- Associated Press - Monday, December 14, 2015

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - A U.S. Forest Service proposal would ban new gold mining claims at 11 sites in the Black Hills National Forest.

The Rapid City Journal reports (https://bit.ly/1QGpyNn ) that the sites total nearly 17,500 acres, or a total of about 27 square miles.

That’s only about 2 percent of the forest’s total area. But prospectors contend that the targeted sites contain more than half of the promising mining areas that remain unclaimed in the Black Hills.

Sam Griner with the Black Hills Prospecting Club thinks the proposal is part of a broader effort by the federal government to restrict access to public land.

“They’re so wrapped up in their resource that they want to keep it to themselves,” Griner said. “They just don’t want mining to be done to their resource.”



The Forest Service says the targeted sites are considered special because of their natural features. Most are already protected as special sites. Four are designated botanical areas and seven are research natural areas.

The sites remain open to the public, but with restrictions on activities including motorized travel, timber harvesting and livestock grazing.

“It would be one more layer of protection for these areas,” said Chelsea Monks, a botanist for the U.S. Forest Service.

Gary Mallams, president of the Black Hills Prospecting Club, said amateur miners are a user group, much like snowmobilers or cross-country skiers, that deserves access to public lands, but is now being forced to fight for it.

Competing opinions will ultimately be weighed by the federal Interior secretary, who will decide on the proposal by September 2017.

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, https://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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