The Karuk Tribe of California has lost a legal challenge against small-scale dredge mining in the Klamath river.

The tribe contended that suction dredge mining, in which small amounts of rock and gravel from streams are sucked into a hose and mechanically sifted for gold, disturbs the habitat of threatened salmon.

Miners who want to conduct such operations on U.S. Forest Service land must file a "notice of intent" with the agency. The agency then decides whether or not to require an operations plan for the project.

In a legal complaint, the Karuk Tribe claimed that the Forest Service should have sought Endangered Species Act consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service before accepting several notices of intent.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Forest Service isn't required to seek such interagency consultation in such cases.

When the agency accepts a notice of intent but does not require an operations plan, it's not actually taking action, according to the majority opinion. Such inaction is not subject to interagency consultation under ESA.

Circuit Judge William Fletcher wrote a dissenting opinion in which he said the acceptance of a notice of intent is akin to the authorization of mining, and should require the Forest Service to seek consultation.

-- Mateusz Perkowski

Recommended for you