“…This article should answer most of your questions about our organization’s Internal Affairs program.”
This explanation from me was prompted by a well-meaning remark made by one of our more supportive members on our Message Forum just a short while ago. I had made the comment in a newsletter that our Internal Affairs staff would be looking in on all campers along our properties to make certain that everyone has some sort of self-contained means of dealing with their own human waste. The member’s comment was a joke about our staff jumping out from behind trees and yelling, “Resistance is futile, I want to look at your ?&$# ?????”…
The truth is that, the way things are, I probably worry about the “Resistance is futile, I want to look at your ?&$# ?????” scenario more than anyone!! Not in the Club; but in a world where government gains more control over our lives every day. Those guys are also looking more and more at our activity every day. It’s the reason why we must all have our acts together.
“Internal Affairs” sounds pretty scary. We were using “Welcoming Committee” for a while; but it doesn’t really describe the function.
One problem is that there is a very small percentage of people who will not conform to any set of reasonable rules or conform to acceptable civilized behavior. When they show up in our program, we must have a way to deal with them, or they place the whole program at risk. We have run several people out of the Club over the years, mainly because they were basically criminals. We don’t want the bad guys around.
Our “Internal Affairs” guys are volunteers who I have personally appointed. Most of the time, they are just doing their own thing (prospecting) like any other members.
But when a situation comes up, they are all over it. Other than the occasional emergencies which come up, “Situations” generally fall into 3 categories:
1) Disputes between members, or between members and locals or the authorities. This doesn’t happen very often. Sometimes it is about crossing over some local private property without permission. Once in a while, members can have a dispute about a private mining area on our properties; who was there first, etc. Our guys help solve these kind of problems when they come up.
2) Uncivilized behavior out on the mining properties or in the campgrounds. There is no call for a single person to make the overall experience miserable for everyone else. Some people exist who can be vocally unfriendly to everyone else in the viscinity. Maybe someone’s dog turns out to be a menace. Things like this sometimes need to be adjudicated by Club staff with some authority, although it is almost never necessary in The New 49’ers.
3) The main concern ties to the concept of “substantial surface disturbance.” Our entire legal foundation with the authorities revolves around this single concept of keeping our cumulative surface impact to a minimum. This is because, if we exceed a minimum standard as a group activity, each individual member will find yourself negotiating your own terms with the authorities. Believe me; it is much easier for everyone involved if we can just internally manage our own affairs!
We have managed to accomplish this every season since 1986. But sometimes, it has been necessary for our Club staff to ask or help active members reduce impacts which exceed reasonable standards. Reasonable standards are all outlined in our published Rules. Some of our individual properties have some special operational limitations. When they exist, you will find them explained in ourClaims Guide.
Under my personal direction, our Internal Affairs guys are continuously monitoring our overall cumulative impact. This is where the 10 dredges per mile concept comes from along the Klamath River. It is where the need for self contained toilet facilities comes from. Most of our published rules revolve around agreements which we have made with the authorities about how we can keep our cumulative surface impact to a level which is considered less than significant.
Sanitation is a big one. If you see someone squatting down behind a tree with some toilet paper, I don’t think you should be very nice about it. This is a totally appropriate situation where you ought to use the megaphone on high volume: “Resistance is futile, I want to look at your ?&$# ?????”
The 10 dredges per mile is another big one on the Klamath River. That’s why you see us going to so much effort to work out a fair program as to who can place a dredge on a new claim on opening day. We will be all over it if someone puts an 11th dredge in there! That would place our whole self-managed program at risk! Someone would do it for sure if we did not have an effective mechanism to control it. “Welcome Committee”does not fit that job description very well…
I tell members not to worry about it too much; people come and go in a matter of days. Sometimes in a matter of hours! Everybody will get a chance. We have 60+ miles of opportunity available. There is plenty of room for everyone!
Big holes dug on the bank, or dredged into the bank, are another big one. This is because the cumulative impact from these could easily be classed as a “substantial surface disturbance,” and place our entire self-managed program at risk. You would be surprised at how many people just walk away from open holes! You know who fills them in? It’s the Internal Affairs guys (volunteers)! Sometimes the holes are big enough that they have to organize work parties to fill them in.
We had one member who made a huge hole in the stream bank once, right next to the river. Then she refused to fill it in. So our Internal Affairs guys arranged for others to fill it in. Then we wrote a formal letter to that member which cancelled her right to do any further high-banking on our properties. She wasn’t very happy about that. And I was sorry to sign the letter, because she is a very nice lady. Some things are not easy!
Fortunately, in our group, disciplinary action is almost never necessary. The vast majority of members do their best to minimize impact. We have a great bunch of members!
The rules are all reasonable, common sense solutions which have evolved over the years — mainly because somebody was doing something that was going to get us in trouble. We could not exist without the rules.
There are no “Big Brothers” (at least from the Club) hiding behind trees out in the forest looking for trouble. I just pointed out the need to look in on campers concerning sanitary issues, because these are an important concern that comes up more often than you would think. One of the worst jobs our Internal Affairs guys have to contend with, is scooping up a bunch of used toilet paper, along with the other stuff, into trash bags from behind trees. I’m sure you get the idea…
The good thing is that we have volunteers to take care of these things, so I don’t have to be walking around with a trash bag in one hand and a megaphone in the other!
Thanks for trying to understand!