Activities such as ranching, farming, logging, and mining are being targeted daily by federal agencies such as the EPA, BLM, and USFS. Arbitrary road closures, contradictory permit requirements and application denials, and over stepping authority during code enforcement are some examples of these agencies move to take complete control over public lands and all activities on it. It is what amounts to a criminal conspiracy to trample civil rights and deny economic opportunities. In a show of solidarity against these actions, members from the American Mining Rights Associate (AMRA), The Southwest Idaho Mining Association (SWIMA), and citizens who make a living off of small-scale suction dredging assembled in Crouch for a peaceful week-long protest against the EPA’s requirements for permits which threatens the livelihood of these miners. A link to the original article explaining the reasons for the protest can be found below.
Speakers at the event included ordinary citizens from several surrounding states, Field Manager John Ratley of AMRA, SWIMA President John Crossman, and Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik Idaho III% members were also in attendance. Ratley was adamant about standing up to the EPA, a group of un-elected individuals who impose fines and regulations that have not been passed by congress. “I just want to get back in the water”, Ratley states. Based out of California, Ratley makes a living exercising his right to make a living off of Idaho public lands and feels his livelihood is threatened by an out of control bureaucracy. The EPA claims that dredging violates the Clean Water Act. In fact, dredgers leave an area with more trash than they arrived with. Dredging not only creates income, it also double as a river clean-up project. The AMRA mantra is “Leave the claim cleaner than when you arrived”. Reports of truckloads of debris left behind from recreational rafters and other sources of pollution show that the claims made by the EPA are not based on tangible evidence.
Allen Trees, citizen, filed a Freedom of Information request to Cindy Godsey of the NPDES Permit Unit of the EPA requesting the scientific “site-specific” studies that were used to determine the impact of dredging on Idaho waters that are currently open under the Idaho Department of Water Resources. In order to place regulations on a specific stretch of river, site-specific studies must be conducted to accommodate all of the factors in the locations unique ecosystem. After being given the runaround, Trees was finally sent 29 scientific studies that were used to determine that dredging harmed the waterways in question. After meticulously crawling through these reports, Trees concluded that only one study pertained to his request. The kicker? That study conducted in 1999 was one that Trees participated in personally, the result of which proved dredging caused zero negative impact.
Trees read his response to the studies provided by Godsey’s office to the crowd: “The 1999 “site-specific science” that was conducted on rivers in Idaho, was one that I participated in personally and was a study on the closed and open rivers in Idaho. The 1999 study determined that all rivers “closed” under the Idaho Stream Channel Protection Program to dredge mining were too sensitive to open and the “open” rivers under the program were deemed acceptable under the guidelines of the Recreational Gold Dredging Program controlled by the IDWR. Trees concluded that the EPAs agenda is politically motivated and that he as a taxpayer is tired of financing radical agendas by un-elected officials.
The last speaker was Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik, an avid supporter of citizens rights to the use of public lands and a well-respected elected representative. Chmelik attended last years Rally and got a first hand look at the process of dredging, and walked away with a new found support and renewed vigor for fighting alongside his constituents. After a brief introduction and a few anecdotal metaphors comparing the federal government to a rattlesnake and fear tactics used by federal agencies, the commissioner asked three simple questions: “what does it mean to govern, what does it mean to be governed, and what does it mean to live?” There are questions he asks himself when issues are placed on his desk, and the time comes to make a decision.
As a solution to government over-reach, Chmelik discussed his endeavor to build a ‘Coalition of Counties’. This is a goal to bring 100 or more counties across the state and the nation together in an effort to raise enough money and develop proper strategies to take the federal government to court over its need for more power, and to also to leverage that money against the private sector and get an upper hand in the marketing, lobbying, and advertising. In a sense, play the feds game with “Our bats, our balls, our gloves, and our boundaries”, to use a baseball metaphor. He argues “Our civil rights are being denied, our economic opportunities are being denied, and under article 4 section 4 of the constitution we are guaranteed a republic form of government” he continues “how do you have a republic form of government that denies access to your resources to create the quality of life and the jobs opportunities to keep people in your state?” It all boils down to using public lands and holding our representatives accountable for that access so that we may enjoy the life guaranteed by that foundational document, The Constitution.
So where does this bring us? What questions do we ask ourselves? This is more than just about the right to mine, or to farm, or to use the public land as we see fit. It passes far beyond the desire of federal bureaucracy to micromanage the population. It is about the all-out frontal assault on Liberty. The lives we enjoy and work so hard every day for are up against the ropes. Chmelik makes a small mention of his plan to keep Liberty alive and well; CPR. The acronym stands for Consistency, Persistence, and Resiliency. These are the attributes that make this country great, that form the heels of every patriot and have kept that flag flying. Mixed in throughout the rally as well as sprinkled along the river were members of Idaho III%. Reasons for Idaho III% attendance included actively engaging in the protest, encouraging and empowering citizens and speakers, and providing an overwatch and acting as a buffer against the EPA and BLM. During the first rally, a protester setting up camp was confronted by a BLM agent out for blood. Dredging equipment was found, and the agent launched into a tirade. Overstepping her authority, the protester was arrested and taken into custody and was given the charge of obstruction of an investigation. These types of situations are what the III% want to prevent in cooperation of a constitutional Sheriff. These agents need to be reminded that they are code enforcement only. The full transcript can be found here:
With no hassle from any agency this past week, we end with a final word from Idaho’s III% Vice President, Erik Parker:
“We have birthright to the land and the use of it. These birthrights cannot be trumped by the State or Federal Government and III% of Idaho will defend them wherever the opportunity arises.”