Judy's cleaning out computer hard drives prior to our yard sale. She and I had many adventures checking  on (and writing about) the claims of political activists during the 90's. The process was interesting, educational and sometimes darned right funny like the following story Judy wrote in her (November/December)  Forest Scene newsletter in 1994.

Not Cheap To Mine


Judy Hodge


I would like to tell you about a discouraging experience my friend Bonnie and I had, and hope I can keep others from wasting their time. First of all, our husbands have worked in the timber industry all their working lives, but the timber industry is gradually going down the tubes here in California. We have immense forests, (trees everywhere), but every time a timber sale is offered on the national forest some preservation group appeals the sale. They are even restricting the harvest of trees on private property.

The listing of the "spotted owl as sensitive" has hindered good forest management, and after millions and millions of dollars spent by industry to study this bird, results have showed that the owl is quite abundant and should never have been listed. The Federal government has been petitioned to de-list the northern spotted owl in California, but they seem to be ignoring the petition. Meanwhile, our forests have suffered from drought and bug infestation and salvage sales to remove dead and bug infested timber are also being appealed. (If bug infested timber is not removed, the infestation only spreads, killing more and more trees and this not only in itself is devastating to our beautiful forests and to the wildlife within, but is also a tremendous fire hazard.) The Sierra Club has recently appealed such a sale in the Lake Tahoe Basin, which now contains an immense amount of dead and dying trees.

Due to the fact that work is not so abundant and we are being forced to stand by and watch our forests die, Bonnie and I decided to check into more secure lines of work for our families, because we are afraid that next year there may not be any work at all. We had read literature from different environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, and the National Wildlife Federation which basically states that you can make a killing as a miner for practically nothing.

A quote from the National Wildlife Federation states "Under the 1872 Mining Law, hard rock minerals...platinum, gold, silver, copper, etc...can be extracted from western public lands free of charge. In addition, public land can be bought for as little as $2.50 per acre."

That was within our budget, so Bonnie and I drove 65 miles to the BLM office in Sacramento, California to purchase some of this land and see about getting started in the mining industry. We went into the BLM office and put $100 our pooled cash on the counter. A woman came over and asked if she could help us, and we told her that we would like to buy some of the land being offered for $2.50 to $5 an acre; that we would prefer buying some BLM land on the South Fork of the Yuba River in Nevada County, because it was close to home. We stated that we wouldn't mind paying the top price of $5 an acre for this land.

The woman looked a little puzzled and wanted to know where we got our information, so we showed her the literature. She told us that she didn't know if they had any of this land available and would have to ask someone else about it. She walked over to another woman, and both returned to the counter. The second woman asked us again what it was that we wanted so we repeated our request. Then she shook her head and chuckled, "I don't know who is giving you this information and I don't mean to be discouraging, but the BLM doesn't have any land for sale, and if they had land for sale for $2.50 to $5 an acre, I would be the first in line."

I showed her the names of the organizations on the literature and told her that they were considered reputable groups. I presumed that if they made these statements that they should be true, especially since the Secretary of the Interior had made such claims. Why would he deceive us? She sounded somewhat disgusted with the statements in the literature and proceeded to explain some things about mining and mining claims. She gave us literature to read and told us that we would be surprised at the calls they received concerning this cheap land. She even suggested that if we wanted land that we should go to a real estate office.

One of the pages of literature was a summery of costs concerning patents. I almost fell over when I read the line "Minimum Total Expenditures to Obtain a Mineral Patent for a 20 acre lode claim"...$37,900. That sure made our $100 look tiny. That didn't include the equipment and other costs involved in the mining process. All without the assurance of a productive mineral deposit. In other words, if the mine didn't turn out to be feasible or productive, we could lose everything we invested. We realized then that it wasn't at all cheap or free to mine, and there were no guarantees.

After doing some research I realized that the mining industry provides the material needed to produce untold amounts of products that we take for granted. Even ordinary toothpaste. Besides that, the mining industry provides employment for many Americans. I learned that less than 0.2 percent of the land in the U.S. and Canada is used for mining.

This has been a learning experience for me, and I feel that I have been misled by statements in the literature provided by different organizations. Don't believe everything you read. Do your own research and learn the truth. Meanwhile, Bonnie and I are still looking for secure employment. We can't understand why environmental groups are blocking proper management of our forests, but don't seem to mind watching them die or burn. I love wildlife, and it breaks my heart to see the unnecessary loss of wildlife in dying forests and fires.