Josephine County

Josephine County is one of the hotspots for Hard Right activism in the Oregon, and was home to the state’s most important Oath Keepers chapter, led by Joseph Rice. As we will see, former Sheriff Gil Gilbertson was a prominent constitutional sheriff before his ouster. It also is home to the Sugar Pine Mine, a recent flashpoint for the movement.

In April 2015, armed activists traveled to Sugar Pine Mine in support of mine owners whose longstanding disagreement with the Bureau of Land Management had come to a head. Two miners on an unpatented claim were reported to have created a large enough operation for the Bureau to require a plan of operations to ensure environmental protections were being met. The agency sent a letter telling them to stop mining, file a plan of operations, or file an appeal. Instead the miners called in Patriot movement activists, who established three armed camps.(1)Tay Wiles, “Sugar Pine Mine, the other standoff,” High Country News, February 2, 2016, (Some of those present had been at the Bundy Ranch, and would later be at the Malheur occupation.) The Bureau of Land Management backed off, and after a couple of months the camps disbanded. After this event, a collection of Oregon and Idaho groups formed the Pacific Patriots Network.

Oath Keepers of Josephine County / Citizen Patriots of Josephine County

Both the Oath Keepers chapter and its coordinator Joseph Rice made their names during the Sugar Pine Mine armed camps in the spring of 2015. The chapter helped launch the Pacific Patriots Network, and was active in Burns, Oregon during the Malheur Refuge occupation. Its founding in late 2012 predates the wave of chapters founded after the Bundy Ranch standoff in 2014 in Nevada—where some of its members traveled to stand guard.(2)Ibid.

However, in late August 2016, just as this report was getting ready to be printed, the Oath Keepers of Josephine County announced they had broken from the national group, and renamed themselves the Citizen Patriots of Josephine County.(3)The new website is Citizen Patriots of Josephine County, It says, “Our name change has been a work in process for more than a year. We have not taken the name change lightly and it was discussed with the membership and the new name ‘Citizen Patriots of Josephine County’ was suggested by Pat Fitzsimmons and best describes who we are. The name Oath Keeper is from the national organization and explains the promise many members of our organization keep close to heart to protect the US Constitution and our state constitutions…but it gave many people who wanted to participated pause thinking they had to be part of the military or law enforcement, current or veteran. ‘Citizen Patriots’ clearly discribes [sic] who we are…including you as an American.” Rice confirmed that his group actually broke with the national Oath Keepers as well; email to author, August 25, 2016. (Because of the late nature of this, the group will be referred to in this report by its former name.)

The national Oath Keepers’ Media Director Jason Van Tatenhove once called the Josephine County chapter the “flagship” for the organization.(4)Quoted in Tay Wiles, “Sugar Pine Mine, the other standoff,” High Country News, February 2, 2016,
And the national organization groomed it; national founder Stewart Rhodes held weekly phone meetings with the chapter even before Sugar Pine Mine, and traveled to Oregon multiple times. Josephine Oath Keeper Mary Emerick said Rhodes’s goal was “to turn this group into a model nationally.”(5)“The Oath Keepers Are Ready for War with the Federal Government,” Vice, September 14, 2015, Rice claims to have 1,200 members in his chapter, although you rarely see more than a few dozen at any public event.(6)Joseph Rice, telephone interview with author, July 17, 2016.

The Josephine group has a very strong inside/outside approach: establishing armed camps when local miners were in conflict with federal authorities, while simultaneously cultivating ties with elected officials. A Grants Pass city councilor and former county sheriff are members, and a county commissioner has appeared at their public events. But the Josephine group is distinct in promoting parallel institutions to compete with (or replace dysfunctional) governmental services. Basic services like 911 and fire are lacking in rural Josephine. There is widespread fear that a catastrophe could leave the area isolated; while right-wing apocalyptic conspiracy theories are undoubtedly fueling this fear, so is legitimate scientific evidence that a massive earthquake in the Cascadia Subduction Zone could be imminent.(7)Bryan M. Vance, “Impending Cascadia Subduction Zone Quake Back In The News,” Oregon Public Broadcasting, March 6, 2016,

The Josephine Oath Keepers are taking advantage of all these factors by engaging in community service actions to win grassroots support, getting government support for their preparedness plans, and building their own armed organizations—which include community watches to replace absent law enforcement, and “Community Preparedness Teams” for emergency situations. The Oath Keepers are also working with Sovereign Citizen-style groups to set up their own judicial systems, which can “indict” officials, as well as be used in a post-collapse setting. They are doing these things with the collusion of local elected officials, and sometimes with the specific support of the county sheriff.

