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The Pioneer Press at the very top of the State of California grants permission for this article to be copied and forwarded.

Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California, January 11, 2006, Vol  33, No. 9 Page 1, column 1

Karuks file lawsuit

 DFG hits property rights; The state increases regulations without due public process.

 By Liz Bowen, Pioneer Press Assistant Editor, Fort Jones, California

 YREKA, Calif. – “It can’t be legal,” said Dave McCracken, president of the New 49ers with over 1,000 members.

His organization pursues recreational gold mining in the Klamath, Salmon and Scott Rivers.

Ten years ago, McCracken was part of a committee that worked with the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) to establish a one-time environmental process that would allow for a simple permit application for a miner doing suction dredge mining.

“It was similar to what agriculture is doing now,” said McCracken, referring to the coho salmon Incidental Take applications and permits that are in the negotiation stage with the DFG.

After the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) process was accomplished and three Environmental Impact Reports developed, new regulations were established for the permitting of gold suction dredging.

It was a public process with all sides of the issue at the committee table.

But now that “painstaking” process is moot.

Additional regulations that will stop miners from working significant portions of their claims have been implemented by the DFG.

“The Attorney General and Department of Fish and Game has gone behind closed doors and given away private property,” McCracken told the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors last week.

 Leaf Hillman files lawsuit for Karuks

 Last summer, the Karuk Tribe of California lost its lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service, which would have stopped the recreational gold miners from their pursuit. Yet, apparently the Tribe decided on another tactic.

Recently, it was learned that Karuk Tribal Vice Chairman Leaf Hillman filed another suit against the California Department of Fish and Game in Alameda County. And it appears that the state agency bowed to the Karuks and changed regulations regarding recreational mining. The problem, say the miners, is that it was done without using the public process for challenges, fact finding and comments.

More than 30 recreational gold miners attended the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors meeting last week and gave voice to the atrocity.

All five county supervisors and the planning department agreed.

“They have not followed due process with these regulations,” said Wayne Virag, director of the county department of planning. It is his office that wrote a resolution for the supervisors, which will serve as a declaration to the Alameda Superior Court.

Supervisor Marcia Armstrong suggested a few word changes, which made several statements stronger referring to miners’ claims as “valuable property rights.”

“What is going on with the Karuks?” questioned Supervisor LaVada Erickson, wondering why they would bring another lawsuit. “You are justified in coming forward,” she told the miners.

In contradiction, just last month, Hillman and leaders of the Karuk Tribe, along with its Indian Gaming management attorney told the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisor’s that the tribe will “dedicate a portion” of its newest casino proposal funds for natural resource programs on the Klamath River. Supervisor Armstrong challenged Hillman at that Dec. 6, 2005 meeting and asked him how the Karuks would work with other natural resource users that they had litigated against, including the gold miners and Upper Klamath farmers.

The Karuks responded that they were good neighbors and would work to benefit the community.

Supervisor Bill Hoy said that it has been shown that suction dredge mining “is actually beneficial to the fish, because it breaks up the hard river bottom,” which is where returning salmon lay their eggs, called redds.

Supervisor Bill Overman agreed that the DFG is affecting property rights and “we better protect our property rights.”

He added that letters of concern should be sent to the several dozen other rural counties in the state.

Supervisor Jim Cook moved to adopt the resolution with the few word changes and also contact additional agencies of the county’s stand on the issue. The motion passed 5 to 0.





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