The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated anglers in California made $2.7 billion in fishing-related expenditures in 2006, the most recent year for which data are available.So how much money does suction dredging—the mining of stream bottoms for gold—contribute to the economy?
We know in California that the State estimates it costs around $2 million to administer instream mining operations.
We know miners pay nothing to the federal government for the gold they extract from the public's National Forest and BLM lands and rivers. They pay no royalties. Nothing. Nada.
Most don't even pay the annual claim fee that goes to keep up the paper work on mining claims. In Oregon, mining claims are not taxable property. Yes, miners like the rest of us do buy gas and groceries.
While we don't have the figures for how much it costs to administer suction dredge mining in Oregon, we do know the Forest Service estimated the cost to the taxpayer of the environmental impact statement for Chetco River Mining and Exploration's multiple mining plans at over $800,000.
Our rivers—the fresh water habitat that spawns about $2.7 billion in fishing-related expenditures in California—reward us with life itself (pure water) and an amazing natural resource like wild salmon and steelhead. Stream bottoms are not inert gravel. They're a complex part of the stream ecosystem—the nursery for the wild salmon and steelhead we cherish and a vital part of the river's food web and structure.
Our rivers deserve the highest level of protection from impacts like suction dredge mining, which as far as we can see costs the rest of us money and contributes little to the economy.