Relations with Elected Officials

The Josephine Oath Keepers has studiously cultivated good relationships with local elected officials. Then-sheriff Gil Gilbertson was one of three people who came to their first meeting, and he is currently a member. Grants Pass City Councilor Roy Lindsay is the group’s treasurer, while County Commissioner Keith Heck has ridden in the Memorial Day weekend Boatnik Parade with the group.(8)Tay Wiles, “Sugar Pine Mine, the Other Standoff,” High Country News, February 2, 2016, State Representative Carl Wilson from District 3 (which represents part of the county, including Grants Pass) has received praise from the group.

However, relations with local officials are not always cordial. In May 2014, the Oath Keepers were accused of disrupting a county commission meeting.(9)Jim Moore, “Commission cancels meeting as protestors stand,” Wallowa County Chieftain, May 15, 2014, And in June 2014, they forwarded a “petition for redress of grievance” and demanded that Commissioner Cherryl Walker resign.(10)Jim Moore, “Open-road proposal turns up again at commissioner meeting,” Daily Courier (Grants Pass, OR), June 5, 2014, After the Malheur occupation, Rice ran in the crowded race for thePosition 2 County Commission seat, against a number of other Hard Right figures, including a commissioner who had appeared in public with his group before. Rice came in fifth, with 2,332 votes (9.45 percent).(11)“Commissioner Pos. #2 (Vote for 1)” in “Statement of Votes Cast by Geography, May 17, 2016 Primary Election, Josephine County, Oregon,” Josephine County, Oregon, 5,

Community Service Approach

The Oath Keepers of Josephine County takes pains to portray itself as something like a veteran’s group engaged in community service, instead of a paramilitary—more Elks Club than militia. Rice volunteered at Hidden Valley High School, in the Applegate Valley outside of Grants Pass, talking with students as part of a school-sponsored lunch program.(12)Hidden Valley High School staff, email to author, May 25, 2016; Joseph Rice, telephone interview with author, July 17, 2016. He also attempted to require parental permission for students to borrow Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Persepolis from the school library.(13)Ruth Longoria Kingsland, “Controversial book spurs battle at school board meeting,” Mail Tribune (Medford, OR), September 18, 2014, Regarding the community service work and building a bottom-up political movement, Rice has said:

We really advocate development of community. Work within your community, protect it—because if everything goes down the tubes, or whatever may happen, that’s where you live, that’s where your family is, that’s where you can have the greatest impact. And we’re always focused at trying to change from the top-down, the outrage—we need to start from the bottom-up, we need to start on the street we live in, then the town we live in, then the county we live in, and that’s how we enact real, lasting change.(14)Sacks Head Radio Show, “Sack Heads Radio 1.6.15,” radio/podcast audio, SHR Media, Spreaker, 124:55,, around 16:27.

Rice has also said:

We’re very service-based, everybody tends to report—oh those are the guys who are militia, they go to guns—80 percent of what the Oath Keepers of Josephine County do is public service. We have painted the Josephine County fairgrounds, we have cleaned out horse stalls, we have maintained buildings, we’ve done structural repairs, we have a ramps program—that every month we build a ramp at no cost to a disabled veteran, senior citizen, handicapped. We do a veteran’s outreach, we’ve built a handicapped playground, we do trash pickup, we just do a variety of things. But, as we saw with the Sugar Pine Mine, when the community needs us, we’ll also stand in harm’s way, protecting that individual Constitutional right from governmental encroachment and overreach.(15)Ibid, around 13:42. For their ramp project, see “Community Efforts,” Oath Keepers of Josephine County, OR, accessed July 15, 2016,

Post-Sugar Pine Mine

On May 23, 2015, part of Memorial Day weekend, the Patriot movement took a kind of victory lap by being part Boatnik Parade in Grants Pass. Participants included the Josephine County Oath Keepers, national founder Stewart Rhodes, the Central Oregon Constitutional Guard, the Southern Oregon Constitutional Guard, and the Sugar Pine Mine owners.(16)“Join Us in the Boatnik Parade with Oath Keepers of Josephine County, Oregon,” Meetup event for May 23, 2015,; photo of “Sugar Pine Mine Owners” float at parade, Facebook post, May 2015. Screenshot in possession of author.

