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Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California May 17, 2006 Vol. 33, No. 27 Page A1, column 3
Alameda judge will decide on Siskiyou problem
-- New lawsuit claims state violated its own laws.
By Liz Bowen Pioneer Press Assistant Editor
ALAMEDA COUNTY, California – The frustration over secretly-developed gold mining regulations continues.
Last year, the Karuk Tribe of California filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) that would greatly affect gold suction dredge miners in Siskiyou County if it succeeded. The Tribe had previously lost after filing the same type of lawsuit against the Klamath National Forest of the U.S. Forest Service at the top of the state.
But this is a Tribe that does not give up, so the Karuks filed against the miners in an urban county 300 miles away -- Alameda. After the filing, a superior court judge in Alameda County told both sides to work out a solution. The state department and Karuks did. But the miners in Siskiyou County did not know about the negotiations and resulting decisions.
When the miners did learn about the increased regulations in December, they discovered that major areas of their mining claims would be affected and rendered useless for mining. According to the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, the miners say this is a taking of their private property.
Jerry Hobbs, president of Public Lands for the People, (PLP,) said his organization was not allowed to intervene in a lawsuit now posed by several mining organizations, including the New 49ers in Happy Camp. So PLP instructed its attorney, Dave Young, to file an outside lawsuit against the state for violations of state laws. These laws are CEQA, California Environmental Quality Act, and the California Administration Procedures Act.
In the secret-behind-closed-doors meetings last fall by DFG officials and members of the Karuk Tribe, neither process was followed. When ever regulations are changed, according to state law, the proposed regulations must be posted to the public and followed by a public comment period.
“This was a process they avoided,” said Hobbs.
The most lethal regulation to the miners involves areas where cold water occurs naturally, called a refugia. When a refugia is acknowledged, a miner can not use his portable dredge within 500 feet above the area or 500 feet below.
The New 49ers, PLP and other groups allege that the loss of the use of claims, which is defined as a property, is an illegal “takings” by the government regulations.
The Alameda judge is expected to make a decision by the end of May regarding the newly imposed dredging regulations that are already affecting miners in Siskiyou County.
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