The American Mining Rights Association: A Darwin Award Winner in the Making

By Bob Ferris
“AMRA is different than all other non-profit associations, we don’t give you a T-shirt or a bumper sticker for a donation, we give you access to our gold claims.  Proven claims.  We own these claims, and most have been used to provide us with our incomes.  We are expanding our claim holdings in as many states as we possibly can and access to these claims will be provided to our members.  Our wish would be that every member who mines our claims makes back any donation to us in gold.”  AMRA website 
Those who have read my blogs and other writings know that I do not suffer bullies (real or cyber), truth-benders, fools or those who purposely ignore laws gladly.  And with Shannon Poe of the American Mining Rights Association we have all four.  
American Mining Rights Association
My first encounter with Mr. Poe (and his present or one-time fiance Ms. Grossman) was when someone told me that he was challenging me to a debate on the AMRA Facebook page.  As he never directly contacted me and I was unaware that there was a virtual chair waiting for my posterior, I was a little bothered when he publicly criticized me for not having the courage to show up—I believe there was even a mention of some missing body parts at one time. He riffed on that for a while until I found out and actually visited his site.  I then asked him to defend several statements he made in one of his too, too long video rants.  
American Mining Rights Association T Shirt
I had many issues with his video that was circulated during the debates on Oregon suction dredge legislation.  But the one gem that I really wanted an answer on was his statement that people along the rivers in Oregon—if those rivers were designated as state scenic waterways—would have to go through an environmental impact process to plant tomatoes.   Really?
We had some give and take on this and I kept asking the same questions, which he never answered.  His response was to insult me personally (again) and when he realized that he could not defend his statements and respond to rational questions, he banned me from the AMRA site and removed that portion of the dialog.  The whole incidence bothered me so I took a few minutes to try to figure out who and what AMRA was.
My research led me to the fairly functioning AMRA website and on the site they claimed to be a non-profit company.  But in other areas of the site and elsewhere they describe themselves variously as a 501(c)3 entity or as having applied for non-profit status with the IRS.  Since it is illegal in California to solicit funds for non-profit purposes unless you are a registered non-profit, I thought that I would check in with the State of California and the IRS (see above status report).  As he was not registered with either, I filed a simple complaint form with the Attorney General’s Office in Sacramento (see below result).  And that was that.  Until I saw a video posted on our friends and campaign partners the Fish Not Gold site in Washington State.  
Not satisfied with the non-profit violations, Mr. Poe thought that he would rip a page out of Cliven Bundy’s play book and publicly suction dredge in Idaho without the required EPA permit.  His video even stated that he did not have a permit and it included captioning identifying AMRA as a non-profit, which is clearly not the case.  Now I will admit that the federal and state law enforcement agencies have their hands full with a bumper crop of public land duffuses at this point, but the fact that Mr. Poe seems to beg for it and provides his own video evidence should move him to the front portion of this large class.  I would add that given the challenges that salmonids in the West are facing with water flows and temperatures at this juncture, his “my rights were given me by God” action was particularly poorly timed for the fish.

Now I suppose he could use the Glenn Beck I-got-caught-up-in-the-moment-and-was-spewing-crap defense for his earlier video statements.  After all the camera was running and he therefore had to say something—but his actions in Idaho are something different.  That is also true for his continued claims of being a non-profit even after being sent a notice by the California Attorney General’s Office of problems with his operation and being rejected on similar grounds when he applied for a raffle permit earlier this year (see below).   
And I am still trying to sort out all the problems with the opening statement of this piece from the AMRA website.  All I can conclude is that Mr. Poe is a big fan of Tom Sawyer.  My conclusion is drawn from his concept that people will pay him to be able to work his claims and then give him back the fruits of their labor—in gold, mind you—so that he can buy more claims, pay legal fees or protect their rights as he sees fit.  But the fact that he and others are not required to return their findings to the “non-profit” indicates that he is self-dealing and that they are getting value for the contribution which means it is not a donation nor is it tax deductible even if they were legally a 501c3 non-profit.   In point of fact it makes him exactly like every other mining club selling access, only he wants his miners to return what they find.

