MOJAVE TRAILS NATIONAL MONUMENT, Calif. — A longstanding debate is reaching its climax as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) considers reclassifying rock collecting as a form of mining in the Mojave Trails National Monument. This move could potentially halt the practice within the monument’s expansive 1.6 million acres, affecting not just the landscape but also the community of rock collectors in Southern California.
A Hobby Under Threat
For years, rockhounds like Gregor Losson have ventured into the Mojave Desert’s remote corners to collect minerals and gems. However, the BLM’s impending management plan could place rock collecting under the General Mining Law of 1872, which governs the extraction of materials like gold, silver, and oil from public lands.
“Rock collecting is not mining,” argues Lisbet Thoresen, a mineralogist and advocate for the hobby. Thoresen and others see this as a threat to a pastime that has historical roots dating back to the early 20th century.
The Educational Aspect
Katie Boyd, curator of rocks and minerals at the Mojave River Valley Museum in Barstow, finds the situation “bordering on ridiculous.” “I take strong exception to rockhounding being under review for possible classification as a crime,” she said. “It’s a wonderful hobby, and I’m all for it.”
The Legal Quagmire
Adding to the complexity, Senator Dianne Feinstein, who initially requested the monument’s creation, insists that the warning in President Obama’s 2016 proclamation about unauthorized activities did not pertain to rock collecting. The BLM, however, has not confirmed this interpretation.
The Community Speaks
The rock collecting community is not standing idle. Supported by organizations like CalWild and the Mineralogical Society of Southern California, they are fighting for their right to continue this hobby. “We are passionate about keeping the Mojave Trails National Monument for science, for education, for mineral collecting, and for rockhounding for many generations to come,” says Angela Guzman, president of the Mineralogical Society of Southern California.
A Future in Limbo
As the BLM finalizes its management plan later this year, the future of rock collecting in the Mojave Trails remains uncertain. “Rockhounds don’t have lobbyists and lawyers on staff to fight any of this,” says Ruth Hidalgo, a rock collector from Palmdale. But like many in her community, she remains hopeful that a compromise can be reached.
Source: Los Angeles Times