We wanted to give you an update here in Idaho. Things are beginning to get very interesting.
Last night, we were approached by the USFS LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) who informed us that we will be required to accept a “notice of non-compliance” or a “warning of non-compliance” which are essentially one in the same. The notice gives us 48 hours to “get in compliance” or face citation and arrest. To get in compliance, we would have to obtain a Plan of Operations, which is fundamentally impossible to obtain in that time line. We are being told we have to pull our dredges from our real property mining claims which we have valid permits from the State of Idaho to mine. We have even walked with, and worked very closely with Idaho Department of Water Resources all this week on critical habitat, where we can and cannot dredge and they believe we are completely in compliance for the state.
Yes folks, the USFS are talking arrest for not obtaining a Plan of Operations (PoO) for suction dredging which is not required as a matter of settled law. The basis for the creation of requiring the PoO by this particular USFS division was, in our opinion created fraudulently. The miner determines what is a “significant disturbance”, then the miner is to work with, and consult with the District Ranger for what steps to follow after that determination. District Ranger Nevius up here in the Nez Perce NF has stated, on film in front of us, and his own Supervisor Cheryl Probert that he does not consider suction dredging as causing a significant disturbance. The only other reason Probert has stated as the reason for a PoO is that the studies show it is potentially impactful. The study the USFS adopted which she cites has on all items studied came back “deminimus” meaning no harm. No harm, but she still puts forth this shutdown and regulatory nightmare. She has refused to talk with the stakeholders (the miners with claims) and has unilaterally forced egregious regulations down the throats adversely impacting the stakeholders way of life, their income and even results in a degradation of the value of the claims up here as a result of these regulations.
Of note……..we can quote a dozen other District Rangers within the USFS which firmly believe a PoO is NOT required for suction dredging with a 6″ or smaller, but this one little division is the only one in the entire United States we are aware of which is claiming it is required, the only one. As a Federal agency who’s charter is “to encourage mining” and manage the “people’s forests” they sure aren’t consistent, nor are they following the law in our opinion.
We will be posting about this more shortly and will be giving the USFS our formal response on this issue at 5pm tomorrow as agreed by both parties. They will be coming to our camp.
We have been very professional, polite, but very firm in our confidence of what we know about the laws, the regulations and their authority over requiring this. In fact, we have yet to meet anyone within the USFS which can have an in depth conversation about the specific laws and regulations with us and at the same level as our knowledge. This statement is not intended to sound braggadocios, but a statement of just how uninformed the people we are having to deal with actually are.
We are heading to Grangeville to meet with the Sheriff.
More to come shortly as we are sending this from a little Cafe in Elk City ID and have very limited access to the internet.