For a group of anti-federalist activists in Idaho, the right to dredge for gold wherever one pleases is fundamental to American freedom, and they are breaking the law to defend it.
A group of around 60 rogue miners are camping out on the shore of Idaho’s Salmon River this week to illegally dredge for gold. They have begun dredging on the stretch of the river closed to such activity, to protect threatened and endangered fish populations in the river. The group objects to a new Environmental Protection Agency rule that requires permits to mine rivers in some states.
"This is the United States of America, not the 'United State' of America. The feds can't come in here like storm troopers and start running our lands and rivers," Organizer John Crossman, head of the Southwest Idaho Mining Association in Boise, told Reuters on Tuesday.
The group’s main Facebook page features posts lamenting American tax policy and complaining about regulations that limit skateboarding in certain parts of Idaho. The affiliated Facebook page for the illegal dredging event, called “Occupy Idaho Waters: Anti-Epa Dredge in Event,” features a poster encouraging participants to bring their families to the week-long event. Another post states that Doug Giddings, the sheriff of Idaho County, advised all protesters to refuse to speak to any EPA personnel. Giddings could not be immediately reached for comment.
As Reuters notes, this is the latest in a string of similar demonstrations against federal policy governing public lands in Western states. Most recently, in May, protesters rode all-terrain vehicles through a Utah canyon trail that was closed by the Bureau of Land Management in part to preserve Native American relics.
Miners from Riggins, Idaho--where the mining protest is currently happening--prompted a bill to “nullify” the EPA’s authority in the state earlier this year. The bill died in the state House due to its “likely unconstitutional” status.