In July 2015, the Josephine Oath Keepers announced they would be part of the Protect the Protectors plan to guard military recruiting centers, and that they had spoken to Grants Pass police chief Bill Landis about this.(17)Mary Emerick, “PRESS RELEASE—Operation Protect the Protectors,” Oath Keepers of Josephine County, OR, July 21, 2015, In August, they became involved in the opposition to removing the Fielder Dam from private land to protect salmon, and Rice approached the county commission regarding the issue. In the fall, the group became involved in the planning for the march in Burns in support of the Hammonds. Rice was at the January 2, 2016 march in Burns, spoke at the large meeting afterward, and spoke at the January 8 Committee of Safety town hall.(18)Joseph Rice, telephone interview with author, July 17, 2016; “Jan. 2, 2016 Town Hall Meeting,” YouTube video, 1:08:00, April 11, 2016, posted by “Liberty Under Attack,”, see around 1:45; “Burns Oregon—Important Committee of Safety Meeting,” YouTube video, 3:18:38, posted by “Pete Santilli Show,” January 8, 2016,, see 1:02:39. He was at the Malheur refuge twice, but was in Burns for a number of days during the occupation.(19)Kassi Nelson, “Josephine Co. Oath Keeper meets with leaders at Malheur Refuge,” KOBI5, January 4, 2016, Rice appears at a press conference as well: “Friday Jan 9th Morning Press Briefing with III%, CFCF and PPN from the Oregon Refuge Center,” YouTube video, 15:52, posted by “OathKeepersOK,” January 10, 2016,

Community Watches and Preparedness Fairs

In pursuit of these goals, the Josephine Oath Keepers were able to gain a high level of collaboration with the county sheriff’s department, especially under Gil Gilbertson. At a preparedness fair it organized in Grants Pass in September 2014, national founder Stewart Rhodes spoke alongside Gilbertson, and a number local government groups tabled, including the county sheriff’s department. The flyer for event contains the logos of both the sheriff’s department and the local Oath Keepers, giving the public perception that it was co-sponsored by both.(20)Minutes of Josephine County Weekly Business Session, “1. REQUESTS/COMMENTS FROM CITIZENS,” Josephine County, Oregon, September 24, 2015, WBS Min.pdf; “Josephine County Community Preparedness Fair,” Meetup event on September 27, 2014,

The Oath Keepers also have supported the various Josephine community watches, including the Cave Junction Neighborhood Watch which hosted a disturbing meeting on December 15, 2014 that reveals the extent of collaboration between the Josephine County government and potential vigilante action. Outgoing Sheriff Gilbertson and incoming Sheriff Dave Daniel presided over the local Oath Keepers’s announcement that it was forming Community Watch of Josephine County as a 501(c)3. By presiding, the sheriffs created the impression that the new group was being officially sanctioned by local law enforcement.(21)For minutes of the meeting, see Minutes of Josephine County Weekly Business Session, “Draft: Community Meeting with Neighborhood Watch,” Josephine County, Oregon, January 14, 2015, 14–17, WBS Min.pdf. Gilbertson also was said to be part of the new group, although it does not seem to have gotten off the ground. (22)Ibid, 17. See also Community Watch of Josephine County, Also in attendance were local Oath Keeper Joseph Rice, a local Fire Chief, and ninety people total who, according to the minutes, mostly spoke about emergency preparedness.

Most concerning was the talk by the meeting’s organizer, National Liberty Alliance activist Guenter Ambron. He said the meeting was to be a presentation on a newly formed fake grand jury in Oregon. The meeting announcement said these faux-juries could indict standing officials, while the meeting’s minutes stressed the juries’ potential role in a post-collapse situation where the judiciary had broken down.(23)The announcement for the event says, “There will also be a presentation on the newly formed Oregon Unified Common Law Grand Jury. A direct action people’s Lawful entity, under the US constitution, administering indictments to corruption by government officials, the corporate and private sector. A people’s answer to Ferguson, it’s lack of accountability. It’s time for real justice.” See “Neighborhood Watch “Community Meeting” December 15, @5pm,” A Better Cave Junction, December 14, 2014,
At the event, Ambron:

gave a 6 minute introductory talk on the recently registered ‘Unified Josephine County Common Law Grand Jury’, and the formation, of these “citizen organized” Unified Grand Juries established in 3133 counties and in 50 states. This Grand Jury system is also factored in with the drafted “County District Structure”. During an emergency it can investigate and aid in advise on lawful intervention upon unlawful activities.(24)“Draft: Community Meeting with Neighborhood Watch,” 17.

