Militia Patrolling a Thin Green Line

  Militia Patrolling a Thin Green Line

Posted by CN Staff on August 03, 2003 at 08:13:33 PT
By Tomas Alex Tizon, Los Angeles Times 
Source: Oakland Tribune  

Junction City, Ore. -- He looks just like a cop, standing there in his blue uniform, the silver badge on his chest glinting in the sunlight. There's the gun too, a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol that he keeps holstered on a thick black belt. Paul Ehrhardt, pausing in his driveway, identifies all the doodads on his belt: the extra bullet magazines, the pepper spray, the handcuffs -- most everything a cop needs in the field. Only Ehrhardt isn't a cop. And neither are the 10 other members of his group, which organized a year ago and has since roused alarm among the locals. 
The group -- a motley collection of gun hobbyists, volunteer firefighters, outdoorsmen and ex-military men and their wives -- calls itself the Oregon Rangers Association. Their self-appointed mission is to help keep law and order in the forests. Eventually they plan to recruit more members and to encourage other citizen groups around the state to start patrolling their own regions. Never mind that no government agency officially recognizes them, that neighbors call them vigilantes. Twice a week, the rangers conduct armed patrols, usually in pairs, driving and hiking on back-country roads in the lush mountains on either side of town. "You're either part of the solution," Ehrhardt says, as he loads his truck in preparation for a patrol, "or part of the problem." The problem, in the words of fellow ranger Bryon Barnes, is there's "a whole lot of woods and not a whole lot of people patrolling them." The rangers say Oregon's forests are being desecrated by vandals and garbage dumpers, pot growers and poachers, and there aren't enough police to stop them. The rangers' goal is to deter the bad guys by simply being present in the forests and, when appropriate, to report crimes and criminals to authorities. Nothing remarkable has happened in this first year, but if things should get ugly, they're prepared. The group's arsenal includes two AR-15 rifles (the civilian version of the military M-16), six pump-action shotguns and numerous hunting rifles and handguns. "They have no authorization to be doing what they're doing," says Doug Huntington, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Land Management, which manages most of the public land patrolled by Ehrhardt's group. "They give the impression they're law enforcement and they're not. When people arm themselves and go into the woods to enforce the law without any real authority, we can't condone it. We don't condone it." But they can't stop it, either. Oregon law allows people to carry firearms on public lands, and every member of the group has a concealed weapons permit and is certified to be an armed security officer. Oregon State Police investigated the rangers on suspicion of impersonating police officers but found their uniforms and badges just different enough to escape prosecution. The state police badge, for example, is a five-point star; the rangers' star has seven points. Some wonder whether the group represents a new kind of post-9-11 militia. Unlike the militias of the late 1980s and 1990s, which were anti-government and often white-separatist in ideology, the rangers and a number of other isolated groups seem intent on making up for what they perceive as government's failure to enforce the law. These groups see themselves as aiding government. "We have a rather comprehensive invitation to be preoccupied with patriotism and domestic security right now," says Richard Mitchell, a sociologist at Oregon State University who published a book last year on militia and survivalist groups. "It shouldn't surprise us if some people take matters into their own hands. They'll see it as a form of community ser-vice." Typically, these groups figure out what skills and tools they have to offer and then come up with a "trouble scenario" in which they would be useful, Mitchell says. There's also the element of trying to transcend everyday life, says James William Gibson, a militia expert at California State University, Long Beach. Being part of such a group "helps some people get out of the routines of their ordinary lives and have a modest adventure," Gibson says. "They're walking a thin line," says Lane County Sheriff Jan Clements, who along with the Oregon State Police has kept a close watch on the rangers. Clements says the group so far has not crossed the line. Ehrhardt is 55, compact and raven-haired, amiable with a deferential way of talking, as if every sentence comes with an implied "sir" or "ma'am." He exudes earnestness. "I'd rather be doing this than win the lottery!" he says. The formal leader of the rangers, Ehrhardt twice tried to become a police officer, once with the Lane County Sheriff's Office and again with the Junction City Police Department. He changed his mind on the first and failed the agility test on the second. Now he says he's glad about not making it, because he can do his own kind of civic service "without all the paperwork." Ehrhardt says he doesn't mind the grousing from local police. Having been a volunteer firefighter for the last 10 years, he