A man who owns a gold-mining claim on federal land in southwestern Oregon asked for help defending it after U.S. authorities ordered him to stop work but is now telling his armed supporters to back off.
Rick Barclay said Thursday that he hoped to prevent his fight with federal regulators from turning into the kind of high-profile standoff at a Nevada ranch last year.
He initially called in a local chapter of constitutional activists known as the Oath Keepers because he thought the U.S. Bureau of Land Management would seize the equipment on his mining claim outside Grants Pass. The agency had served an order to stop work at the mine after finding it lacked the necessary paperwork.
Armed activists started showing up Monday at the mine and a rural property about 20 miles away, Oath Keepers spokeswoman Mary Emerick said. She said the group was still recruiting people to help provide security for the mine but would not say how many activists were there.
The Oath Keepers' website said they were not trying to confront the BLM, and Emerick said the group was vetting everyone who showed up.
BLM spokesman Jim Whittington said the agency has fielded threatening phone calls, but he would not give details because the calls were under investigation.
Now, Barclay is telling his supporters that the mine is not under attack, posts online by "keyboard warriors" have gotten out of hand and he was not interested in a repeat of the Cliven Bundy ranch standoff.
"We are not looking for Bundyville. We are not looking to challenge anything. We are just holding our constitutional rights and property rights in reserve until we get our day in court," Barclay said.
He said he and his partner, George Backes, believe they do not have to file an operations plan demanded by the BLM because they hold the surface rights on the mining claim. Barclay said the claim has been continuously owned since 1858, predating BLM's authority and other mining laws.
The agency has given the pair until April 25 to appeal, and a lawyer representing the claimholders said they would, Whittington said.
In Nevada last year, hundreds of armed Bundy supporters faced off against BLM agents in April to stop a roundup of cattle from public land where Bundy allowed his stock to graze near the town of Bunkerville.
Federal officials accused Bundy of failing to pay more than $1 million in grazing fees over more than 20 years. Bundy says the federal government has no authority over the land.
Bureau officials backed off, and Bundy and his supporters declared victory, but BLM officials say they are still pursuing an administrative and legal resolution of the dispute.
Earlier this week, a Pennsylvania man pleaded guilty to threatening a U.S. ranger who took part in the armed standoff on the Bundy ranch in Nevada ranch last year. Prosecutors have recommended he be sentenced to probation.
Associated Press Writer Ken Ritter contributed from Las Vegas.