They dress in combat fatigues and berets and call themselves Environmental Rangers.
A small band of the little-known militant group gathered outside a state office building on Wednesday, to protest a mining company’s request for state help in financing reclamation work at three of its mines.
The four members said that what sets them apart from other groups promoting environmental protection is that they are willing to die for their cause. They also advocate civil disobedience to protect land and water from pollution, and they hint of a willingness to resort to violence.
Ric Valois of Sun River said his group was founded in the mid-1980s and has members in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Wyoming, British Columbia and Alberta. He won’t say how many, but added, “There’s enough of us.”
Wednesday’s protest was in connection with a public hearing on a request by Pegasus Gold that the state Board of Investments issue $15 million in tax-exempt bonds to finance reclamation projects.
Valois and fellow rangers use more heated rhetoric than other environmentalists in talking about fighting corporate development that threatens the land or water.
“We carry guns and we’ll use them,” said Valois.
Larry Kralj, a ranger from Great Falls, Mont., said: “This is our homeland and does not belong to corporations. What is a more basic right than to defend your homeland?”
John Smart, a member from Helena, said the rangers’ tougher pro-environment strategy is needed because of collusion between polluters and government.
Jim Jensen, executive director of the Montana Environmental Information Center, said he has had no dealings with the rangers. But he believes they number less than half a dozen and are more concerned about “promoting their own egos than protecting the environment.”
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