When Dredges are Outlawed, only Outlaws will have Dredges

Only a few short years ago I made a brief video of my dredge running in a swimming pool. I did this to make the point that if small scale miners didn’t band together to fight the forces that are trying to eliminate us from California’s waterways, the only place we would have left to dredge would be in swimming pools! Not a fun ‘prospect’ (pardon my pun!) for any of us. Here we are in the Spring of 2012, almost a year into Calif. Governor Brown, signing of a FIVE YEAR dredging moratorium and the Dept. of Fish and Game just released its final (very biased “don’t confuse DFG with the facts because the outcome was rigged from the start”) version of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Report and the new Suction Dredge regulations were filed (railroaded) with barely a two week period for public comment, which is against the law. Of course the public comments and unbiased scientific studies were ignored just as they have been ignored for the most part throughout this entire process. It is obvious that the goal here is to regulate dredging out of existence by implementing such restrictive regulations that it becomes much too difficult and unprofitable to continue dredging within the bounds of the law.

Dredging season was cut short during 2009 by Gov. Schwarzenegger,  AKA  ‘the Governator’ signing SB670. Later in the fall, my son and I had to drive hundreds of miles to attend (the closest one to us) one of the DFG’s rigged public hearings, which along with the rest of the process, was held as a formality so they could say they followed “ The Process” . There we learned that insects were actually considered fish by DFG and other bureaucratic techno speak. Though only written questions were allowed to be submitted at the formal presentation, I personally spoke with Mark Stopher, who is overseeing this train wreck of regulations. I helped (or so it seemed at the time) educate him about the benefits of dredgers removing lead, mercury and other metals from the rivers along with what gold we could find. He nodded and seemed to genuinely understand the value that dredgers contribute to the economy as well.

The new “improved” dredge regulations are filled with absurd rules that have never, and would not be foisted on other outdoor “user groups”, though they soon will if this is allowed to stand. Here are a few examples: Besides the outright closing to dredging of numerous California rivers and creeks,  things like imposing Dredging Hours of 10am to 4pm is outrageous! This would never be tolerated if imposed on other businesses. And having to keep a logbook with you at all times, showing the hours and locations you have dredged smacks of Communist countries’ regulations, designed to keep their people under the regime’s collective thumb. I can just hear it now, I’m relaxing after a day of dredging (with my modified and reduced to 4 inch intake to meet the new rules dredge), it’s 5:00pm and a Ranger walks into our camp and demands “Where are your papers? I heard a dredge running over here after 4 pm!” Can you say GESTAPO? We live in the age of insanity on so many levels. California which was once the ‘Golden State’ and the ‘Land of Opportunity’ is now neither.  Regulations and high taxes are driving taxpayers and BUSINESSES that create jobs and hire people, out of the state in droves. Those that run the state (into the ground) continue to increase spending and add to the complexity of regulations. Gov. Brown’s new budget increases spending by $ 7 Billion and increases taxes while California teeters on the edge of the financial abyss.

 The Dept. of Fish and Game says the fees charged to issue dredge permits don’t cover the costs associated with the issuance of said permits. They say they will have to raise the fees dramatically  if dredge permits are ever issued again. Of course they don’t cover costs when you make up a bunch of darn near impossible to follow rules and task the rangers, game wardens and other “enforcement” agencies with the responsibility to go out and catch those “Outlaw Dredgers” that are not following the rules! They have already for all intents and purposes shut down the lumber industry in California. They are now  working on the miners, and when they are finished with the miners, who will be next? The small rural communities are the ones that suffer most in the quest to “save the environment”, but all of us are losing out in so many ways. What we are losing the most is our FREEDOM.  Let’s stand together against this tyranny! I am supporting Public Lands for the People’s legal challenges to each step of this process, which involves several lawsuits. Which by the way, are based on solid ground and have a real good chance to get dredgers back in the water, dredging under the old, much more sane regulations. We can’t fight this individually, but as a group through PLP’s efforts , we wield a lot of clout. Let’s not allow politicians and environmentalists steal our mineral resources from us under the guise of “protecting the environment”.

Here is what President Lincoln told House Speaker Schuyler Colfax in the afternoon before departing to Ford’s theater where an assassin’s bullet cut him down. Colfax was about to depart on a trip to California, which Lincoln dearly wanted to see. He was planning to take his wife there. He told Speaker Colfax, “During the war when we were adding a couple of million dollars every day to our national debt, I did not care about encouraging the increase in the volume of our precious metals. We had the country to save first. But now that the rebellion is overthrown and we know pretty nearly the amount of our national debt, the more gold and silver we mine makes the payment of that debt the easier.” Colfax was heading out to California, to which Lincoln gave him this message to give to those in California: “Tell the miners from me, that I shall promote their interests to the utmost of my ability; because their prosperity is the prosperity of the nation, and we shall prove in a very few years that we are indeed the treasury of the world…Don’t forget, Colfax, tell those miners that that is my speech to them, which I send by you. Let me hear from you on the road, and I will telegraph you in San Francisco. Pleasant journey and good bye.”

We have surely come a long way since 1865, and have forgotten why California was named “The Golden State”. I understand the value of preserving our natural resources for future generations, but  it needs to be done without trampling United States Citizens’ rights under the Constitution. Let’s try to protect the resources we have without endangering one that once is lost, is seldom, if ever recovered:   FREEDOM.

I ask you, is it now time to throw the tea into the harbor?


 This was published in the Pick and Shovel Gazzette June/July 2012

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