“Common law grand juries” are vigilante courts, typically set up to indict standing officials. In this case, it was promoted for use in an emergency situation.(25)Ibid. Ambron is now one of two Oregon contact points for the National Liberty Alliance Committees of Safety, a shadow government structure. (See National Liberty Alliance box, p. 69.)

A Community Watch meeting in Cave Junction, Oregon featured the outgoing and incoming Josephine County sheriffs. There was also a presentation of fake courts, which claimed to be “Lawful” entities that could indict public officials and business owners.
A Community Watch meeting in Cave Junction, Oregon featured the outgoing and incoming Josephine County sheriffs. There was also a presentation of fake courts, which claimed to be “Lawful” entities that could indict public officials and business owners.

When contacted in July 2016 about the meeting, standing Sheriff Daniel said that these self-proclaimed court have no legal standing, cannot act as a replacement for existing legal mechanisms—even in an emergency situation—and have “Zero authority of the Sheriff’s Office ever. Should such a thing come into place or interfere, they will be arrested appropriately and according to law.”(26)Dave Daniel, email to author, July 19, 2016. Joseph Rice, for his part, denied setting up dual power structures in the county, saying that these groups were additions to existing structures—not replacements for them.(27)Joseph Rice, telephone interview with author, July 17, 2016.

Miners, Masters, and Media

There are numerous other Hard Right groups in Josephine. The owners of the Sugar Pine Mine, Rick Barclay and George Backes, called in armed Patriot movement activists to establish armed camps in April 2015. The mine is in the Galice Mining District, near Merlin, outside of Grants Pass in Josephine County. Barclay is also the CEO of the Galice Mining District, and he came to Burns to protest during the Malheur occupation.(28)“Agenda for January 5thth, 2014” [sic], Galice Mining District, The Galice Mining District itself has a history of filing legal paperwork filled with markings that denote that the officers of the district are Sovereign Citizens.(29)“District Court of the United States, District of Eugene: Galice Mining District,” Death and Taxes, A close up of the Sovereign Citizen markings are here: “District Court of the United States, District of Eugene: Galice Mining District,” Death and Taxes, The South West Oregon Mining Association and Jefferson Mining District also have ties to Hard Right politics, and the latter also promotes the Hard Right reading of “coordination.”(30)“Jefferson Mining District: Establishment Certificate,” Jefferson Mining District,

News With Views is an important Hard Right website; its publisher, Paul Walter, has ties to Roy Masters.(31)Paul Walter picketed a Grants Pass newspaper on behalf of Masters, who officiated Walter’s wedding. News With Views also hosts an archive of Masters’ writings. See Patricia Snyder, “Newspaper proudest of times it’s helped the community,” Daily Courier (Grants Pass, OR), April 1, 2010, 12D,; Jim Kouri, “News With Views Editor Weds British Film Star Yutte Stensgaard,” News With Views, July 3, 2013,; “Roy Masters’ Archive,” News With Views, The site promotes many right-wing conspiracy theories, including conspiracy theories that are either thinly disguised antisemitism (or are derived from antisemitic conspiracy theories) regarding international banking cartels, “Cultural Marxism,” and the New World Order.(32)For example, one article by Alan Stang says, “The predatory Red Zionists are certainly an element of the same conspiracy for world government that includes the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission and the Bilderbergers, etc.” Alan Stang, “Zionism and the Jewish Conspiracy, Part 2 of 2,” News With Views, February 17, 2009, Stang is the author of It’s Very Simple, which Chip Berlet and Matthew Lyons describe as portraying Martin Luther King, Jr. “as an agent of a massive communist conspiracy instructed to agitate among otherwise happy Negroes to foment revolution, or at least promote demands for more collectivist federal government intrusion.” See Berlet and Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America, 181–82. Nonetheless, in Josephine County this is no barrier for standing public officials to publish on the site. Former Sheriff Gil Gilbertson published several articles, and the site endorsed him in his failed 2014 reelection bid.(33)“Evaluating Josephine County and Oregon Candidates and Measures,” News With Views, October 21, 2014, Current Josephine County Legal Counsel Wally Hicks has published four articles on the site.(34)The articles by Wally Hicks in News With Views are: “Electing a New Gatekeeper For Your Liberty,” May 5, 2014,; “Why Having a Good Legal Counsel Is Critical to the Success of Josephine County,” March 27, 2015,; “Update on Josephine County GMO Laws,” August 4, 2015,; “Know More About Your County Government,” August 15, 2016, (Note that neither Gilbertson’s nor Hicks’s articles reflect these kinds of conspiratorial views.) Paul Walter himself ran in the May 2016 primary for County Commission; in a crowded race he came in ninth, receiving 1,274 votes (5.16 percent).(35)“Statement of Votes Cast, May 17, 2016 Primary Election, Josephine County, Summary Report,” Josephine County, Oregon, 5,

