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What is and when did the 'Wilderness' idea begin?


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Today I was having a discussion about mining and hunting for minerals on public lands with a friend who knows nothing about the deserts. I was telling him that some areas are 'off limits' to miners and he did not believe me. He wanted even more lands protected from 'big companies' which 'ignore' all mining laws because they have so much money. He would favor 'no mining' on land that is even private!

I was not able to tell him there are millions of acres already set aside FOREVER and we don't need him and others to vote against miners just because it 'seems like a good idea' to limit or stop mining. I decided to read the Wilderness Act from 1964 and say 'Congress said we have Enough!'


Wilderness areas take up 2.5% of the land in the United States. We use them and others for various purposes. This is a history of how this started in 1964 and how this land is different than other non-Wilderness lands managed by the different agencies.

The more we know the more we can use the mining lands designated for us as they should be.

We will have a battle on our hands forever over land use. Let's use the present laws for the good as well as change the parts we don't like.


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The Gila wilderness area was the first ,designated in 1924,along with the Blue Range

wilderness,and Aldo Leopold Wilderness area in the same year.

Since then there has been dozens desiginated,plus National Parks,Monuments,

Recreational areas, Wildlife refuges, Wild and scenic Rivers, plus lots of other lands,

of no touch, can't use status. The figure for withdrawn lands is much more than 2.5% ,

and growing by the year.

The myth about big mining companies doing as they please is just more liberal BS. I

know several large mining operations that are ready to foldup operations,due to federal

rules and regulations. All are working on proven deposits,and a good market price for

their product. But the overhead from meeting federal requirements is eating up any profit.

Your friend needs to get a clue.

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The scary news is that there are a whole lot of folks with attitudes like Mitchel's friend. The Big Attitude Adjuster (aka "the media") has been on an anti-mining tear for several decades and shows no signs of slowing down. Yup, it's downright depressing.

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That is my 'point' of bringing up what the BLM and Congress have already done many years ago. Sawmill is right there have been other additions to the protected lands so we have even more 'wilderness' than the 1964 Act set aside but we should 'fight back' some of the pristine nature freaks with THE LAW as already passed.

One of the reasons that we are ineffective in doing this is that WE don't even know our own law. We say that we hate it and we will ignore it and we will pass another law but I see a lot of protection for us within the law already. It can get worse because of discretionary enforcement but we have millions and millions of acres to hunt now.

I've been to BLM offices in Arizona, Nevada and California and I show them what I have found. The employees I meet have appreciated me stopping by. They are exposed to thousands and thousands of people who know nothing and some of them abuse the outdoors.

When I went by one office in California and I asked them about hunting for meteorites in their area they didn't know much but the people asking them questions know even less. They would come in with rocks and ask the BLM 'Is this a meteorite?' and they would have to tell them No. I showed them some of my meteorites found in Arizona and they said I am an expert as far as they are concerned! They were doing everything they could to tell me the best places they knew of to hunt in their area.

When I show them some of the gold that I have found on BLM lands they show it to the entire office. It lets them know they are doing a good job and keeping the lands open for some of us who appreciate them.

One office in Arizona was trying to enforce a portion of the meteorite regulation wrong. I was able to tell them that metal detectors are allowed in the Wilderness Areas (according to their published guidelines) but they were still helpful and told me about finds that they knew about.

Let's help the BLM tell OUR story about finding minerals, meteorites and precious metals. They work for US too!


Edited by mn90403
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A former mining partner spent 15 years battling the forest service over the spotted owl issue in N. CA at one of our old mining sites ... Eventually he lost the court battles, after expending hundreds of thousands of dollars ... A couple years after the final judgement against him, the Forest Service revealed that the spotted owl deal had been a big lie from the beginning ! ... If these govt. bureaucrats sucked as hard at other jobs, they'd be rich, if you know what I mean, and I think you do! .. Cheers, Unc

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You would know better than most of us that it took a 'team' of government employees to do the spotted owl deal. The University researchers had to get the ear of the Forest Service early on to have their view enforced over any counter view.

We know now we are battling views about frogs, snakes, fish, tortoise, global warmers, etc., etc. We do need to spend time with these government employees and give them a different view.

If you have kids who are looking for a good government job and they know the benefits of mining and hunting then get them hired at one of these places. It would be better than some that are getting hired now that could have no clue because they grew up in a city.


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Hundreds of new graduates fill those positions every year. Our colleges here are one of the main pools that the agencies hire from. Lots of good country boys in these positions. The supply and demand is high right now. They are hiring more young people in the last few years than ever.

I run around with a bunch of these guys that are my sons schoolmates. They are all well grounded as well as very educated. They willl be the leaders and managers of these organizations in a few short years. Many are already making a big influence. Things are changing for the better with the next generation.

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Our whole Forest Staff here is the same type of people that BB is describing.

All young,very pleasent,feet on the ground,and want to do the right thing,two

are from New Mexico. All have good ideas and training,but have found that they

have no real power,to do other than policy dictates.

Unless some of those bright young folks can get appointed to a position at the

top of the heap, we will just have a lot of really nice,but highly disgusted ,and

disallusioned ,young rangers. The power comes from the top,with political based

policy,and politically appointed people in charge.

No matter how good these guys intentions are,it always comes down to policy and

the hand book. Unless those young guys are planning to run for congress,or

president,they won't be making any real change.

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Before all of you guys 'kick the bucket' you could go by your local office on a regular basis and have coffee with them.

I worked for the Department of Agriculture (FmHA) for 3 years straight out of college. It was more of a 'rural HUD' type of job but we did write some emergency loans in Florida for freeze damage and crop loss and all that stuff. There were political actions necessary in that job back in the 70s just like there is now.

