now the largest small mining advocacy group in America several years ago. As a side note, it took us two years to obtain our 501(c)(3) status from the IRS. After they cashed my own personal check to form the Association, they told me they did not receive the application which was in the same envelope as the check. After submitting another personal check for the $800, and the exposing of Lois Lerner, they accepted our application, but of course told me I needed to contact this office, then another, then another to get my original $800 back. I’m still waiting.
The unbelievable hypocrisy of the attack on small miners doesn’t end in Idaho. Here in California, the state passed a moratorium on suction dredging in 2009 saying it “may, might, possibly, potentially could harm a fish at some point”. There has never been one documented case of any fish being harmed by suction dredging….ever. Fishermen kill more fish in an average day than the 50 years and hundreds of thousands of dredgers have since the invention of suction dredges. As mentioned above, there have been dozens of studies which show the environmental benefits from suction dredging, that non-ideological agencies in other states are actually dredging to “create” fish habitat, but in CA, ID, OR and WA (the primary gold states) we are attacked endlessly and without science to back up their claims.
The Sierra Fund, a far left, radical environmental group here in California aligned ideologically with the likes of Center for Biological Diversity, Diane Feinstein and other totalitarians receive millions and millions of our tax dollars in grants under the guise of dredging to remove mercury in Lake Combie, a reservoir in Northern California. They have no suction dredge experience and purchased a dredge from Canada (even though the best dredges are American made) which only removes 84% of the mercury. They are the only entity within the state which can legally dredge currently. If you are politically aligned with the Democrats and share their ideology, you are rewarded with millions. If you are a small scale miner, you are threatened, fined, arrested and your equipment is confiscated and even are blocked from accessing your mining claim. The Sierra Fund illegally lobbied (without a lobbying license) Sacramento to pass the latest scheme, SB637 where the California Water Board is tasked with creating another layer of permitting schemes to suction dredge. 180 miners opposed this bill, 7 were in favor and it still passed. We have filed complaints about this illegal activity, only to be ignored time and again.
The value of our mining claims is also severely diminished. If you can’t mine them, the value is next to nothing. Imagine owning a farm, but you can’t farm it. Imagine owning a business but you cannot open the doors.
One last example of just how bad some of these agencies are becoming is this recent story of two military veterans. This is a story of a veteran with his wife who were panning for gold on an association mining claim in California who were not just harassed, but threatened by two USFS agents for simply panning for gold and asking questions of these agents. All three were members of AMRA, American Mining Rights Association who grants access and ownership to mining claims. One veteran, a purple heart recipient in his late 60’s was gold panning above the other veteran in a small creek with his wife when two USFS LEO’s (law enforcement officers) came walking up the creek. Without so much as a hello, the female (a Captain with USFS) stated everyone needed to pull out there ID and produce it. These people were on their claim, parked legally, and panning is perfectly legal. None of these people have so much as a parking ticket in their lives. When the veterans asked why they needed to produce ID, the Capt. stated “I need to determine who is in my forest”. The wife of the decorated veteran pulled out a laminated card which identified her as a member of AMRA, but the card was expired. The LEO became quite upset and asked if she had a right to mine this claim. As a matter of law, the USFS has absolutely no authority to determine, enforce, or even ask about who mines who’s mining claims, that is purely a civil matter. Having a new card in her truck, she told the LEO “I have a new card in the truck”. The Capt. replied “ma’am, keep your hands in plain sight and I’m going to escort you to your truck to prove you can mine here. Do not make any sudden moves”. After returning from the truck, with her valid Association card, the LEO’s turned their attention to the other veteran sitting in the creek. The Capt. boomed “bring me your ID’. The veteran asked why and the Capt. stated she needed to see if he had any warrants. The veteran said “I’m not doing anything wrong, there is a 4th amendment and you have no right to do this”. This irritated the Capt. so she stomped down the creek to the veteran, pulled the Taser off her hip and pointed it directly at his face and stated “give me your F’ing ID now”. This incident doesn’t just end with a Taser being pulled. Our subsequent investigation turned up a dozen like incidents with other members of the public not associated with mining all in the same area involving these LEO’s. People taking their grandson camping, a man taking his girlfriend on a picnic where the USFS LEO’s would see a vehicle driving up a gravel road and what happened next should alarm every single person in America. They would see any vehicle driving, the LEO’s would block the road with their vehicle, walk up to it, demand all occupants get out, put their hands on the hoods of the vehicles and then the LEO’s would illegally search the vehicles. Even crying children were forced to stand with their hands on the hoods of the vehicles. No probable cause, no 4th Amendment rights, no reports of anything illegal. It was because you were in their forest. This has forced us to file a Federal Tort claim against the USFS, not just for the incidents, but the blatant cover-up and lies about these documented incidents. These incidents were so egregious, that when we produced the facts to the county Sheriff, he removed their law enforcement capacity from the county. We are forced to unite, fund raise, spend immense amounts of time trying to raise money, just to hold our government accountable for atrocities where the average citizen would immediately be put in jail.
President Trump, while I could go on for pages and pages of examples like these, I believe you get the point. We are under attack and the pervasive ideology of these regulatory and management agencies has run amok and is, and has been destroying our livelihoods, communities and our country for far too long. With your recent appointment of Mr. Zinke, I beg you to have your staff contact us so we may give you the “real story” about what is happening on our public lands and to the small mining community.
We will be sending this letter to you, and your staff on a weekly basis to bring attention to this very large group of patriotic Americans who desperately need your help.
Mr. Shannon Poe
American Mining Rights Association
PMB #607, 6386 Greeley Hill Road
Coulterville CA 95311
(209) 878-3910 Office