3 million acres of prime rockhound territory in Idaho is about to be grabbed by the BLM……..of course, it’s for the Sage Grouse, right? What other reason would the government be taking mineralized land away from the American public hand over fist.
I haven’t gotten an answer to my question of why the Sage Grouse, which I’ve seen neither more or fewer of in recent decades, only seem to be in trouble where the land is highly mineralized and should be rightfully protected for our use by current law.
Here is a link to the article in the region’s local paper:
This “environmental” action is actually a threat to the people and towns in the effected area – as are such areas in other states fighting the same BLM land grabs. These little towns thrive on the tourism from these mineral rich lands. When the BLM decides to shut down whole towns, we need to start taking a lot closer look at what they are actually doing.
The letter below, written by Gerald Gibeault, President of the Idaho Falls Gem and Mineral society will give you more information about the situation, and
Gerald Gibeault President Idaho Falls Gem and Mineral Society 2246 Brandon Dr. Idaho Falls, Idaho 83402 March 2, 2017
Subject: BLM to Ban Rockhounding with Hand Tools in Areas Targeted by the Draft Environmental Statement (EIS) for the proposed Sagebrush Focal Area Withdrawal.
To Whom It May Concern:
This letter is written to local jurisdictions on behalf of the Idaho Falls Gem and Mineral Society and recreational rockhounds everywhere. As president of the Idaho Falls Gem and Mineral Society, I am concerned that the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Sagebrush Focal Area Withdrawal could be bad news for recreational rockhounding in our Gem State. Specifically, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) intends to ban recreation rockhounding using hand tools in withdrawn areas. Only surface collection will be allowed.
I attended BLM’s EIS Public Meetings on February 16, 2017 in Idaho Falls and in Boise on February 24, 2017. I also discussed my concerns in a follow-up telephone call with Mr. Adam Merrill (BLM Geologist, Washington D.C. Office) on March 3, 2017. Mr. Merrill said that he had spent some time with the BLM’s lawyers discussing the rockhounding concerns that I had raised with him previously. I’ve summarized my understanding of the conversation with Mr. Merrill below:
As the BLM lawyers see it, the problem boils downs to whether or not the 1872 Mining Act (mining act) is in force. According to the lawyers, the mining act authorizes public right to locatable minerals on Federal land. While the rules that apply to rockhounding may be different from those that apply to hard rock mining operations, both get their authority to access locatable minerals from the mining act. Withdrawing land from the mining act also withdraws the public’s authorization to collect locatable minerals. It must be noted that the public will still be allowed to pick up rocks off the surface; but materials collected on the surface are typically very weather, fractured and therefore of little use to rockhounds.
The text shown below was taken from a BLM website:
“The federal law governing locatable minerals is the General Mining Law of 1872 (May 10, 1872), which declared all valuable mineral deposits belonging to the United States … to be free and open to citizens of the United States to explore for, discover, and purchase.”
“Mineral deposits subject to acquisition in this manner are generally referred to as “locatable minerals.” Locatable minerals include metallic minerals (gold, silver, lead, copper, zinc, nickel, etc.), nonmetallic minerals (fluorspar, mica, certain limestones and gypsum, tantalum, heavy minerals in placer form and gemstones) and certain uncommon variety minerals. It is very difficult to prepare a complete list of locatable minerals because the history of the law has resulted in a definition of minerals that includes economics.”
What every Idahoan should know!
Approximately 3 million acres are targeted for withdrawal in Idaho. Affected areas include much of the land in and around the Lost River basin between Challis and Arco, much of the Lost River mountain range, as well as huge swaths of land around Carey. Some of these areas are prime rockhounding country. If the proposal proceeds as currently planned, the public will no longer have access to the locatable minerals in the withdrawn areas for the next 20 years. For example, I will not be allowed to collect a piece of tube agate near the Doyle Creek road for the rest of my life!
How are local jurisdictions affected?
Idaho is called the Gem State for a reason. We live in a mineral paradise. Rockhounding is a tourist attraction. Because of our fortunate geology visitors are drawn to Idaho from around the world. The minerals of interest to rockhounds typically include jaspers, agates, and other minerals and rocks that have little or no commercial value. Rockhounds start with rough materials and create beauty. The activity provides an opportunity for both the young and the old to enjoy areas of our backcountry that are seldom visited by others.
Rockhounds stay in hotels and campgrounds, eat at restaurants, and buy gas and supplies. Revenue flows into communities with no more investment or effort than allowing access to minerals in nearby Federal lands.
What to do?
Help rockhounding survive in your area. PLEASE write a comment and send it to the BLM. Send a note to your congressman too. We are the Gem State! We live in a mineral paradise! Rockhounds are not a threat to sage-grouse habitat! There has to be a reasonable solution.
A sample comment form is attached at the end of this letter. A comment may also be submitted by email.
The last day to submit comments to the BLM is March 30, 2017. The BLM has to receive comments by that date. So, allow time for delivery if you use postal services.
Thank you for considering our concerns.
Gerry Gibeault (contact redacted to prevent spam)
HERE IS THE ONLINE COMMENT FORM for the Sage Brush Focal Area:
Here is the map of that land that they are set to grab:
Contact information for BLM:
BLM information about sage grouse: