COTTAGE GROVE, Ore. - Looking for gold under the cold running water of Sharps Creek gets Richard Stocking's blood pumping.
"Finding the yellow gold - that's, oh ... it's an amazing feeling," he said. "To see it sitting on the rocks underneath the water, it's just amazing feeling."
Stocking has been a small-scale gold miner in the Bohemia mining district for years. He said his way of life is being threatened in the Oregon Legislature.
"I can't begin to tell you how impassioned I am," he said.
He is talking about bills in the legislature branded as an all-out war on mining in Oregon by the Bohemia Mine Owners Association.
- Senate Bill 115 would prohibit placer mining using motorized suction dredges in streambeds.
- Bill 370 would create a fee system and limit the scale of equipment placer miners can use.
- Bill 401 would designate many Oregon waterways as scenic, ending placer mining altogether.
"We don't need more regulation. We don't need more fees," Stocking said. "It's going to kill us."
Supporters of the bills as advanced by state Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford, argue the measures are designed to protect rivers and fish habitat.
But miners in Oregon plan to make their voices heard, too. They are organizing a rally this Thursday in Salem.