by Jim Zambenini
Gather ’round my soapbox for a minute because this is very important. Your ability to mine and prospect on YOUR Public Lands is being consistently threatened. There are special interest groups that would like to see an end to our prospecting heritage. While some of their members do mean well, their attacks are misplaced and not founded in solid science. Those of us who prospect can truly see the impact of various user groups on our Public Lands so we know shutting down prospecting would just be the beginning. The irony is that a successful campaign to stop prospecting could lead to the cessation of fishing, rafting, mountain biking, horseback riding, and hiking in these same areas.
“What can I do?”
This is a three-part solution and if you’re like the majority of the prospectors I know, then you already fulfill at least half of this:
- Be blameless.
- Be an educator.
- Be politically active.
This is simple. Remember that you are an ambassador for recreational miners and what people see in you, they will think is true of us all. Don’t trespass on private land. Pack out all your trash and some that’s not yours. Collect and dispose of the mercury, lead, and other metal scrap you find. Fill in your holes that are close to or above the high water line. Be extremely careful with your gas and oil if you’re using power equipment. If you have equipment on flotation, then install a drip/catch pan under the engine. Hold the proper permits, when required. Be courteous and don’t obstruct any other land users.
Being an Educator:
Take time to tell other users about what you do. Be the voice of calm and reason even when people are abusive. Explain to other users that we must use solid science to determine environmental impact and that emerging scientific data shows BENEFITS from small scale mining. Tell them about the mercury and lead you remove, the metal scraps and trash you pack out. If you’re a dredger, then you can probably tell them first hand about fish that swim behind your sluice, feeding on the helgremites and other foods being released as you aerate the compacted stream bed gravels. I even heard an account of a bald eagle feeding on these fish behind a running dredge! We have to educate other users of the fact that, by their sheer numbers alone, they have a greater environmental impact than recreational miners. We must all work together to keep our Public Lands open.
Being Politically Active:
Wait! Don’t leave; this is easier than you think, thanks to The Mother Lode Research Center. This nonprofit organization works hard to be the voice of sanity in the wilderness and we all owe them a great deal of thanks. Their Home Page makes it easy to see the current issues and how you can best respond to them. Your financial contributions to the MLRC can help ensure the freedom of Your Public Lands for yourself and your future generations. Please click on their logo and pay them a visit.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Mother Lode Research Center appears to no longer exist, as its founder, Ron Stockman, passed away in 2003. There are several other fine organizations to support or get involved with, and we will post links to those soon.