ICL: If You Can't Beat 1872, Join It 

The words "1872 Mining Law" have long been some of the most reviled in the English language to environmental groups. According to this antiquated legislation--which is virtually unchanged from its original version in Idaho's mining laws--"all valuable mineral deposits in lands belonging to the United States" are "free and open to exploration" by any citizen or company with a mining claim. The legislation provides no protections from pollution, allows mining priority over all other land uses, and makes no distinction about what kind of mining can take place where. Now, the Idaho Conservation League has utilized that same law to protect one of the premiere public recreation areas in the Boise Foothills.

At a September 20 conference, the ICL announced that they and a group of locals, calling themselves "Citizens' Mining Company," have staked mining claims for the Hulls Gulch National Recreation Trail, its accompanying parking lot and sections of the surrounding area north of Boise. By gaining control of the mineral rights to this popular area, said Justin Hays of ICL, "We can be certain that when mining does take place here it will not be in the form of a giant open-pit, cyanide leach mine like the one proposed just upstream in Atlanta. The law that says mining trumps all other uses was written in 1872, so we intend to limit mining in this area to the methods used in 1872."

The group said they were not just staking the claims in order to protect Hulls Gulch. They also want to draw attention to the fact that despite local protection action, like the 2001 $10 million Foothills property tax levy that has purchased nearly 4,000 acres of parcels for "open space," much of Boise's recreational playground is still technically vulnerable to mining speculation.

"If you think that this sort of development could never happen in the Foothills, you need to go look at the oil and gas development that is happening in Wyoming, Utah and Montana," Hayes said. "Our community needs to take steps to change this antiquated mining law and we need to take steps to protect our local recreation and wildlife areas from future mining."

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