says he's seen a lot of it. Police and fire agencies tend to be very territorial and complain about each other all the time, he says.The scrutiny on his group, he believes, is just part of that. On this day, he's patrolling with his wife, Robin, 44, a nurse and co-founder of the group. The other members -- six men and three women -- are busy with other things. All have day jobs: There is a rancher, a hairdresser, a freelance photographer and a truck driver. Two work at a local tire shop. One works for a cellphone company. Another is in the Navy in Guam, and her husband, also a ranger, works at a scuba-diving shop. The couple in Guam manage the group's Web site and help with patrols when they're home. The Ehrhardts make their living by running two adult foster-care homes on their seven-acre property, which is also headquarters for the Oregon Rangers Association. In the back of what appears to be a quaint country homestead is a gun range, which up until April was used by the rangers to hone their shooting skills. Neighbors complained to police about bullets flying through their property, and officials shut down the range as a training ground, citing zoning laws. The law, however, allows the Ehrhardts to shoot on their property, so bullets have kept flying and the neighbors have kept complaining. "We're under siege here," says Michelle Palodichuk, who has lived on the adjacent lot for 26 years. Palodichuk calls the Ehrhardts vigilantes. Other neighbors call them worse names, and one is talking of having a neighborhood meeting to figure out what to do. Wallace Keeler, 92, born and raised in the area, echoes the concern felt by many locals: "They're out there patrolling without any authority but acting like they have authority. Most of us here like the outdoors. What's going to happen when we run into them out there?" The Ehrhardts, though annoyed by the complaints, say that as long as they're not breaking the law, they don't have to change. The whole idea of the rangers started quietly enough, with just Paul and Robin Ehrhardt taking treks into the woods. Paul, an army veteran, had a zeal for guns and weaponry; Robin, with nursing and helping the sick. The couple's first date 10 years ago was at an emergency medical technician class at a local fire department. They both caught the volunteer bug in a big way. They signed up at local fire departments. They married and became regular volunteers for the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service, clearing trails, cleaning dumps, repairing signs and equipment. In some ways, Robin Ehrhardt says, they've been patrolling the woods for the last decade. It was during these stints that the couple saw the extent of lawlessness and lack of law enforcement in the woods. The BLM, for example, employs only two law-enforcement officers in the Lane County region. For years, the couple talked about creating a citizens group to fill the void, and they finally did it after recruiting some like-minded friends. Like the Ehrhardts, most of the other rangers are native to the region. Barnes, one of the original members, says he's a ranger purely "for the personal satisfaction thing." It has nothing to do with money or "getting my name in the paper," but with "making an iota of difference" in keeping the woods and mountains safe and pristine. "That's all that really matters to us," Barnes says. Within 15 minutes of leaving their home outside Junction City, the Ehrhardts, in their silver Jeep Cherokee with its own dashboard-attached shotgun at the ready, are already deep in the woods, on an old logging road that winds like a gray ribbon between the lush, green foothills of the Coast Range. "Paul and I, we don't go to movies," says Robin Ehrhardt. "We do this." Every few miles, the Ehrhardts point to garbage dumps, spots where somebody unloaded a truckload of refuse, everything from discarded pictures and books to refrigerators and car parts. Sometimes entire cars. The Ehrhardts groan at each sighting. "What I'd like to do is reunite that garbage with its rightful owner," Paul Ehrhardt says. Instead, the couple use their global positioning system to determine the coordinates of every new dumpsite, and then turn the information in to the BLM. This kind of pedestrian work makes up a large part of what the rangers do, they say, along with locating marijuana patches. Sometimes the patches are small plantations, with dozens of plants 10 feet high. The Ehrhardts and the other rangers say they would much rather report criminals than confront them. Firearms, they say, would be used only as a last resort. But if things get ugly, they say they are capable of taking charge. "If I'm going through a park and a guy is just beating his wife, I mean really beating her, I can't just leave," Paul Ehrhardt says. "I'm going to have to do something. I'm going to have to protect the public. ... We don't want to use them, but if we need to, if we get into something spooky, we have the weapons at our disposal." Note: Oregon Rangers Association appoints.Source: Oakland Tribune (CA)Author: Tomas Alex Tizon, Los Angeles TimesPublished:  Sunday, August 3, 2003Copyright: 2003 MediaNews Group, Inc. Contact: triblet Website: Articles:Are Parks Becoming a Haven for Criminals? Parks Plagued by Pot Fields

