During a casual conversation with the President of a local GPAA gold prospecting club, I used the term "Recreational Prospecting" and was instantly admonished and told that the "correct" term we should be using (according to him) is "small-scale mining" or "small-scale prospecting" because (according to him) using the term "recreational" puts us (recreational prospectors) at the mercy of local governments and regulating committees without any power to fight for our right to pursue our passion.
Those of us involved in the formation of Gold Unlimited believe the exact opposite is true and that by relying on mining laws (small scale or otherwise) which do absolutely nothing for recreational prospectors, those who advocate the term "small-scale mining" are contributing to the continued loss of public lands available to pursue our hobby.
Mining laws do nothing to protect your ability to prospect "recreationally" in public parks and along public trails or other developed public lands. If prospectors are left to ONLY prospect on a claim or potential claim, then prospecting as we know it is dead and 99% of the places to prospect, pan, sluice and highbank are gone and off limits. Here in Colorado we are seeing the continued shrinking of available public places to prospect before our eyes. We have seen gold panning banned in Wheat Ridge, Boulder and even Breckenridge without even a whimper from national and local prospecting clubs. There is a park in Wheat Ridge named "Prospect Park" where any form of prospecting is illegal. Ironic?
We believe that the real power to preserve the future of recreational gold prospecting lies in the fact that it is "recreational" and not commercial. For example do sport fishermen consider themselves "small-scale fishing operations"? Of course not.
Consider it from the perspective of a land owner or claim owner that you are approaching to prospect on his (or her) land...
You have two choices here for the question to ask the land owner.
Question #1- "Would you mind if I went down to the creek behind your house (or business) there and do some "small-scale gold mining"?
Question #2- "Would you mind if I went down to the creek behind your house (or business) to do some "recreational gold prospecting"?
If YOU were the land (or claim) owner, which question might be more likely to get a "yes" answer from you?
If you are a city, county or other government agency, which question is more likely to get a "yes" response?
If we are to retain our ability to have access to public land for the purpose of our hobby then we need to educate the public on what we are doing instead of confusing them with incorrect terminology.
We are NOT small-scale gold miners unless we are out there on open blm land prospecting for the sole purpose of filing a claim. If you are on land that is un-claimable like city, county, parks, etc. then there is no reason for you to be there prospecting as a small scale miner since you cannot file a claim there.
Dakota Fred and the Hoffman boys are "small-scale miners". Jesse Peterson owner of Vic's is also a small scale miner.
We are Recreational gold Prospectors. It is a hobby, a sport, a recreation and NOT a commercial endeavor and therefore should NOT be regulated in the same fashion as small-scale miners and should not be limited to the same guidelines and rules as commercial small scale mining operations.
Recreational prospectors have the power in our number should we band together as one force like fishermen, kayakers and other recreational groups have done. There are millions of recreational prospectors across the US and maybe a few thousand small scale miners at most, yet millions are spent proctecting the rights of the miners and virtually zero is spent protecting the rights of the recreational prospectors.
We will be speaking at local GPAA clubs on this very subject and welcome any debate or input as we seek to protect the rights of recreational prospectors just as other groups have fought and won for access to steams for other recreational purposes which were far less historically significant as gold prospecting.
Denver Colorado was literally built over 100 years ago with the gold that was panned out of the S Platte River, Clear Creek and it's tributaries and we believe that people 200 years from now should have the right to experience that same thrill as those early frontiersmen did.
We invite all prospectors (recreational and otherwise) to join us as we change the perception of what gold prospecting is all about and protect future generations rights to experience this great recreational activity.