Gold mining claims sought on NF Clearwater and Kelly Creek

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Kent Lufkin, Aug 17, 2012.

  1. An email is being circulated by the Kelly Creek Flyfishers stating that earlier this year someone posted notices at turnouts, ad hoc camping spots, and access points along the NF Clearwater and Kelly Creek. The notices stated that those areas were now mining claims and asked the public to 'Please Respect Our Private Property'. The wording suggested that the locations were posted and closed to fishing or other public use.

    In a call to USFS Regional Geologist Clint Hughes, he confirmed the account in the email about the notices. He went on to describe interest by unknown people or groups in obtaining suction dredging mining claims, but since none has filed a formal application their identities are unknown. Mr. Hughes personally removed the notices he could find along both streams and replaced them with his business card.

    According to Mr. Hughes, the fact that gold is currently trading at over $1600 an ounce has motivated people to stake claims not only along these two streams but in other locations in national forests as well.

    But any legitimate mining claim grants only mineral rights, NOT property rights or the title to any land. Even when permits are granted, the owners of the permits cannot keep other users from accessing the rivers (although the public can be prohibited from 'materially interfering' with legitimate mining operations.) Mining locations cannot be posted as No Trespassing, simply because a claim was granted.

    It gets even more complicated though.

    Mr. Hughes told me that the folks who posted the original notices appear to have no intentions of actually working the claim themselves. Instead they or someone acting on their behalf have posted their nonexistant claims for sale on eBay and Craigslist. The USFS and BLM have succeeded in shutting down those posts, but apparently it's like a game of Whack A Mole.

    Both agencies are required by law to grant any legitimate mining claim. But before doing so, they need to present their position to an Administrative Law judge who will decide not only the validity of the claim, but weigh the claims of superior use by others, such as fishermen.

    Mr. Hughes stated that the USFS is required to prepare a report for the judge that presents competing claims and an evaluation of the commercial viability of the mining claim. Mr. Hughes stated that the USFS won't be able to begin preparing their report until next year and that part of their report will include results from actual test dredging to determine the viability of the claim. Their report will also evaluate competing interests such as recreation and the degree to which those interests use the same area.

    Only after the judge rules on the legitimacy of such claims can the agencies then accept and grant applications. Any applications for a claim must be accompanied by a detailed plan that identifies environmental risks, pollution, mitigation etc. USFS and BLM have the right to reject applications that are not accompanied by such a report.

    It could be 2 years or more until the case is presented to the judge. In the meantime the USFS is interested in hearing from individuals and groups who may be opposed to granting any such mining claims.

    If you feel like sharing your opposition to granting mining claims on the NF Clearwater and Kelly Creek, please contact USFS recreational specialist Adam McCrory at the Potlach-Palouse Ranger District, North Zone, at 208-875-1734.

    Duane J, KerryS, ribka and 1 other person like this.
  2. Great report and heads-up, Kent.
  3. This is an important issue. Suction dredging can have disastrous effect on the aquatic invertebrates that live in the stream bottom gravel, and which form the base of the food chain for trout.

    I've been fishing the Clearwater every year for many years now. I generally don't talk it up much on line, because I don't want to increase the pressure on a sensitive native westslope cutthroat fishery. However, this is one time when support from a broad community of fishermen who appreciate what is one of the finest remaining native westslope fisheries in the Rockies might be needed to keep it as one.

    Kent Lufkin and Derek Young like this.
  4. Thanks for doing the research. Keep up posted if you hear more.
  5. Thanks for the info Kent. I've seen these "claims" up on the Lochsa as well. In addition to "respect our private property rights" these notices also state " you've been warned" or words to that effect. These notices are not only somewhat misleading but also threatening in a vague non-specific sort of way. The "recreational" suction mining has been bad enough over the years, but the thought of large scale placer operations is extremely disturbing.

    I think this is something we all need to get involved in. I'm going to call Mr. McCrory Monday morning.
  6. I found what appeared to be placer equipment on the St. Joe last weekend, as well as observed active mining activity on a Sky trib a couple of weeks back. Similarly, signs were posted at these locations on the trib, but did not contain any threats, only notifications. I didn't bother to interrupt them. If they are suction dredging, which I've also seen people do on the Yakima, I can't imagine permitting being done that allows it.
  7. Fuck suction dredging.

    Also fuck fake "this here property be mine!" threats.
    Cedar and Lugan like this.
  8. Just this past weekend, I was fishing with someone on the Hancock tree farm. On the way out we stopped on the bridge over the NF Snoqualmie closest to the Hancock gate. We saw what appeared to be a piece of mining equipment in the river under the bridge. It was some kind of conveyor system that appeared to funnel gravel for sorting. I saw a similar contraption on the Beckler River half a decade ago. It's amazing that it's allowed given the ratio of ecosystem damage to economic benefit.
  9. thanks for the FYI.

