For years I have been wondering why the BLM allows mining claims on its lands in the Gold Run Diggings. Recently I have tried once again to discover the basis for this BLM policy. For, there is a special northward extension of the North Fork American W&SR corridor; and lands within the W&SR corridor ought to be closed to mineral entry.
In 1978 Congress added the North Fork American River to our national Wild & Scenic River system. The relevant part of this legislation reads as follows:
(21) AMERICAN, CALIFORNIA. -- The North Fork from a point 0.3 mile above Heath Springs downstream to a point approximately 1,000 feet upstream of the Colfax-Iowa Hill Bridge, including the Gold Run Addition Area, as generally depicted on the map entitled, "Proposed Boundary Maps" contained in Appendix I of the document dated January 1978 and entitled, "A Proposal: North Fork American Wild and Scenic River" published by the United States Forest Service, Department of Agriculture; to be designated as a wild river and to be administered by agencies of the Departments of Interior and Agriculture as agreed upon by the Secretaries of such Departments or as directed by the President.
Why did Congress create the special Addition? Because the Diggings are wild, they are beautiful, they are historic, and there are two trails--the Canyon Creek and Pickering Bar trails-- which give access to the North Fork American itself. Congress recognized that the Gold Run Diggings constitute a kind of "portal" to the North Fork American.
Now, it happens that in the more southern part of the Gold Run Diggings, there is very much BLM land. These BLM lands are just those which lie within the so-called "Gold Run Addition" as mentioned in the legislation, above. Yet the Folsom BLM has, over all the time it has managed the lands at Gold Run, and in particular, since 1978, considered that these BLM lands within the Addition are open to "mineral entry," i.e., to mining claims.
A careful examination of the "big" Tahoe National Forest map will reveal that all these BLM lands in the Diggings are marked as within the W&SR corridor. Ordinarily, the W&SR corridor is considered to extend only one-quarter mile from the center of the river. Yet Congress wanted to extend the corridor to the north at Gold Run, and created the special Addition.
Ordinarily, all public lands within any river's W&SR corridor are immediately "withdrawn from mineral entry," that is, closed to any further mining claims. I believe it is also typical for there to be an off-highway-vehicle (OHV) closure on all public lands within the W&SR corridor. This a natural consequence of managing a river to be a Wild & Scenic River.
Yet at Gold Run, BLM lands remain open to mineral entry and to OHVs.
This has led to significant adverse impacts upon BLM lands at Gold Run. For instance, one claimant, apparently, used his key to the BLM gate at the end of Garrett Road to bring a backhoe and dump truck into the Diggings and remove large quantitites of petrified wood. The pieces weighed in the 200-300 pound range, but included the very last petrified log of any size exposed at the surface, around fifteen feet long and two to three feet in diameter. This happened just a few years ago.
These impacts include blading out roads wider with a bulldozer, creating new roads, and making many "test pits" to justify the existence of a valid mining claim. In fact, so far as I have been able to discover, it was these mining claimants who placed the gate at the end of Garrett Road. They, the claimants, actually made the very policy which excludes the rest of us from driving in to the head of the Pickering Bar Trail.
Now, in this last case, I reluctantly go along with the adverse impact. The gate reduces vehicular access to a wild and beautiful area I like to hike in. That makes it nicer for hiking. Also, there had been problems with squatters down that road, before the gate went in.
Nevertheless, I oppose leaving these lands within the special Gold Run Addition open to mining claims. And I still do not understand the basis for this BLM policy. I am told that the "master plats" or master maps upon which the BLM relies do not show the Addition as within the W&SR corridor. Why not?
For, after all, Congress itself wrote
"... including the Gold Run Addition Area, as generally depicted on the map entitled, 'Proposed Boundary Maps' contained in Appendix I of the document dated January 1978 and entitled, 'A Proposal: North Fork American Wild and Scenic River' published by the United States Forest Service ... ."
The TNF map reflects the extended corridor as depicted in the 1978 "Proposed Boundary Maps." The BLM master plats do not. Why? I still do not understand.
Everything within the Gold Run Addition ought to be closed to mineral entry and closed to OHV use.
Deane Swickard, Area Manager of Folsom BLM, tells me that in 2004 a new management plan will be developed for the entire Folsom Resource Area. There will be opportunity for public comment. Perhaps at that time we can exert influence to exclude the BLM lands at Gold Run from mineral entry and OHV use.