Josephine also is also home to the Bad County website, run by Dale Matthews, which makes videos of practically every open county meeting. Matthews also ran for County Commission in the May 2016 primary; he came in eighth out of ten candidates with 1,741 votes (7.05 percent).(36)Bad County,; “Commissioner Pos. #2 (Vote for 1)” in “Statement of Votes Cast, May 17, 2016 Primary Election, Josephine County, Summary Report,” Josephine County, Oregon, 5, The US~Observer, which started in the 1990s as the militia movement paper the Oregon Observer, is still run today by Edward Snook.(37)“All About US~Observer,” US~Observer,; Edward Snook, “Why a Newspaper? A Must Read!,” US~Observer, For the paper’s dubious business and journalistic practices, see John Schrag, “Seen a Rogue on the loose?,” Willamette Week, originally published September 15, 1999, The We’re for A Constitutional Government PAC funds Hard Right candidates in local elections.(38)We’re for A Constitutional Government PAC, For their finance activity and other state filings, see “Statement of Organization for Political Action Committee, We’re for a Constitutional Government,” Oregon Secretary of State, The John Birch Society has a Grant Pass chapter, which sponsors candidate forums.(39)“An Evening with Aaron Auer,” The Constitution Party of Oregon, And four of the five officers of the Constitution Party of Oregon are registered as living in Grants Pass, including Chair Jack Alan Brown, Jr.(40)“Constitution Party State Officers,” The Constitution Party of Oregon, Information.htm.

Continuing Coordination

In the last five years, the coordination process has been brought up numerous times in the Josephine County Commission. They have invoked it in ways which have included the regularly accepted interpretation of the concept (where local governments advise federal agencies), as well as the Hard Right version (which seeks to give county government’s the upper hand in land use decisions)—sometimes, apparently, at the same time.

In 2010, coordination was already being discussed by Josephine County Commissioners; notes show that they were reading a document, influenced by Hard Right coordination proponent Fred Kelly Grant, from a citizen’s group in neighboring Jackson County.(41)“Natural Resources Coordinating Committee; Friday, September 15, 2010,” Resource 09-15-10.pdf. The document, the “Coordination Process” by the Jackson County Local Action Coalition (pages 3–7), cites Grant and strongly implies that coordination means counties have the upper hand with federal agencies. In July 2011, Grant himself was brought to Josephine County by then-Commission Chair Sandi Cassanelli to give two talks: one for county sheriffs, and one for the public.(42)Grant spoke on July 29 and 30, 2011. See Stacy D. Stumbo, “Author of ‘War on Rural America’ hosting 2-day seminar,” Daily Courier (Grants Pass, OR), July 16, 2011, His talk is listed on the Josephine County website a meeting for the Board of Commissioners daily agenda: “July 30, 2011,” Grant talks about meeting Gilbertson in Fred Kelly Grant, “Land Rights Attorney Fred K. Grant responds to Huffington Post’s slander,” Pie N Politics, July 13, 2012, Immediately afterward, the county commission pursued coordination, and in August, then-Sheriff Gil Gilbertson also invoked coordination—an unusual move for a sheriff’s department.(43)“Subject: USFS,” letter from Gil Gilbertson to USDA Forest Service, et al. on August 8, 2011, Land and Water USA,; “Subject: USFS, ” letter from Gil Gilbertson to David Krantz on November 15, 2011, Land and Water USA, However, in September 2011, the county’s legal counsel, Steve Rich, expressed doubts to Cassanelli about Grant’s claims of legal successes with the tactic.(44)The minutes are revealing of the differing interpretations of coordination: “Steve [Rich] advised that his research indicated nothing in state or federal law that required coordination; that the Board can state their desire for it, but there is no case law that supports their having any more influence for having done so. Commissioner Cassanelli said it was in FLPMA 1976. Steve’s research into one matter cited by Fred Kelly Grant involving a proposed transcontinental highway from Mexico to Canada, indicated that it was political pressure, not a legal argument or any statement or demand to coordinate, which determined the decision not to proceed with the highway. Commissioner Cassanelli said there were three cases cited by Fred Kelly Grant that demonstrated the influence of a statement to coordinate. Steve Rich asked to see those cases, as he did not find them.” Emphasis added; see “Legal Meeting; Tuesday, September 20, 2011” minutes, Josephine County,

