In answer to the question we posed yesterday on which state AMRA has the most complaints about access, interference with mining, road closures, USFS and other issues, 5 of the 77 comments we received were correct.
Montana is home….by far to the most complaints of all the states in the Union.
Oregon is likely number 2, but we don’t field anywhere near the number of complaints there, probably due to the fact that Kerby Jackson and Karen Darnell are up there and field quite of few of the problems so AMRA is not contacted as much. Idaho and Colorado are right with Oregon, then Washington and Arizona.
We’d like to tell you about some of these folks we are helping and working with and please keep in mind these are brief summaries. To include all the specific details in their cases, it would be a Steven King novel.
One man, a military veteran has several mining claims he’s owned for decades (hard rock/lode mines). Forest Service came in and told him he needed Plans of Operations (PoO) for him to access the claim and to keep his powder magazine on the claim (small building holding his blasting materials). Even though USFS is a “surface management agency” and he is underground. They said because he had the little shed above ground, he’d need the PoO, had to put up a huge bond and needed to immediately remove the shed even though he had a permit approved and in hand from ATF (Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms). This eventually resulted in a citation from the USFS when it wasn’t removed. His other storage building had to be removed and now his road access is being blocked. His partner passed away waiting for approval from USFS and folks…..it’s been 6 years he has been waiting for a simple 60 day approval process. We even have video and audio footage of these particular FS officers saying I don’t care what you do, we’ll never let you mine in this state.
Another man is simply wanting to run a small bobcat on his claim on the side of the mountain to dig up a placer deposit. This is after years of obstruction by the USFS and even the USFS stating his claim is in a “flood plain” on the side of the mountain in a dry wash. When we demanded they give the scientific justification for the flood plain determination, they sent a map which looks like it was drawn with a crayon and trotted out people within the agency acting as Rangers and Geologists when they have zero experience, or no educational background in those fields. One man was a fuel tech who was acting as a geologist. They had delayed this man until we finally had conference calls with the USFS and the miner and his PoO was approved…..only to have them come back after that and deny his access to use the road to the claim even though he’s approved to mine. Can’t mine if you can’t get there.
Three days ago we received a call from a lady in MT who her family has owned a patented claim since 1952. Patented is purely private property and is not subject to the same scrutiny or over-sight by the USFS. USFS is denying her access to her property on a road which was created in the late 1800’s falling under RS2477. As most of you know by now because we have written extensively on RS2477 which states lands in the public domain open to mineral entry are required to remain open. This is recently backed up by a Utah Supreme Court case (unanimous ruling) that any roads which were built prior to FLPMA (Federal Lands Policy Management Act) of 1976) must remain open. Not should, could, or may, but MUST remain open to the public. This case is backed up by several other federal laws regarding private property and even a Montana state law which was passed in 2012 which requires owner access for any mining claim, patented or unpatented.
While this isn’t Montana, just last night we received yet another email from a person who has a 5 acre mining claim in Colorado and are being told by USFS they cannot access this patented property using the 140 year old road. USFS told them they need to “purchase property” from USFS which is a small sliver in order to use their private property.
Another man in Colorado just recently had someone top file (making an illegal claim on top of one he already owns and we’ve validated) his claim, file a plan of operations with USFS to dredge his claim and that approval process is underway. This opens up some legal issues of the USFS approving someone to mine someone else’s claim. Obviously this is one we are very actively working on.
Folks, this is why we were going to Washington DC before this virus broke out. We could literally fill boxes of evidence, cases and stories of out of control agencies like these here in the USFS. BLM is not much better.
This is why we introduced the Act we want Trump to pass. Modeled after the Veteran’s Accountability and Whistleblower Act. Simply put, if people within the USFS, BLM or any other agencies we hope to name in the Act operate outside their authority or try to instill their political ideology and agenda instead of doing their job to “foster and encourage mining”, they’re fired. For far too long these people have operated without any fear of accountability, that needs to change.
Know that during this shutdown, we are very, very busy still…trying to help those who have the boot of government on their necks.