Public Lands for the People has a long history of fighting legal battles in court and providing educational help to the mining community as well as all public land users. Much of this important history did not get transferred to the new website a few years ago when we brought www.publiclandsforthepeople.org live on line. Also, within the last couple of years, PLP won a landmark Federal case we affectionately call “The Cheerios Decision”, the importance of which is explained in the accomplishments list below.
Very early in the 1990’s, PLP and some individual miners worked together in good faith with the state of California to craft the 1994 Suction Dredge Regulations and permit process. PLP made concessions to help facilitate the process. Jerry Hobbs explained later that we found out the hard way that because we compromised when working with government agencies, we could never get back what we compromised on, even though it was a right, not a privilege. Because we had submitted ourselves to regulatory agencies that didn’t have authority to materially interfere, only to reasonably regulate. If you think the CA 1994 Reg’s were good, what we had before that were much closer to the intent of the 1872 Mining Act. Without going into the many details; the fact that we gave up some ground in the process of the 1994 EIR and Suction Dredge Regulations, we realized we made a mistake, and we would never repeat it again.
Take a piece of paper in your hand. That paper represents your mining rights. Fold it in half because you compromised to get along and “play nice” so you could get through the process and “get back in the water”. Several years later they come back and want more. You now have a half sheet of paper to start with. Fold it in half again because you compromised on something else, but this time you started with half a sheet and you have a quarter of a sheet. It’s to the point where there isn’t much left. You see the same process play out with “Gun Control” advocates. They take a little bit at a time. They are content with small takings, because they are cumulative. It’s the same with our mining rights and we must not give up an inch of ground!
After experiencing this hard lesson with the 1994 Suction Dredge Regulations, PLP became the ‘NO COMPROMISE’ mining rights advocacy group, and that principle has guided us through many, many battles in the quarter century since. Many folks within the mining community don’t understand why we take such a hard line, but we must not compromise our rights away if we are going to maintain our Federally granted rights. Because just like freedom, mining rights once lost, are nearly impossible to get back. We shouldn’t have to compromise, because the law is on our side, whether or not the judges in judiciary system recognize those laws. That’s why we often say, “Let’s take it back and keep it!” We must remain ever vigilant and pro-active!
- PLP authors the “Small Miner Amendment to S. 145” and presented it to past Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) and several other members of the Natural Resource Committees on both the House and Senate side. Then it was upgraded and renamed: “Critical Minerals: National Security Amendments to the NDAA” (Breaking China’s Grip on America’s Mining & Production of Critical Minerals) in 2019 and is presently sitting in the House and Senate subcommittee of national resources before it can go to the Armed Services committee for passage out of Congress. These minor amendments solve most of the regulatory problems small miners face regarding RS- 2477 access, MSHA, Forest Service, BLM, and EPA with regulatory certainty as its goal. Much of the amendment reverses poor case law from the 9th Circuit that deviates from the congressional intent of the Mining Law or reasonable application of applicable implementing regulations. Work is ongoing with legislative council on the Hill, and the White House. https://www.publiclandsforthepeople.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Critical-Minerals-China-Grip-American-Mining-NDAA.pdf
- PLP’s legal researchers are actively working with friends, high level think tanks, public policy researchers and agency officials in Washington D.C. to provide educational materials guiding improvements to existing regulations with the emphasis on regulatory certainty at the EPA, Army Corp, DOI (BLM), USDA (Forest Service), and MSHA for small miners.
- PLP supported Brandon Rinehart in his defense of being cited in CA for suction dredging. PLP supported Brandon both with legal research which we provide to his attorney, and financially directly paying a portion of his legal bills, with a combined investment of over $10,000 we helped get him all the way to the California Supreme Court. Unfortunately, that court produced a terrible decision, ignoring over a hundred years of case law! That is one of the main reasons we need to work to remove burdensome regulations at the Federal level and eliminate prohibitive State law using the “Critical Minerals: National Security Amendments to the NDAA” (Act of Congress overriding the State on federally managed lands). Once the Critical Minerals: National Security Amendments to the NDAA is law, the next time there is a Rinehart case, the outcome will be 180 degrees the opposite of last time and our Federally granted Mining Rights will be upheld.