In fall 2013, local right-wing activist Jack Swift started pushing the idea that Josephine County should sue because its coordination requests had been ignored.(45)Swift was part of SORA (Southern Oregon Resource Alliance), described as “a nonprofit group formed in the 1980s to protest wilderness designations. The group often battles environmental groups over land use issues.” See Jim Moore, “Proposal would give Jo County a say in federal land plans,” Daily Courier (Grants Pass, OR), November 1, 2013, See also Jim Moore, “Local leaders hear plan to sue federal government over timber,” Daily Courier (Grants Pass, OR), November 13, 2013, Wally Hicks ran for Josephine County legal council in 2014 on a platform that included promoting coordination; once elected, he followed through on this. He consulted on coordination guides both from federal agencies, as well the American Stewards of Liberty.(46)Telephone interview with author, July 18, 2016. In March 2015, the county sent letters to the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service, and friendly relations were established with the latter.(47)Jim Moore, “County: We want more say over federal land,” Daily Courier (Grants Pass, OR), March 21, 2015,; Jim Moore, “Forest Service favors count’s collaboration request,” Daily Courier (Grants Pass, OR), March 27, 2015, In August, county officials were still complaining that the Bureau of Land Management was refusing to coordinate with them.(48)Jim Moore, “Commissioners oppose Wild and Scenic expansion designation,” Daily Courier (Grants Pass, OR), August 20, 2015, And during the May 2016 primary, two Hard Right candidates for county commission seats promoted coordination: Joseph Rice and Ronald A. Smith.(49)Josephine County Voter’s Pamphlet, Official Primary Election, May 17, 2016, assembled by Trisha Myers (Grants Pass, OR: Josephine County, 2016), 7–12, 17, 2016 Primary Election VP.pdf. Rice believes in the Hard Right version of coordination—but Wally Hicks does not.(50)Joseph Rice, telephone interview with author, July 17, 2016; Wally Hicks, telephone interview with author, July 18, 2016.

It appears that, although the Josephine County Commission’s path to coordination was influenced by the Hard Right version, it currently pursues its legal rights to meetings with federal agencies in an appropriate way.

Former Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson

Gil Gilbertson was Josephine County sheriff from 2007 to 2014, but his two terms have cast a long shadow on the state’s Patriot movement. During this time, the county fell into a deep budget crisis; the sheriff’s department was unable to respond to all 911 calls and had to release inmates from jail. Gilbertson took the opportunity to travel around the West as a star on the right-wing sheriffs’ circuit, helping form one right-wing sheriffs’ association while also serving as an officer on another.

