They Were Hunting For A Citation Men Bring Dispute To A Head Over Access To Hunting Grounds In Selkirk Mountains
Hunters with stock in an old gold mine are wrangling with the U.S. Forest Service over access to the cave and prime hunting grounds in the Selkirk Mountains.
Two Boundary County men drove past a gated Forest Service road to the mine Friday morning with the specific intent to hunt. Before the men left they informed the Forest Service, and officers met them at the mine.
One man, whose name was not released, was cited for driving into an area where motor vehicles are prohibited.
“It was their way of protesting. It was not confrontational,” said Allen Chrisman, assistant district ranger in Bonners Ferry.
“They (the hunters) basically left a message for us that they would be up there hunting and told us to come cite them. I think their intent is to appear before a federal magistrate and have a judge settle this.”
The men will get their wish. A date hasn’t been set, but the citation will be argued in court.
The Continental Mine is privately owned but rests in the middle of the Panhandle National Forests. The access road was gated several years ago to protect grizzly bears and caribou.
The only vehicles allowed past the gate are those carrying workers who mine at the site.
Since the two hunters own stock in the mine, they insisted the Forest Service allow them to drive in and hunt at the mine, Chrisman said.
The Forest Service said the men are allowed in to mine, but once they are finished they must drive the seven miles back to the gate, park their vehicle and walk back in to hunt.
“It’s a gray area we disagree on,” Chrisman said.
Boundary County Commissioner Bob Graham said the incident shows the frustration some residents still have with gates the Forest Service installed to protect endangered animals.
“That gate has been up for awhile but it was one of the most disturbing for a lot of residents,” said Graham, a former district ranger himself.
Graham has sided with the hunters in this case. He doesn’t see a grave violation if the men go in to mine and also hunt.
“It’s not a citation I would feel comfortable pushing,” he said.
Chrisman said the Forest Service could not ignore the blatant violation.
“We are not interested in a confrontation, but we felt we had to do something about it. It’s not fair to the general public to let a select few in.”