Now I will be the first to admit that running a non-profit is complicated.  It isn’t simply a case of paying LegalZoom and then getting a tax number so you can open a bank account.  There are federal filings and state applications as well as officers, meetings, bylaws and minutes to deal with.  Believing a $149 payment gets you a soup-to-nuts solution and a fully-fledged non-profit not needing care and feeding is a lot like thinking having sex is all there is to raising kids.  As we can see by the above dialog on the AMRA Facebook page, Mr. Poe is clearly out of his depth when it comes to the legal requirements for non-profits and thinking that these bare minimum, cookie-cutter Articles of Incorporation are a "license" of any type is telling and indicates his lack of sophistication in this arena.  
"showing that miners are not just uninformed, uneducated folks with scratchy beards and missing teeth as our opposition seems to picture us." AMRA Website
On one of their pages AMRA bemoans the fact that the public does not have a good impression of suction dredge miners and others who search for gold (see above).  I can understand that concern.  But exactly what impression should the public have of a group of people that continually and publicly misrepresent the science, disregard the laws of our country and act in a threatening, belligerent and bullying manner?  This is not really a matter of underpowered public relations, but a consistent and well documented pattern of behavior that makes the rest of us less and less willing to tolerate these machines and this we-are-beyond-the-law culture in our precious waterways.  

4 thoughts on “The American Mining Rights Association: A Darwin Award Winner in the Making

  1. Tom Cullen says:

    Mr. Ferris,

    I Have publicly challenged you to a debate, on your own forums, over your claims that dredging was harmful to Fish and the environment in general. I'll later dig up these challenges, however, I belive you deleted them.

    You have repeatedly been unable to provide scientific proof that dredging is harmful; I point to numerous impartial state-sponsored studies. You've absolutely none to back up what you feel. Yes, feel – the extreme environmentalist movement offers "can", "may", "could", as proof of thier point of view, lacking scientific proof. I ask you, again, please provide *one* impartial study, unquestioned by peers in the scientific community, untainted by donor dollars that conclusively proves that dredging is harmful to fish.

    Fishermen do much more harm.

    I fully expect this post to be deleted.

  2. bob says:

    Tom or BS Miner,

    Posts are not deleted from this site unless they contain person threats, excessive vulgar language or inappropriate comments about race, gender or sexual orientation. As to debates you have a particular point of view which is tainted by your desire to dredge.  Your comment about cautionary language is telling as it demonstrates that you do not understand how scientific statements are couched by responsible scientists in environmental comments.  Your characterization is a lot like folks saying that evolution is “just” a theory; for a scientist that comment is like fingernails on a blackboard. My understanding is that you are from San Francisco. Think about how this statement feels to you: I know the Bay Area, I used to live in Frisco. With that casual comment a person has demonstrated that they did not live in San Francisco nor do they know it.  I suspect that you would be reticent to sit on a panel with that person to debate the wonders of the City because that person did not meet the minimum qualifictions for a chair on that panel.  If you think about it honestly, you will know my answer and understand it.

    Bob Ferris


  3. Brian Wells says:

    Gentlemen please,

    It seems likely to me that through all of the huffing and puffing between these two ideologies, somewhere stands the truth. Without question, it certainly must be true that suction dredging cannot but have some negative affect upon the creatures that live in the dredging environment simply by virtue that the substrate is completly overturned, and to deny this simple fact is akin to denial of the obvious. It seems equally true however, that public lands are, and should be, available for use as much by the aesthete as they should be for the utilitarian. Both have equal value granted by law and reason. Neither of these positions entirely occupy the moral high ground in this debate.

    "Tragedy of the Commons" aside, compromise is a central tenet of democracy, and unless you are advocating for some other form of government, may I suggest that you both stop thumping your collective ideological chests and start finding a solution that both interests can live with for the moment, in the interest of the rest of us who see no productive end in sight unless some ground is given by each.

    We AMERICANS shall not forget that public lands are for ALL of the people, environmental advocates and miners alike. It's time both camps realize this simple truth, unless we wish to relinquish all logic and coherency by subscribing to this continued unproductive path of war.

    So stop the acusations please and start listening to one another.

    Brian Wells BS, MFA. Professor. Enviromental advocate and placer miner.

  4. bob says:


    All that you articulartely argue is true as long as all things are equal (i.e., impacts in general, one activity compromising the experience of the other, and commercial aspects), but they are not.  People fishing and rafting are not doing that for profit, those that do (i.e., outfitters) are regulated to lessen their impacts.  Similarly hikers and ATV users or kayakers and jet skiers have differing impacts on the landscape as well as each other and they have differential impacts on each other.  All of this rightfully should be taken into any consideration of these activities.

    Bob Ferris

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