Immediately after his election in 2007, Gilbertson was already writing for News With Views, a local Hard Right website that features thinly veiled antisemitic material and other wild conspiracy theories.(51)Gil Gilbertson’s News With Views articles are: “Introducing Sheriff Gil Gilbertson,” October 30, 2007,; “Sheriff Seeking Stable Funding for His Office,” July 22, 2008,, “Sheriff Wants Holders of Concealed Weapon Permits to Remain Private,” November 29, 2008,; and “Sheriff Will Not Obey Unlawful, Unconstitutional Orders,” January 18, 2013, But Gilbertson says it was a conflict between local miners and the Forest Service that drove him into Patriot movement politics starting in 2009.(52)“Sheriff Gill Gilbertson UnravelingFed 30Jan2012 a,” YouTube video, 15:16, posted by “ Channel,” February 22, 2016,, around 3:30. He started writing letters to the Forest Service, asking seemingly legitimate questions about obligations to enforce federal agency regulations, but also making claims such as, “The sheriff is the highest law enforcement official for that county. My understanding is that there is no other authority that supersedes the sheriff’s office for that county.”(53)Sarah Foster, “Oregon Sheriff Stands Up Against the U.S. Forest Service,” News With Views, July 2, 2011,

Shortly after coordination proponent Fred Kelly Grant visited Josephine in July 2011, Sheriff Gilbertson wrote the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service, saying he had to authority to keep roads open, claiming miners had been harassed, and claiming that his office had equal rights as federal agencies via the coordination process.(54)“Subject: Public Safety and the Coordination Process letter of request/intent,” letter from Gil Gilbertson to USDA Forest Service, et al., Land and Water USA, August 8, 2011,; “Subject: USFS, ” letter from Gil Gilbertson to David Krantz, Land and Water USA, November 15, 2011, In November 2011 he published a paper called “Unraveling Federal Jurisdiction within a State,” outlining his legal beliefs, which followed Patriot movement arguments about the limited authority of federal agencies.(55)By November 2011, “Gilbertson continued his research and recently completed a 13-page revised and updated version, retitled: Unraveling Federal Jurisdiction within a State.” See Sarah Foster, “Oregon Sheriff Gil Gilbertson Continues Stand Against U.S. Forest Service,” News With Views, November 23, 2011,; Gil Gilbertson, “Unraveling Federal Jurisdiction within a State (11-08–11),”*8hW18iHykfUXlLBbXR-psi95ErQMDpYESO4DHXX1Ozw69kGf5sciFZBY367q7z-dpvurT1zkvCT/Unraveling_Federal_Jurisdiction.pdf. This in turn is based on an earlier ten-page document from September 2011; see Gil Gilbertson, “Federal Jurisdiction within a State,” US~Observer,

In January 2012, Gilbertson (accompanied by Sheriff Palmer) met with U.S. Attorney S. Amanda Marshall in Portland. Later that month, Marshall sent Gilbertson a letter, which is worth quoting at length as it eloquently displays the differences between the federal judiciary and constitutional sheriffs:

In your capacity as the Josephine County Sheriff, you have publicly disavowed the federal government’s authority to regulate public lands. You have incorrectly stated in your public comments and writings that federal agency regulations are not valid because only Congress can make laws and Congress cannot give federal agencies the ability to write rules and regulations and enforce them as if they were law. As sheriff, you also claim that Forest Service officers have no law enforcement authority on public lands and their existence violates the 10th Amendment. We discussed these issues with you at the January 12, 2012 Sheriff’s Association meeting and provided you with additional legal authorities showing that your position is incorrect.
….it appears that you have also stated that unpatented mining claims are private property not subject to federal regulation, and that federal officers may be arrested if they trespass onto these claims.
…you do the miners a disservice by promoting, under the color of the office of Josephine County Sheriff, a clearly erroneous interpretation of federal law. As a result, miners are becoming increasingly confrontational with federal officers, citing your erroneous legal advice. Your continued misguided crusade will only increase the safety risks to our federal officers and members of the public who want shared access to public lands.(56)Letter from S. Amanda Marshall to Gil Gilbertson, January 23, 2012. PDF of letter in possession of author. [emphasis in bold added]

Her letter eerily prefigured the later armed camps established at Sugar Pine Mine and, eventually, the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

