- Associated Press - Thursday, August 6, 2015

LINCOLN, Mont. (AP) - Groups of armed self-described constitutional advocates are calling on reinforcements to join more than a dozen of their members roaming a Montana town in support of a mine owner who is in a dispute with the U.S. Forest Service over his claim.

Members of Oath Keepers, Pacific Patriot Network and 3% of Idaho said they came to Lincoln - the former hometown of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski - at White Hope Mine owner George Kornec’s request.

They are calling their presence a security mission meant to be a “buffer between the miners and any unlawful action by the United States Forest Service,” the groups said in a news release posted Tuesday on the Oath Keepers’ website.

The groups have put out a request for others to join them, instructing volunteers to pack items such as thermal underwear, first aid, tents, sleeping bags and, particularly, a camp cook.

“You bring one of those along, you’re a hero!” the statement said



There were at least 14 members in Lincoln on Thursday, Blackfoot Valley Dispatch editor and publisher Roger Dey told The Associated Press. It was not immediately clear whether more people were positioned at the mine site east of town.

Lewis and Clark County Undersheriff Dave Rau said deputies have spoken to members of the group and the mine owners, and everyone has been receptive to the idea of keeping the peace.

“We’re Just going to watch things close,” he said.

Oath Keepers is a national group best known as supporters of the Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy during a 2014 dispute with the Bureau of Land Management. The Idaho group gets its name from the 3 percent of Americans who fought in the Revolutionary War.

The groups said in their statement that the mine claim held by Kornec predates 1955 regulations that granted surface rights to the Forest Service, and instead falls under an 1872 law that would grant both surface and subsurface rights to Kornec.

The Forest Service said Kornec abandoned his claim when he missed a 1986 filing deadline by one day, meaning the claim is now regulated under 1955 laws.

“We have to go with that decision because of that break in time,” Bill Avey, supervisor of the Helena and Lewis and Clark national forests, told the Independent Record (https://bit.ly/1KSdzeu). “The bottom line is, we have been working, have a long tradition of working with and we want to continue to work with” Kornec and Intermountain Mining LLC co-owner Phil Nappo.

Avey said Nappo and Kornec indicated during a July 30 meeting that they were going to submit a new plan to the Forest Service soon. “So why they have these other people up there is a mystery to us,” Avey said.

Ret. U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Joseph Santoro, who is among the men who traveled to help protect the mine, said he understands why Lincoln residents might be concerned about the men wandering the streets with rifles.

“Because it’s a small town, they’re very concerned with seeing us in our camies and carrying around guns open carry,” he said. “These people make hay six months per year, so we are doing everything we can to support them with our money and patronage and their wishes.”

Kaczynski lived in a shack outside of Lincoln, about 60 miles northwest of Helena, when the FBI tracked him down in 1996 for sending 16 mail bombs over 17 years.

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This story has been corrected to show that the Forest Service says the claim is regulated in 1955 laws.

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Information from: Independent Record, https://www.helenair.com

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