1 pointHere's a couple tidbits on the topic and I'll leave it there. The Forest Service tries to define what they consider to be a significant resource disturbance in their FSM. I don't believe the FSM holds any legal weight. Their definition from 36CFR 9.2 (L) (l) Significantly disturbed for purposes of mineral extraction. Land will be considered significantly disturbed for purposes of mineral extraction when there has been surface extraction of commercial amounts of a mineral, or significant amounts of overburden or spoil have been displaced due to the extraction of commercial amounts of a mineral. Extraction of commercial amounts is defined as the removal of ore from a claim in the normal course of business of extraction for processing or marketing. It does not encompass the removal of ore for purposes of testing, experimentation, examination or preproduction activities. And more from their FSM…. “FSM2817.11- Determination of significant resource disturbance. The determination of what is significant can come only a fair, reasonable, and consistent evaluation of proposed operations on a case by case basis. Significant is a site sensitive term: a particular surface resource-disturbing activity in one area, such as flat sage brush-covered ground, might not be significant, while the same operation in a high alpine meadow could be highly significant. Onsite surface-resource disturbance will come almost entirely from earthmoving activities or from site clearance. Such on site disturbance would be considered significant if natural recovery, to a condition of no higher standard than existed before the operation, would not be expected to take place within a reasonable period of time.”
1 pointClay, you did a great job covering "significant surface disturbance" in another post which I'll paste here. Please expand upon it in another thread when you have time. We all will benefit. There is no "significant surface disturbance" mining prohibition in the law so you will never find a legal definition. The USDA and the BLM use that term in their regulations to cover all the various surface acts that might require their attention - not just mining. The actual standard under the law is "undue or unnecessary degradation of the lands" and that has been defined by the Supreme Court. Quote "[a] reasonable interpretation of the word 'unnecessary' is that which is not necessary for mining. 'Undue' is that which is excessive, improper, immoderate or unwarranted." Utah v. Andrus, 486 F. Supp. 995, 1005 n.13 (D. Utah 1979) You can rely on that definition to be upheld by the courts no matter what your mining issue. The BLM and Forest Service - not so much. See my post above about illegal agendas within the surface management agencies.
1 pointSometimes, things are put into print and distributed as fact, hoping that the masses won't notice that new regulations are contrary to actual law (general mining laws, case law). I think that's what is going on with the dredging/NOI issue I posted above. Both the 14 day camping limit as well as the requirement to submit a NOI and bond in order to mine your claim with a suction dredge are completely bogus. If miners start to believe new, unlawful regulations are legitimate, then the truth gets more obscured… until it's no longer known. There is a large prospecting shop here in Az that once told me over the phone that it is only legal to use a 3" or smaller suction dredge. That is simply untrue. I guess they don't plan on selling anything larger than a 3" dredge. For some reason, it seems the USFS thinks that 3" is the acceptable limit for a suction dredge. I don't know how they may have come up with that reasoning, but clubs like the Roadrunners have agreed to that size limit for their members. I find a 3" dredge to be the bare minimum for getting any reasonable amount of suction dredge mining done. More often, it's at least a 4". If I had the water, it would be a 5" or 6". Miners in Alaska might tell you it's a 6" or 8" that makes sense to them. If I may. Simply processing more yardage per day doesn't equate to harm to the public lands or the environment. Rather, properly-sized equipment allows efficiency (fewer man hours and less fuel use overall) and one to use the best methods they have determined to be available. How many USFS or BLM employees have any mining experience at all? How would these public servants know the best method to mine your valuable mineral deposit? As claim owners, we determine the best type of equipment for the job. Mining is hard work, if not the hardest work there is. Don't let the regulatory agencies and the ill-informed make your mining needlessly more difficult than it already is. I say this realizing that in the land of the lost (Ca), miner's granted rights are violated with extreme prejudice and all common sense has been thrown out the window. They have been fighting for years to regain their right to mine using best methods available (suction dredge). Those at the front lines are being harassed and cited for their "violations". Lets hope the pending legal cases are won and finally restore the miner's right to do his job. Thanks for the question Gary! I have no idea if you are dredging in Az, but you gave me a good place for a nice rant. Happy dredging!