- PLP had taken the lead position in the litigation with the State of California for over 9 years in the effort to overturn State laws that have banned motorized suction dredging for gold.
- PLP has been compiling science and research materials (educational materials) showing the benefits of suction dredging in order to educate the public in the court of public opinion in the Western States and lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.
- PLP supported member John Godfrey in federal court regarding a charge of polluting while placer mining. The decision is instructive to give miners the argument that they do not require a waste discharge permit from the Federal or State EPA regarding NPDES permitting. Count 5 was reversed in the favor of John Godfrey and for the mining community as a whole. Godfrey district court decision.
- PLP supported member placer miner Michael Osterbrink in 2019 on charges of pollution within a seasonal stream course and won count 2 in his favor demonstrating most significantly that charges by the CA Fish & Wildlife can be won in the miners favor at trial when properly argued when no foreign substances are added to the environment. See case transcripts PDF
- PLP supported member Don Smith with local suction dredge permitting in Idaho and carried his federal concerns directly to the Washington DC office of the EPA and the White House.
- PLP supported member Steve Hicks in Montana federal court by providing him the winning cases and legal arguments for his controversy with the Forest Service. Steve Hicks won his case in that the Forest Service lacked the authority to deem his placer mining unlawful in violation of the 36 CFR 261 regulations. U.S. v. Hicks (miner not a special use permittee).
- PLP supported member Steve Hicks in Montana federal court by providing him the winning cases and legal arguments for his controversy with the Forest Service. Steve Hicks won his case in that the Forest Service lacked the authority to stop the road access use to the mining claims he was administering. U.S. v. Hicks (mining claimant is a landowner).
- PLP supported member Walt Wegner when he administratively appealed the requirement for a CA suction dredge permit in connection with his approved Forest Service Plan of Operation and prevailed. This demonstration of federal preemption was judicially noticed in the Rinehart and San Bernardino suction dredge cases and unfortunately was ignored by the CA Supreme court.
- PLP supported member Ernie Peachay in order to prevent the destruction of historic mining structures by the Forest Service in Tahoe National Forest.
- PLP supported miner Ronald Lex on appeal from his conviction in federal court. PLP provided the winning legal arguments to his attorney that lead to the limitations of the Forest Service regarding mine occupancy and the trigger on when a NOI or PO was required. U.S. v. Lex (miner not a special use permitee). A watershed case that lead to the Forest Service attempting to overturn the decision by promulgating new regulations that failed to have a real legal effect. The decision still stands that a miner is not a special use permitee within the total discretionary control of the Forest Service.
- PLP provided the winning argument for the mining attorney for Mr. McClure affirming the previous precedent ruling in U.S v. Lex despite the regulatory change in 2005. U.S. v. McClure (364 F.Supp.2d.1183).
- PLP’s vagueness argument that was not fully briefed in U.S. v. Lex was given to a miner’s attorney in Arizona (for miner Tierney) where he won his case against the Forest Service regarding the vagueness of the Forest Service mineral regulations and the real regulatory trigger when a NOI or PO is required. U.S. v. Tierney (miner wins vaguness & due process.
- PLP supports member Clark Pearson in federal court defending his placer mining operation and won. US v. Pearson. Clark Pearson sued the federal agents personally in federal court which eventually lead to the agents being transferred and the Forest Service employing competent minerals administrators in the Plumas National Forest.
- PLP supported member miner Stanford in his citations from the Forest Service. PLP’s research provided for the citations to be dropped against Mr. Stanford after the Forest Service was shown to have no subject matter jurisdiction.
These investments in Miner’s Rights could not be possible without the many, many individual financial and other volunteer contributions from folks all across the country. PLP has no huge corporate donors. It’s all individuals, small businesses, clubs and mining districts giving sacrificially to help fight the fight. We can’t do what we do without you giving to keep us running. Let’s keep working together to “Take it Back and Keep It!”