We came across this article from Washington state recently and it really speaks to the national threat all gold prospectors face in the coming years. We encourage all of you to write or call your local congressional representative and voice your opinion on these unfair and misguided regulations which are threatening our hobby. We also encourage you to join clubs and organizations like the GPAA (www.goldprospectors.org) and Dave McCracken's the New 49ers (www.goldgold.com/legal/) which fight everyday to protect our rights as independent prospectors.
11/09 UPDATE: since this article was posted, dredging has been totally banned in all of California and there is new growing concern Oregon will follow suit. Several lawsuits are in progress challenging government encroachment on our rights.
Dreams of Gold Dashed
Hobby Prospectors May Become Thing of the Past
Posted Jan 4, 11:09 am.
By Russ Mohney:The Chronicle
"For more than 150 years the search for valuable minerals, especially gold, drove much of the economy and the population shifts of a young America.
It was part of a heritage that allowed a person with little promise, but a lot of energy, to make his own way by searching for nature’s treasures in watersheds from Georgia to Sacramento.
Even during the Great Depression, down-and-outers managed to keep fed and warm by prowling the creeks and rivers on Southwest Washington, gleaning a few grains of precious minerals here and there.
Then in 1999 the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife effectively ended the opportunity for the citizens of the state to participate in recreational gold prospecting. They passed a set of utterly preposterous and punitive regulations that severely limited access to any placer gold in the state.
The new Washington regs were called the most restrictive in the United States and even contradicted federal rules for prospecting. It didn’t matter to Washington bureaucrats. Their actions, they explained, were “to protect the salmon,” apparently rendering individual citizen rights null and void.
The WDFW had apparently given the salmon the status of Godhood, a philosophy that has crushed civil rights along with flooded homes and destroyed bridges along the watercourses.
Now, the WDFW says they will revise the rules, and are holding a series of public meetings for hobby prospectors to explain their new regulation package.
The fact that the WDFW will not allow any public comment at the meetings may give you some inkling of whether the new rules will reform the tradition or just add enough layers of severe restriction to kill recreational prospecting once and for all in Washington.
It is the position of the WDFW that a few recreational prospectors will create enough silt in the water with their equipment to kill countless salmon and destroy their redds.
In fact, all the silt produced by all the gold prospectors in the history of the Chehalis River, for example, doesn’t equal a half-second of silt produced by early December flooding.
That doesn’t matter to the WDFW bureaucrats. Recreational equipment will be allowed in the Chehalis above the South Fork for just 15 days a year!
At a 1999 hearing at the legislature in Olympia, attended by habitat manager Greg Hueckel and the department’s “Gold and Fish” editor Pat Chapman, the silt issue was brushed aside when one of the staff told me, “I can’t control nature, but I can control you, and I’m going to!”
That attitude still prevails in practically everything the WDFW does, so don’t expect the new rules to make recreational prospecting better.
The bureaucratic ninnies are determined to drive every family that enjoys prospecting as part of their outdoor experience to other states, and the new rules that the Commission will adopt in early February will seal the end of a fun activity in our state.
By the way, none of those who write or promote these over-restrictive rules have ever been elected to office or confirmed by anyone who was.
The hearings will be held in Spokane, Ellensburg, Mill Creek, and Vancouver.
You can check the agency Web site at www.wdfw.wa.gov for details if you really want to attend, but don’t plan on testifying against any of their punitive schemes; remember, these WDFW managers are committed to controlling you instead of effectively managing the resources of the state."
Russ Mohney, who describes himself as a “peasant naturalist,” is a fourth-generation Lewis County outdoorsman. He has published several books and many articles nationally, and continues to write on a variety of outdoor recreation subjects. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, at P.O. Box 580, Centralia, WA 98531 or by telephone at 736-BIRD.
article courtesy of: www.chronline.com