The Friendly Federation

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Southeast Federation
of Mineralogical Societies, Inc.
SFMS Land Access Program


“Some Thoughts on the ALAA and Land Access Issues”
John Wright
Past President of SFMS
Current Member of the AFMS Conservation/Legislation Committee
Current Mississippi State Representative for the American Lands Access Association Inc.

     I  represent the SFMS as a member of the AFMS Conservation/Legislation Committee. On September 27, 1997, I  received notice that I had been appointed Mississippi State Representative for the American Lands Access Association Inc.  This appointment probably means that I am the only one in Mississippi that had sent in my dues up to that date.  I certainly hope that I am wrong, for this Association is the only organized effort we who still like to go on outings have fighting to defend and maintain our rights.  This representation of our views, preservation of our rights, and with great probability our future existence unfortunately takes money and effort.  We “Rockhounds” surprisingly exceed in numbers those who want to restrain us.  We are just more passive and prefer to spend our money on items incidental to our hobby while our adversaries’ sole purpose is to eliminate or severely restrict everyone’s access to public lands.  I think it is reasonable to assume that once public lands are restricted, private lands will follow suit or charge exorbitant fees, and then the unthinkable, someone somewhere will surely start to question the origin and ownership of our rocks, minerals, and fossils.  Please do not for one minute believe that I am being overly dramatic or imaginative for I have been detained, severely questioned, almost fined/jailed, and escorted away from state/federal land and parks.  I never broke the law or violated any published policies or procedures.  It also might interest you to know that on several of these occasions, I was employed by the U. S. Department of the Interior as a Geologist and was just doing an approved job. 
Impression that I am opposed to the preservation of natural resources, protecting items (certain fossils as an example) that are of scientific or educational value, conservation or environmental issues.  Actually, just the opposite is true, I am very much an environmentalist but I am also a realist.  Utopia is a figment of the imagination, a dream I doubt seriously will ever materialize, or to put it another way, when God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, he put a cherubim (mighty angel) with a flaming sword at the entrance that faces all directions to guard the Tree of Life, so I don’t think we stand much chance of getting back in there.  Existing in the primitive conditions of our ancestors or certain rain forest tribal natives is not an ideal way of life in my opinion.  The greater majority of environmentalist probably share my view and it may surprise you to learn that most of them even cherish modern convinces.  They have their agenda just like we do and unfortunately this sometimes puts us at odds.  Their general membership probably never considers or is aware of the hurt they impose on other organizations such as ours.   Amazingly, there are numerous members of our own societies and clubs that also belong to environmental and conservation groups that do not realize this.   The forte of this type organization is based on issues, real or imagined, and new issues are necessary to maintain their growth, prosperity, and longevity. The majority of decisions render in cases involving issues translate to domination good or bad over the will of others and winning is extremely important.  Lobbying and litigation are the prevalent methods used (now you know why so many lawyers are affiliated), but direct confrontation is employed when necessary, and covert actions like the episode of trying to sneak a vote through the Arizona State Legislative bodies to put Crystal Mountain located near Quartzsite off limits to rockhounding are becoming more common.             

      I do not believe that our hobby in any stretch of the imagination represents a major environmental threat.  Quite the contrary, it exposes us to the wonders of our world, appreciation of science, the recognition of the fragility nature, and the realization that many of earth’s treasures must be protected and preserved for future generations.  Many if not most of the greatest discoveries in archaeology, paleontology, and mineralogy were directly or in some part made possible by the efforts of amateurs.  Academia and the scientific community do not have the people, time or money to search out every corner of the world.  Preserving known or suspected sites of scientific or educational value, areas of particular beauty, popular retreats, etc. should be controlled but to deny or severely restrict access to all federal lands in general is ludicrous.  All this will accomplish is cost us more (for permits), give the government more control over where and when we can go and what we can or cannot do, and create an outstanding black market for certain enterprising individuals.  

John Wright is a Registered Professional Geologist, a published scientific author, a member of Sigma Xi (the scientific research society), a two term past president of his local club, served seven years as the SFMS Mississippi State Director, and a member of several SFMS committeesand past 2nd VP, 1st VP, and President of SFMS.  His forte is carving.


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