Many of you know we had a meeting with Stanislaus National Forest Supervisor Susan Skalski about the gates, boulders blocking camping and mining areas and their violations of Federal law in denying the small miners access to their claims. Here is a recap of that meeting from yesterday:
The meeting lasted for over 2 hours and much was accomplished, some will be for another series of meetings which we will explain. We wanted to open with the fact that the meeting was not a “gotcha” meeting and we would like to have open communication and involvement with “our” forests.
We had numerous questions about the legality of the gates and denying access to literally thousands of mining claim owners in the SNF, as well as tens of thousands of hunters, hikers, fishermen et al. Our first question was who was currently being allowed access and the response was land owners and nobody else. We pointed out that Sierra Fund and rafters were included and they conceded this was also true. We wanted to establish, at the onset that people who are recognized as “land owners” were being granted access. Literally minutes before the meeting, a letter from Ms. Skalski was handed to us which was her responses to Tom Cullen’s letters with the same questions we had, and in that letter it stated that they would allow access to “patented mining claim owners” and not “non-patented claim owners”. I can already see many of you going “whoa….wait a minute”. We have your back.
We had in our possession several cases which have conclusively decided that patented claim owners (US v Shumway to name just one) and non-patented claim owners are one in the same and are granted the same right of access. We also cited other cases from the 9th circuit and even the Supreme Court. Somebody obviously gave them some very, very bad information and to be honest folks, they were truly shocked, surprised and what we would label as horrified. Trust us, the surprise was genuine. This is prompting an immediate red alert with their legal department and Ms. Skalski. For glaringly obvious reasons. We have a document they provided to us immediately prior to the meeting which clearly shows discrimination between patented claim owners and non-patented claim owners when there are numerous cases which have been litigated over this very point….all in favor of the miners. This point was made many, many times that they are in violation of federal law and trust us, they know it now. This is what we call in the legal world as an “absolute winner” for us.
In reference to the rocks blocking camping and mining claim access: When asked about this specifically, Ms. Skalksi notified us it was the “travel management plan group”. I asked her who was in charge of that and her reply was “I am”. “Well, I guess we’re in the right room then” was our reply. She claimed she needed her leads on the TMP and we are coordinating another meeting very soon (you who know me, know I am not much of a patient man) with them to discuss the rocks, funding for them, the reasons behind them and the ADA violations in discriminating against the handicapped since they cannot monkey crawl over VW bug sized boulders to access their claims deliberately put there by the USFS. To be ctnd at a later date… Also we will be meeting with the BAER team, this is the fire remediation group we met last summer, they seem to be involved in the rocks as well, so we will have our day in front of them very soon as well.
They had the new District Ranger over this entire area there, his name is Jim Junette and it was his second day in this position. He seems to be a very genuine man and devoted to the forests. He also is a dredger and owns 3 dredges. Yes, you heard that correctly. He is a local man (Sonora) and we have high hopes for working with Mr. Junette.
We have opened a line of communication with Mr. Junette and a direct line of communication with Ms. Skalski now and we will keep you abreast of the developments as they happen.
At the end of the meeting, they asked us to highlight on a map the areas in which we would like to see opened soon, I circled everything below 6000 ft in elevation. This also led to discussion about what type of locks, keys, push button locks and how to prove a valid claim. This particular discussion indicates they realize we will be getting access…………period.
They were professional, polite as were we. We thank them for letting us open their eyes to the truth, laws and your rights. We also need to thank John Ratley our Field Manager, Tom Cullen (AMRA member and a very, very articulate and intelligent man who provided us with a lot of research) and Paul Bunt, our attorney for taking an entire day to devote to this crucial issue. We apologize, but part of your legal fund went to buy these guys lunch today…
Obviously, there was much, much more discussed and many more questions asked, but to be honest, I don’t feel like sitting here for an additional hour to discuss minutia. We just ask that you trust AMRA is knowledgeable, informed, articulate, legally educated and working our butts off to open YOUR lands. We don’t back up, we don’t compromise and we are here for all the people who like to enjoy our outdoors………especially the small miners, which is precisely what we are.
Join us, join AMRA and get in this fight with us. americanminingrights.com