Josephine Co. mine, BLM, dispute yields gun-toting protesters

Armed protesters gather outside of Medford BLM office.

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Armed protesters gathered outside of the Medford Bureau of Land Management office Thursday in support of a rural Josephine County mine owner.

The dispute began when the BLM told Sugar Pine Mine owners George Backes and Rick Barclay to submit a plan or remove their equipment if they wanted to continue operations.

Supporters of the mine owners say BLM lied when it said that was necessary.

From the Medford Mail Tribune:

Mary Emerick, spokesperson for the local Oath Keepers, said the group has had volunteers arrive from throughout the western United States since it began guarding the mine. “We had three people drive all night to get here from Montana,” she said. The BLM closed its Medford office because of the protests, citing safety concerns. A number of the protesters openly displayed holstered firearms. Armed volunteers from the Oath Keepers have maintained a constant presence around the Josephine County mine since last week following a request by the miners, who said they feared the BLM would destroy their cabin and equipment on their claim before they could appear in court to appeal the agency’s noncompliance order. 

“We decided to stand up for our rights, and I don’t think we did wrong with the crowd we have here,” Backes said, prompting cheers from the protesters.

The miners say the land and all of its resources is under their control, and has been since the 1800s, predating the Surface Resources Act of 1955. The BLM contends the land belongs to the federal government.

BLM spokesman Tom Gorey said in the MT story: “(The miners) have a particular interpretation of the Constitution that has not been recognized by any federal court.”


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