The federal government’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is once again sparking controversy – and it’s doing so on the one-year anniversary of the Bundy Ranch standoff.
This time, it’s the Galice Mining District near Grants Pass, Oregon, that is shaping up as a battle between the all-powerful federal agency and Sugar Pine miners. Sugar Pine is part of the Galice district.
Many Americans outside of the Western United States were unfamiliar with the BLM prior to the controversy over Cliven Bundy’s ranch, when they learned that approximately 50 percent of the land out West is owned by the federal government.
The land dispute between the residents of Josephine County near Galice Creek and BLM officials has been brewing for several years – and is about to come to a head. The BLM has ordered Sugar Pine miners to cease and desist all operations and remove all equipment from their claims by April 25, but the majority of the mining claim holders have refused to budge. Oath Keepers and militia group members have been called in to help them hold their ground.
The Galice Mining District has been in operation since the 1870s and is regarded as one of the longest running operations in the United States. The BLM reportedly claims that the Galice miners have no surface mineral rights to the area, but the miners say they have documents that grandfathered-in their rights.
The Galice Creek claims held by the miners predate the establishment of the BLM, the miners say.
“We defend the Constitution,” Mary Emerick with Oath Keepers told KDRV. “ … And we are here just to make sure that they receive their Fifth Amendment rights which is due process.”
The Josephine County mines have reportedly produced more than 10 million ounces of gold since panning in the region began. Geologists estimate that only about 10 percent of the gold which exists in the Galice area has been removed – a fact which further entices miners to fight for the land.
“We’ve sent them those letters,” BLM’s Jim Whittington told KDRV. “They also have the right to appeal our notice, that it requires either a plan of operation or notice, and some informal contacts with their lawyer…it sounds like they may appeal. So if they appeal, that starts another administrative appeal process.”
Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel told the media that he has been acting as a “mediator” for the BLM and the Galice Creek miners, and that the only reason he and his deputies would step in is if the situation escalates and a safety issues arises.
Sugar Pine miners asked the local Oathkeepers for help, and they in turn put out a nationwide bulletin. It read:
“If you are a true Militia, true III%, Oathkeeper etc. then you are needed. If you can get away from home to help, NOW IS THE TIME,” says the alert issued by Chris Langer, a firearms instructor and barbecue restaurant owner from Wisconsin. “Just like Bundy ranch, the BLM is out of order! SHUT DOWN THE FOREIGN CORPORATION NOW! The miners need you!!”
Arizona state militia member Blaine Cooper was among those on his way to Galice Creek.
“That’s what being an American is all about,” he said in a video posted on YouTube. “We don’t allow our neighbor to be enslaved or beaten or tortured by government jackboots because they want to steal our land and our resources to keep us under their thumb.”