    Write a Letter this weekend and get the neighbors to write

    See if the local fly shops sporting goods store allow me to post something.

    Every time the wife and I go to this area we both say how special it is.
  10. I say lets watch the operation, but let them be. If they're willing to work for some gold, more power to them, at least they ain't sitting back waiting for a handout. This is the land of free enterprise after all.
  11. we have plenty of gold so why more? is there a scenic river deal? mike w
  12. After I read this, the little winged fella on my right shoulder said, through tiny tears, the usual things about peace, free enterprise, and the rule of law. Meanwhile, the cloaked little guy on my left shoulder was saying,
    "Remember when we used to deal with shit like this with an immediate public lynching?"
    Alex MacDonald likes this.
  13. There are a lot of suction dredgers along Blewett.

    The Idaho claims are different than Washington because of the Clean Water Act, which is administered federally in Idaho and by Washington State DOE. So, I think each individual dredger must obtain a non-source pollution permit from the feds in Idaho, which they don't have to do other words, individuals gold mining in Idaho is a lot more complicated. Unfortunately here, it isn't.

    The irony of the suction dredgers on Blewett, as well as the Wenatchee, is most of that watershed is closed to fishing, yet the suction dredgers can get in there...if you haven't seen the plumes of sediment they leave when they are done, PM me and I can send you pictures.

  14. Ok, I found the pictures on my laptop:

    IMGP5962.JPG IMGP5967.JPG

    And here is one thought...these pictures were taken on the upper reaches of the Pershastin, a stream that is closed to fishing to protect salmon and bull trout.

  15. Notwithstanding the environmental impacts of the suction dredging process itself and the thinly-veiled threats of retaliation by claimants against perceived 'trespassers', I guess what bothers me most about the claims on the NF and Kelly Creek is that they appear to be made by shadowy people or groups - speculators - who seem more intent on turning a profit by selling their dubious claims to others on eBay or Craigslist who are dazzled by the prospect of cashing in on the high price of gold.

    As Clint Hughes noted yesterday, the USFS has no way of knowing whether there's any gold at all in either stream. While further testing can reveal the possible viability of the streams as mining resources, there's no such confusion over the area's rich value as a destination for flyfishers. Let's err on the side of protecting the area for what it is, instead of possibly compromising the resource so it can provide a quick buck to speculators.

  16. You're kidding right I did not see the tongue in cheek emoticon. Just sit back and watch a beautiful stream be sucked up and spit out without any oversight/without a plan/without enviornmental protections.
    If the potential gold miners want to work to get a few ounces of gold then let them buy a gold pan and a shovel and go to work. They may need a mule too to haul their riches out.
  17. Excellent, then I'll be opening my methlab next door to you. After all, I'm just trying to make a buck, right? Better than a handout.
    Alex MacDonald and Skysoldier like this.
  18. Yeah what the hell......why worry about them destroying these fisheries there are so many others out there right? After all they are only trying to make a buck and I am sure that once they completely destroy these waters that they will not move on to do the same thing again.
  19. Do you know how long it would take you all to pan out a ounce of gold. It takes quite a while in time and time.

    I have a buddy that used to work the hell out of Olney Creek. He did the dredging thing and it took him a long time to get enough gold to make something out of it. Gold is not that easy to come up with anymore. And it takes a hell of a lot of small flakes to make an ounce.

    Maybe it's just a small hobby, but in money spent earned. is not there.
  20. Not so fast boys. As Kim pointed out in her excellent post above, we're talking about Idaho where mining claims are granted and administered by the feds, not Washington where the state regulates them and pretty much all one needs to get a claim is a pulse. Thanks to the feds' regulation, it's a lot harder for 'hobbyist' miners to get permits in Idaho than it is Washington. An open question though is who exactly is behind the 'claims'? Is it hobbyists or is it a front for commercial mining interests who have larger plans for the area?

    Both the USFS and the BLM will be preparing reports and recommendations that will be reviewed by a federal judge before either agency can even extend an application for a claim, let alone grant one. On the basis of either agency's reports or other input, the judge may decide not to allow any applications to be extended. If he does allow the process to proceed, but the applicants don't meet the standards for environmental protection, applications for claims still may not be approved by the agencies.

    The point here is that we can play a role in the process by communicating with the USFS to voice our opposition to suction dredge mining on these streams. Your opposition will go on record where it will be incorporated into the agency's recommendation to the judge, along with other information like adverse environmental impacts and the potential viability of the area as a commercial enterprise. If you belong to a fishing club or organization, voicing opposition on behalf of a larger organization carries even more clout.


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