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Comment #22 posted by Dances With Dogs on August 09, 2003 at 00:13:05 PT
I've Seen These Guy Before, Where Was It ?
Oh Yeah! The Cops Off Of Rambo First Blood, What a bunch of ya hoo inbreeds. They start each and everyday off with a good wholesome bowl of Dumbass and Milk. Remember though if we give up our right to bear arms then we are defenceless even against our own government. Guns don't kill people, people kill people, and they can do it with out guns. just food for thought. 
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Comment #21 posted by HERBDOC215 on August 04, 2003 at 13:17:57 PT
Torog,...."wet-back's" are you for real???
As an immigrant to another country I can assure you that people don't leave all their families and worlds behind to come there lightly and it sure looks ALOT different to me now that the shoe is on the other foot! It's sure easy to blame the unknown or "outsiders" when things get hard but these people are being used by forces much larger than themselves and are not there to inconveinance you I'm sure...they only want the same chances for their families as you enjoy for yours. That extremest language belongs to those who hurt others not those trying to find change for the future, and most of those boogy-men you speak of may-be of your own creation if you looked hard into your heart, violence begets violence...I'm not saying that there are no dangers, just don't be so quick to be reactionary to every myth or propaganda spread by media or gov't(any difference?)as most boogy-men are just that...shadows in your closet. Peace, Steve Tuck
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Comment #20 posted by Torog on August 04, 2003 at 04:22:46 PT
 Wetback Grow-ops need to be eliminated 
 I would like to see these fellers shut down any wetback grow ops they come across-the wetbacks are bad about polluting the local area and present a clear danger to any American citizens who are unlucky enough to cross their path. I should think y'all enviro-nuts would like this idea-plus they are gitting rid of trash dumps. If y'all are going to badmouth guns and militia's-why don't you ever criticize the Swedes ? Badmouthing guns and militias is just another way of attacking America-for those who both despise and envy America. For those of you willing to trust your security to faceless strangers-in exchange for perceived security-you may find someday-that you have made a grave tactical error..and the result could very well cost you and your family-your lives.
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Comment #19 posted by CorvallisEric on August 03, 2003 at 15:09:12 PT
More on the same group
An older story in their local paper that mentions "marijuana" many times. Seems to be their biggest obsession. Has a photo of their badge - 5 stars, not 7 as the article above states. One of the photo captions mentions Paul Ehrhardt "[teaching] people how to enter buildings in a live fire situation." Etc.Keeping watch: The civilian Oregon Rangers patrol forest land as law enforcement officials cast a wary eye at the militia the way, I live near there for the last 3 years, and have ridden my mountain bike for many miles in areas similar to theirs, unarmed and never feared man, beast, or plant (except poison oak which I've come to recognize very precisely and quickly). Maybe I just don't have an eye for trouble. And never found any pot plants.
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Comment #18 posted by Petard on August 03, 2003 at 14:40:38 PT
Me too FoM
People in America today have forgotten that violence does NOT solve problems, rather creates more problems and more violent problems. Kids on the playgrounds of yesteryear used to fight with their hands, nowadays they pick up a gun or knife and ruin 2 lives, theirs and their victims. That doesn't even take into account the families, which have also de-evolved (started higher up the chain and have "progressed" downward). Americans as pure consumers have failed to give to their fellow man (and woman), instead viewing their fellows as consumables also. Kids can only go as far as they are taught and when those kids grow up, they are unable to teach what they don't know themselves. Thus, the "sins of the father are visited upon the child". We also have the been taught that "might is right" and we percieve, wrongfully, that it is easier to change others than to change ourselves. Hence the push for conformity rather than acceptance and appreciation for differences. What's worse is these sentiments are actively marketed to us just like a product and the Wo(some)D. We are sold a bill of goods and expected to accept it, as is, no questions asked. That my friends is Un-American, as a true patriot questions himself and his government, examining in detail, to determine the right and fair course. 
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Comment #17 posted by E_Johnson on August 03, 2003 at 14:31:34 PT
Some background is always good
I grew up in a white working class neighborhood and if you asked the guys I knew in high school what guns were good for, they would say you need them to shoot black people in the coming race war.I'm not projecting that on anyone here -- but one reason why there is such suport for gun control among many people on the left is because some of us PERSONALLY KNOW people who talk about gun rights and racist hatred literally in the same breath.I guess that's why states rights also is problematic on the left. Because the racists got there first and made their mark and their mark is hard to erase in the national political consciousness.
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Comment #16 posted by i420 on August 03, 2003 at 14:27:10 PT
Floyd to clarify my comment I was referring to those people shooting across other peoples property, I can relate to this because my sons mother lives next to a target range used by law enforcement officials and their house has been hit by stray bullets. I fear for my sons safety when at his mothers home. 
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Comment #15 posted by FoM on August 03, 2003 at 14:04:28 PT
I understand what you said. I really do. I get so upset because of violence that I just don't think logically. Just talking about hurting another human being stirs many different emotions in me and I never come up with an answer for myself that feels right. 
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Comment #14 posted by Petard on August 03, 2003 at 13:50:50 PT
Guns and Militias In USA
