Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Three Convicted of Gem Mining along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Over the past several years, rangers from Blue Ridge Parkway and officers from the US Forest Service have discovered evidence of active gem mining and mineral collection at numerous locations along the parkway, and on adjacent USFS lands. The two agencies coordinated efforts to monitor the locations, in part with surveillance equipment.

On October 13, 2012, rangers saw a man mining one of the sites and identified him as Christopher Barrett, of Asheville, North Carolina. Over the next few months, two other men – Elliott Shope and Thomas Hill, also from Asheville – were also found mining. All were arrested and charged with illegal removal of mineral resources.

On February 26th, Barrett and Shope appeared in court and were fined $1,200 each for removing mineral resources; on April 30th, Hill appeared in court and was fined $500 for removing mineral resources. The investigation continues. The convicted men said that gems and minerals, particularly kyanite, are being traded and sold at local gem markets and are used in jewelry production.

NPS Digest also recently published a report that a man was arrested for harvesting galax along the Parkway.

Last fall, rangers on several occasions saw a silver Toyota Camry in areas along the parkway known for illegal galax harvesting. An inspection of the vehicle led to the discovery of twist ties and other items used in galax harvesting. On November 17th, rangers saw the same vehicle on the parkway and contacted the driver. He was found to have 4,140 galax leaves in his possession. The man also had been cited previously for commercially harvesting galax by the US Forest Service. On April 30th, he pleaded guilty to possession of galax and was sentenced to 30 days in jail.


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