One thing that I do know was that a federal employee can't make it seem as tho there is a conflict of interest so unless you know them they can seem 'cold' to someone new. When you get to know them and tell them what you know about the past or just share knowledge then they are very understanding (even if their hands are tied) and this is what we should do to keep things from getting worse.

We can smile in their office and do what we want in many cases better than attacking them and try to get the same results. Abuse is abuse of the desert and some sites. Graffiti and theft of petroglyphs should not be tolerated. We should all be 'for' non-abuse but at the same time we also know there is not an expectation of 100% compliance either.


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I have spent over 50 years ,drinking coffee and ,hanging out with the Forest Service,and

BLM. Several of my dearest friends are current and retired Forest Service Rangers. I have

actually met and worked with Tom Tidwell ,the Forest Service Chief, Also with his assistant

Mary Waggoner. Mary was our Forest supervisor ,before taking her current position.

I personally helped our current forest supervisor learn the ropes on her first job as a timber

sale administrator. We are still good friends. When I walk into the interagency office ,it is like

Norm from Cheers. Everyone there knows me,and I get lots of handshakes,and even a hug

or two. I sawed out a log home,for the chief Forest Service legal officer,under Bill Clinton. Her

and her husband are really nice people. I personally know Rod Byers,the ranger that gave

the old Arizona couple all the grief over their mining claims. I worked with him when he was

the ranger at Chama NM. Rod and I even shared Thanksgiving dinner ,and fished together.

To this day I don't know why he got involved in that claim dispute.

Over all those years I have only met a handfull ,of Forest Service or BLM folks that fit the

jerk catagory. Most are just regular people,with a crappy job,and trying to make the best

of it. Some of the new hires,have the big head,and can be a pain,but with patience you can

wear them down. When I am working on this forest,the older officers ,send the newbies to

me,for ego deflation,and humiliation training. I do enjoy messing with their heads. :ROFL:

Of course the old guys have to scare the hell out of them with tall tales before sending

them out. Most show up expecting a fire breathing dragon,that eats FS employees for lunch.

Geez,get a little short,and blunt,and a rigging fit or two,with a few choice words,and you get

notorious. :idunno:

There has been days that I should have paid the FS just for the entertainment. Having a

good working relationship does help ,but in the end these folks still have to follow the rules,

and regs,and they will.

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You are a softie!

I'm glad you shared your story so that some of the radicals here can learn from you. You have spent a lifetime in your industry but you have learned how to work with people.

Thank you.


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There is a HUGE difference between the employees you met in the 70s as stated and who is there now as eco radicalism is now the vogue. I've had many friendships with CDFG,BLM,and FS cops and bureauratz over the years. Took out the head of CDFG dredge committee in 94 out to dredge on a illegal 10" with NO PERMITS along with FS honcho(he dredged too) and CDFG head lawyer. Meanest lil'ol' sob ya ever met ,CDFG cop Gomez in Trinity county, warned me about enviros sniveling and a whining about my HUGE dams on the creek. Had FS cop drive onto a dam with a atv and warm me that she'd been told of a huge mining site and she didn't see anything there. Hahahaha always remember to gain respect---then trust follows---and ifn' your lucky enough a cold beer or 10 and a friendship evolves outta mutual respect-John

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It is no secret that the expanding human population gradually takes up more and more space on Planet Earth. The Wilderness Act is an attempt to establish some boundaries/limitations on how certain spaces will be accessed/utilized. It is by no means the only attempt. Land use policies abound. The devil always boils down to the details in such schemes, not to mention the attitudes of the members of the public who are affected as well as the attitudes of those charged with administering/enforcing the plans. At the micro-level a cooperative attitude goes a long way toward establishing some harmony in any specific context, while an oppositional attitude often brings about the very opposite. But it is at the macro-level that that policies gestate and ultimately are born, along with all the rules, regulations and general administrative apparatuses. It is at that level that the little guy, regardless of his attitude, has the least degree of control over his ultimate fate, even if he learns about, and becomes adept at, "politics." "Politics" basically is a form of large scale combat; an ongoing war of competing ideas and values. The little guys, including the career low-level FS and BLM workers, typically are stuck in the trenches groping through the shifting fogs of this political warfare at the micro-level. I agree. A cooperative approach is recommended, but sometimes you can only bend over so far. If you don't own a chain of newspapers or TV stations, then this forum is a great place to vent and maybe, even if only in some small measure, affect the common perception. It all starts with filling your own dig holes, so to speak.

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Agreed Mitchel. So often folks go off on government agency people as if they are all the same - not so.

For years, before he passed, one of my best friends was a Forest Supervisor. We planned many adventures together and often made real progress in preventing the advancement of the green movement within the Forest Service. He was an "old school" ranger and came up through the ranks. He hated the politics but was a master at sidestepping the ridiculous plans proposed from on high.

We made a lot of changes that affect many today. He understood the value of having a "civilian" on his side that wasn't afraid of taking the ticket and facing the judge. We would prearrange to have me brought up on charges (always in support of the ridiculous plans the Ag Dept forced on him) and I would get them thrown out in court. We Mutt and Jeffed our way through several layers of bureaucracy, multiple levels of federal courts and eventually congressional hearings that resulted in a real long term defeat for the greenies plans.

Don't overlook the guy behind the counter. As you pointed out Mitchel it's hard for agency employees to keep personal relationships outside the job. Favoritism is one of the worst charges agency employees can face. It was always amusing to hear others express the opinion that the Forest Super and I were the worst of enemies. They were never invited to our frequent BBQ and beer talks in the backyard. :brows:

There are good people in the agencies and as Bob pointed out there are more each day. The greenie invasion of the land managers are getting older and retiring and the new crop of recruits are destined to return those agencies to their former purpose. Please don't alienate them before they get their turn at the wheel. They are our best opportunity for a sane future.

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