On January 12, 2006, a press release from the
Karuk Tribe was printed in the Siskiyou Daily
News entitled "Minor restrictions placed on
suction dredge mining."
In the interest of providing a balanced view of this
situation we would like to address what we view as
misinformation presented by Sandi Tripp, Natural
Resources Director for the Karuk Tribe and Leaf
Hillman, Vice-Chair of the Karuk Tribe.
The caption on that press release would lead readers
to believe that the settlement reached by the tribe
and the California Department of Fish and Game
(DFG), and the resulting restrictions, are nothing
more than a minor inconvenience to suction dredge
Nothing could be farther from the truth; the
restrictions placed on suction dredge miners, who
are valid mining claim holders, amount to a "taking"
of private property. The word "taking" is a legal
term, meaning that government has taken private
property without monetary compensation. Mining
claims are private property as defined by statute
and upheld by courts.
The act of closing streams to suction dredge mining,
or of severely limiting the season for this activity
without going through the proper legal channels, has
the effect of taking a miner’s claim, because he can
no longer work it; or, in the case of a limited
season, cannot work long enough to make a profit in
such a limited time. A great many miners are
actually small businesses and depend on their
ability to mine for their living. In many cases
miners have thousands of dollars invested in
equipment and fees, and the money they bring to the
local community supports those businesses that
provide services; hotels, motels and RV parks, as
well as restaurants, markets, gas stations, beauty
shops and many other small businesses in our
communities. Many of those businesses depend
on this income to stay in business, and the loss of
that business is definitely not a "minor
Miners come to Siskiyou County from many different
states, providing a huge boost to the economy of the
county and its businesses. If their ability to mine
is taken from them, they will not come. It’s
as simple as that.
It can be seen from our severely limited press
release, that this settlement and the resulting
restrictions are much more than a minor
inconvenience; they strike at the very heart of
private property rights and severely impact the
economy of the county and the towns within it.
Sandi Tripp and Leaf Hillman are quoted as saying,
"This should not be interpreted as Indian versus
miner issue." "Miners still have over 255
miles of river open to them."
This action and resulting restrictions cannot be
interpreted in any other way. Miners are not
attacking any other water resource users. The Karuk
Tribe has set mining firmly in their sights as an
activity to be eliminated. Just last year the tribe
sued the USFS in an attempt to eliminate miners
through a very complicated process of USFS
permitting which, if implemented, would have the
effect of stopping suction dredge mining within the
national forest. The tribe lost that lawsuit, using
the same arguments they have used in this
Miners do not have unlimited river resources to mine
in, or 255 miles. Suction dredge mining can only be
successfully done where the gold comes to rest and
where it is accessible by a suction gold dredge.
This statement by Sandi Tripp and Leaf Hillman
speaks to their limited understanding of both
suction dredge mining and river conditions that may
or may not be conducive to suction dredge mining.
Their statement would lead readers to believe that
the entire river is blanketed with gold and all a
miner has to do is put his dredge in the river
anywhere he chooses and gold will be recovered.
If gold were that easy to find, it would not be
worth nearly so much!
Gold only accumulates in places that are favorable
to stopping its downstream movement. These
places have to be found; they do not encompass the
whole river bed. Many places in our rivers and
streams are too deep in both water and gravel to be
successfully dredged. Many places have limited or no
access to the river. In many places the water is
moving too fast to be dredged.
Hillman and Tripp are quoted as saying, "Despite the
clear recognition that salmon and other fish are in
trouble, Fish and Game continued to allow suction
dredging during spawning and migration. This
agreement redresses the issue."
The truth is just the opposite of this assertion.
The California Department of Fish and Game protects
fish by establishing dredging seasons that are
outside the period of fish spawning and egg
hatching, in areas used by the salmon for spawning.
An inference that suction dredge mining is harming
fish is not supported by science. There is no
evidence of this in the many studies that have been
done by universities, government and individual
scientists, in this or in any other state.
Compare this with the Karuk Tribe claim that suction
dredge mining causes harm to salmon stocks that are
in trouble, while at the same time they continue to
take salmon even though they admit that they have no
federally mandated fishing rights.
This, coupled with DFG not enforcing fishing
regulations by simply looking the other way, leads
one to ask this question. "If harm to salmon stocks
that are in trouble is the real issue at hand, which
activity has the most impact on salmon; suction
dredge mining with no evidence of ever having killed
a fish, or tribal fishing without regard to the law
of the land that other users must adhere to?
They accuse DFG of allowing suction dredge mining
during the spawning and migration of salmon, while
at the same time they take those very same salmon,
effectively reducing the returning stocks as well as
juvenile salmon in their second or third year and
the future salmon stocks in the form of eggs within
the returning salmon.
The truth is that suction dredge mining has taken
place on the streams of California for the last
fifty years, and in that time there have been peak
and low cycles of salmon. To single out one activity
and take private property from citizens on mere
speculation, or due to a special interest group’s
vague agenda is patently wrong and patently illegal.
Recent scientific studies show that the salmon
crisis is not due to anything that man has done.
Specifically, a naturally-occurring increase in the
temperature of the Pacific Ocean off the coast
caused a sharp decline in salmon by destroying most
of the salmon's food supply and increasing the
number of fish that prey on salmon.
The marked decline in the salmon catch beginning in
the late-1970s corresponded to an increase in the
temperature of the Pacific Ocean off the coasts of
Washington, Oregon and California. This warming has
had a most detrimental impact on salmon survival
rates. No one can deny that reasonable measures
should be taken to protect the salmon population,
especially when natural conditions sharply lower
While it is true that everyone wants a healthy
fishery, everyone certainly does not want another
"spotted owl" fiasco in this county. There is
litigation in motion right now to force the
delisting of the Coho salmon (Oregon has already
delisted it there), since the listing was done by
not counting all the fish…….. A false
emergency and regulations that take income from the
struggling businesses of this county, destroys more
livelihoods, uproots families, and brings economic
disaster to our communities again, would be
criminal. There have been many studies, and
only the results of these studies – the science, and
not probabilities or opinions, should form the base
for further regulation, after conducting the
appropriate studies, following administrative
procedures, and the law.
Miners are generally a solitary type, content to
just be left alone, but there comes a time when
attacked by special interests, environmental
interests and government, that they will fight back.
That time has come. They are taking action to
protect their property and activity through the
National Land Rights League