Obviously with the way our Government treats us the old saying comes to mind, "an armed populace is a citizenry, a disarmed populace are subjects". Again it's really nothing more than an arms race in America though. As one side scales up the other follows suit to retain it's position of independence from the other. Militias are Constitutional in the USA, read the document, the people are encouraged to bear arms to prevent a totalitarian regime, which we would obviously have without the rights in place. The Feds would love to be able to order the people around at the point of a gun, they do it as often as possible.Luckily I live way out in the boonies and the cops around here are more Peace Officers than enforcement minded. They care about settling disputes and providing services and look the other way over minor infractions of senseless laws. They have wife beaters, and drunk drivers, and child molesters, other hazards to the public to actually police rather than waste time and effort on trying to control the will of the residents. They actually care about the individuals they serve.I had a prowler shortly after moving down here. 5 squad cars showed up in a driving rain and gladly searched the area as best they could in the conditions. They would rather have caught the probable teenage houligans than to have to visit the kids parents to deliver the news of their kids deaths. They did make sure I was armed just in case it was an escapee or something as this area has been known to be a haven for those seeking to avoid, at almost all costs, authority. 
We have a "shoot the burglar" law since anyone knowingly entering a known inhabited place is looking to do harm. 3 of the officers had advised my grandmother a few years ago that if she ever felt threatened to go ahead and shoot, call them at home, they'd come over and drag the body into the doorway to make it justifiable, as they knew she would never harm a soul not intending harm to her. That was after an experience when I was visiting. She returned from church at night and her friends headlights illuminated 4 people couched behind the trees and grandads old pickup truck approaching the house. I grabbed 2 guns (for grandad and I) and escorted her into the house while those guys retreated. They returned 2 more times, the last time to find several of the distant neighbors preparing patrols, in cnjunction with the cops, to be sure everyone in the area was safe. The cops caught up to the young men and literally escorted them out of state and advised them strongly not to return. Sometimes firearms are necessary. Matter of fact, I need to go shoot that dang gopher tearing up my backyard garden right now. It's more environmentally friendly than poison. I also use my guns to kill poisonous snakes that are abundant here.
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Comment #13 posted by FoM on August 03, 2003 at 13:06:27 PT
Why Do We Have Militias?
I've wondered that before.
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on August 03, 2003 at 13:01:44 PT
A Small Clarification
When we had the incident with our horse we didn't own a gun but one of the men that was with us did. That's when we bought a gun but have never used it. I did shoot the gun because my husband wanted me to know how to handle it but I didn't like it at all. 
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Comment #11 posted by floyd on August 03, 2003 at 12:46:21 PT
I cant believe you guys can so easily talk about bullets flying and shooting back and such. The way to stop these people isnt taking up arms. I dont understand how allowing anyone to carry a deadly weapon in public is an acceptable situation.
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on August 03, 2003 at 12:23:35 PT
Thank herbdoc215
I appreciate your input. I'm a woman and I don't like guns. Maybe some women do but I don't. I am so anti violence that I get angry just talking about violence. Violence doesn't help. My husband said after shooting people for a living in Vietnam he has no use for guns. We only have one gun incase of the need to quickly destroy and injured animal. Even when our horse broke his neck no one had the nerve to shoot him. He suffered while we waited for the Vet. 
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Comment #9 posted by herbdoc215 on August 03, 2003 at 12:14:44 PT
As a former hillbilly this gun stuff has always
been a duality in my life...I was raised around and with guns and taught how to treat and respect them, hell I remeber being in school and seeing kids bring guns to school to work on in shop. The guns of course were turned into priciples office until needed for class and then taken home after...Never had so much as a problem or accident? After being in military (drafted for growing pot--jail or army) and seeing what REAL violence looked like... I drifted away from hunting and shooting steadily since my release from army but still very much supported our right to bear arms like I was taught too and for protection from nuts out there who don't emphasise with pain. BUT after living in Europe and now Canada I am sad to say how much safer it is (and I personally feel) in these countries which have strict gun laws and also many social controls placed upon firearms (it's not cool here to have a gun or speak of them like in USA, people just don't see them and are shocked when they do) I have never even heard a gun go off in Vancouver...ever in two and a half years here? We walk into the roughest parts of town at all hours without even a thought of safety, and thats saying alot. I can live without my guns here easily because nobody else has them so I never feel the need to enter into a 'mini'arms race with the "bad-guy's"...the enjoyment I got from shooting is not even close to the enjoyment of safety and civil society which I traded mine for. Just a thought, but it sure suck's that people with no morals or upbringing can ruin an entire sport. While there are still murders and bad people here, they make national headlines because of rarity...How many people where shot in USA today? How many by the fascist police? How many more family members do we have to lose before we take our country back? Peace,          Steven Tuck      in exile
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on August 03, 2003 at 11:34:38 PT
We Must Stop The Killing
I am so ashamed that are national is so gun happy. I can related to how Michael Moore feels. Canada doesn't have this problem. Why do we?
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Comment #7 posted by i420 on August 03, 2003 at 11:27:47 PT
2 can play this game....
In the back of what appears to be a quaint country homestead is a gun range, which up until April was used by the rangers to hone their shooting skills. Neighbors complained to police about bullets flying through their property, and officials shut down the range as a training ground, citing zoning laws. The law, however, allows the Ehrhardts to shoot on their property, so bullets have kept flying and the neighbors have kept complaining. "We're under siege here," says Michelle Palodichuk, who has lived on the adjacent lot for 26 years. Palodichuk calls the Ehrhardts vigilantes. Other neighbors call them worse names, and one is talking of having a neighborhood meeting to figure out what to do. I'll tell you what to do go out there in your lot and when they shoot a bullet at you shoot back. Your life is in danger and you fear being killed so your action would be justified.
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Comment #6 posted by BGreen on August 03, 2003 at 11:26:43 PT
These cowards AREN'T above the law
They aren't protected the way cops are. Civil and criminal charges can easily be filed on these vigilantes if they assault someone. A bullet in the head of one of these self-proclaimed "rangers" could be considered self-defense.They WILL die and deservedly so. They should put their weapons down and start playing golf.The Rev. Bud Green
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on August 03, 2003 at 10:43:58 PT

