Oregon environmental group threatened in gold miners’ posters

ASHLAND, Ore. — Ashland police increased patrols around an environmental group’s office after one of its staffers was threatened by gold miners in posters being circulated at store and social media sites.

Threats against the staffer of KS Wild, a group that works to preserve the environment and wildlife in Northern California and southern Oregon, began with circulation of a poster at the Roseburg Gold Show, sponsored by the Douglas County Prospectors Association, in early February, the Medford Tribune Mail Tribune reported.

The flier was posted on several social media sites, including the Facebook page of Kerby Jackson, an officer of the Galice Mining District, an organization of gold miners. Jackson, a historian and author, was a speaker at the Douglas County gathering. The store were the flier began circulation was in Applegate.

Using anonymous screen names, others joined with threatening posts, according to screenshots provided by Joseph Vaile, director of KS Wild in Ashland. One suggested the employee better move out of the area. Another said, “Hey miners! Here ya go! Open season.”

One suggested putting cross hairs on his face. Another said “eco-wacs” and politicians should be “shot on sight.”

The flier posted in Applegate and since taken down named the employee’s wife, called her “also a radical environmentalist” and gave the couple’s address and phone number. The couple have an infant in the house.

“We’re not scared,” said Vaile. “We are confident only a small minority of the miners resort to these tactics. We hope it’s a lot of bluster, but we take the threat very seriously.”

The language of the poster is troubling, Vaile said, because it indicates miners “may have cased the home” of the employee.

Jackson’s poster, titled “This man has helped steal your chance for prosperity,” charged the employee and KS Wild with taking funding from disreputable sources, suing to block scores of timber sales and closing thousands of acres of public lands to miners and ranchers in Oregon.

The poster shows the employee wearing a crown and cozily flanked by an owl and rabbit.

“They (KS Wild) may perceive this as a threat. … I wouldn’t call it a death threat,” said Jackson. “People post their angry feelings. People get hot over this subject in the spirit of the moment.

“They no longer have jobs, the ranchers, miners and timber workers. They have a right to free speech, as long as they don’t go out and kill someone. … At the same time, people shouldn’t make stupid comments. They should think before they talk.”

The Oregon Legislature in 2013 put a cap of 8,500 permits for suction dredge mining, which will cut the practice by a third. Miners vigorously protested the bill. KS Wild worked for its passage.

Vaile believes such mining of rivers and banks increases turbidity of rivers, harming salmon, trout and the river itself. California placed a moratorium on suction dredging, resulting in an influx of miners to Southern Oregon, he said.

Suction dredges resemble rowboats, essentially housing a large vacuum cleaner that sucks up dirt, gravel and bits of gold from river bottoms.

Jackson contends such mining is not harmful to fish and “might be more ecologically sound than not.”

KS Wild contacted city police and Oregon State Police. City police gave KS staff members tips on being careful, Vaile said.

Ashland police Deputy Chief Tighe O’Meara said extra patrols are being done in Ashland and another town (he asked it not be named) where the staffer lives. The police chief of the unnamed town said he is patrolling the staffer’s neighborhood.

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Information from: Mail Tribune, http://www.mailtribune.com/

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