OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will accept written comments on proposed new mineral prospecting rules Sept. 3-26 before submitting recommendations to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in October.
The proposed rules are designed to update state regulations for gold panning and mineral prospecting activities, which can potentially affect fish life in rivers and streams, said Greg Hueckel, assistant director for the WDFW Habitat Program.
The proposed rules, along with information on how they were developed, are available on WDFW’s website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/hab/goldfish/mineral_prospect.htm).
“The proposed rules reflect updated information about how mineral prospecting affects fish habitat,” Hueckel said. “Our goal is to effectively protect aquatic habitat without putting an unnecessary burden on prospectors.”
Gold is the biggest draw for prospectors in Washington state, Hueckel said. Equipment used in extracting it includes pans, sluices and small suction dredges.
Issues addressed by the proposed rules include the timing, location and equipment used for prospecting under various conditions, Hueckel said.
In developing the proposed rules, WDFW worked with a 17-member group representing various state and federal agencies, tribal governments, environmental groups and prospectors.
Hueckel said WDFW will consider all written comments received during the comment period before making final recommendations to the Fish and Wildlife Commission in early October. The commission is expected to take action on the proposed rules at a meeting scheduled Nov. 7-8 in Leavenworth.
If approved by the commission this year, the new rules will take effect for prospecting activities in 2009.