This Article Has Me Really Upset
I saw a show on Fox with Geraldo down in Colombia and it was about Dyncorp working doing the spraying. Geraldo said do you feel it's ok to be a civilian doing this job and the man said we are trained by the Military and didn't see any problem. I'm insulted, afraid, discusted and other emotions. I haven't been in our woods for almost 10 years because we have snakes, bears and poison ivy. A bear just attacked another horse a few days ago. This horse survived the last one didn't. Now should we be afraid of human beings too!
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Comment #4 posted by E_Johnson on August 03, 2003 at 10:13:19 PT

Wasn't that Eldridge Cleaver?
If you're not part of then solution then you're part of the problem -- wasn't it Eldridge Cleaver in Soul On Ice who first popularized that saying in America?
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Comment #3 posted by E_Johnson on August 03, 2003 at 10:10:19 PT

Moscow prosecutor quits
The head prosecutor of the city of Moscow has resigned after the Russian Prosecutor General found that his office covered up or fabricated evidence in over 9,000 criminal cases: doesn't say directly in this article, but the bulk of those 9,000 cases most probably involved false drug charges being laid against family members of rich people, a favorite money-making scheme of Russian law enforcement.In some sense it could be good that Putin comes from the foreign operations branch of KGB, because he's not all tied up with local graft like Yeltsin was. It looks like the Russian government is making a real effort to get some control over their local law enforcement, which went hog wild with corruption after the Communists fell.Maybe Putin will remember that the Russian Mafia was quaint and controllable and there was almost no contract murder in the streets before Louis Freeh brought the American Drug War to Russia in 1994.
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Comment #2 posted by Patrick on August 03, 2003 at 08:33:30 PT

You are either with us or against us...
"You're either part of the solution," Ehrhardt says, as he loads his truck in preparation for a patrol, "or part of the problem."Amazing the impact a presidential sound bite has on people!Now cannabis smoking hikers in Oregon not only have to fear overly aggressive back country cops, they have to watch out for wannabe cops that seem to be tigger happy accidents just waiting to happen. YIKES 
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on August 03, 2003 at 08:25:26 PT

Just a Note
Hi Everyone,I didn't know if I should post this article but the article really bothered me and thought you should see it too. 
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