On January 30, 2012, Gilbertson spoke at the first Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA) conference.(57)“Sheriff Gill Gilbertson UnravelingFed 30Jan2012 a,” YouTube video, 15:16, posted by “ Channel,” February 22, 2016, Before the conference, he was listed as a member of the CSPOA Board of Directors, and from 2012 to August 2015 he was on the group’s Council of Sheriffs, Peace Officers and Public Officials.(58)Constitutional Sheriffs & Peace Officers Association, “Stand Up for the 10th Amendment & Attend the Constitutional Sheriffs Convention Jan 30!,”; “CSPOA Board of Directors,”; CSPOA, “The Leadership—CSPOA Council of Sheriffs, Peace Officers and Public Officials,” As of September 2015, the Council was replaced by a new, three-person Advisory Board, which did not include Gilbertson: High Country News also reported that Gilbertson was one of three people who came to the first Josephine County Oath Keepers’ meeting in Grants Pass in late 2012.(59)Tay Wiles, “Sugar Pine Mine, the Other Standoff,” High Country News, February 2, 2016,

The collapse of federal funding had a crushing effect on the Josephine County sheriff’s department. On May 3, 2012, a safety levy—designed to replace the lost revenue—failed. Afterward, Gilbertson said, “We went from a $12 million budget to a $5.2 million budget… We reduced our workforce from, I think we had 98 down to 34, so 65 percent of our personnel were laid off.” Unable to afford to house them, dozens of inmates were released, and the county cutback to one deputy on patrol. Some residents stopped showing up for court dates, feeling that repercussions were unlikely. Emergency calls to 911 were still answered, but in many cases no deputies were available to respond. One article recounted the details of a woman who was raped after she called 911; no officers were available to respond. In the next two years, at least four armed community watches were established in the region.(60)“Federal funds will help keep services in Josephine County,” YouTube video, 2:13, posted by “KTVL News10,” August 16, 2012,; Jeff Barnard, “Armed posse patrols S. Oregon timber land in sheriff’s place,” Associated Press/KATU 2, October 17, 2012,; Deborah Hastings “Cash-strapped law enforcement agencies in Oregon stop answering calls, sending officers,” Daily News (New York City), May 23, 2013,; Liam Moriarty, “Armed Citizen Groups Fill Law Enforcement Gaps In Southern Oregon,” Oregon Public Broadcasting, April 18, 2014,; Liam Moriarty, “Citizen Volunteers Arm Themselves Against Crime In Rural Oregon,” Oregon Public Broadcasting, April 23, 2014,

In the middle of this crisis, Gilbertson’s attention was focused on his newfound role as a celebrity in the world of radical right-wing sheriffs. He attended a couple California sheriffs’ forums hosted by Support Rural America, and hosted his own gathering in Grants Pass in September 2012. Out of this came a new organization, the National Constitutional Sheriff’s Association, of which Gilbertson was a board member.(61)“Support Rural America Sheriffs’ Event today !!!,” Pie N Politics, July 14, 2012,; Tiffany Revelle, “NorCal sheriffs discuss problems with federal agencies,” Ukiah Daily Journal, August 21, 2012,; Glenda Anderson, “Mendocino sheriff hosts ‘constitutional sheriffs’ gathering,” Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA), August 12, 2012,; Liz Bowen, “Liz Writes Life 9-11-12,” September 11, 2012, Pie N Politics,; “Josephine County—Support Rural America,” YouTube video, 2:50:53, posted by “SOJPodcast,” September 30, 2012, For the NCSA board, see “National Constitutional Sheriffs Association LLC Annual Training Convention,” June 5, 2013, For general information, see also Support Rural America,, and National Constitutional Sheriffs Association, (However, the group apparently folded after their August 2013 national convention was cancelled due to lack of interest.)(62)The NCSA announced a national convention on August 5 and 6, 2013 in Sparks, Nevada, but it was cancelled due to lack of participation. The organization apparently folded soon after. See “National Constitutional Sheriffs Association LLC Annual Training Convention,” Pie N Politics, June 5, 2013,; “Training Convention,” National Constitution Sheriffs Association, 2013, In January 2013, Gilbertson also sent a CSPOA-inspired letter to Vice President Biden.(63)Gil Gilbertson, “Sheriff Will Not Obey Unlawful, Unconstitutional Orders,” News With Views, January 18, 2013,

In May 2013, another county safety levy failed, leaving Gilbertson’s office $645,000 short of the amount required to operate at its already reduced capacity.(64)Associated Press, “Curry, Josephine Counties Reject Public Safety Levies,” Oregon Public Broadcasting, May 22, 2013, With only one officer to patrol the county, in April 2014 Gilbertson considered recruiting volunteers to collect evidence at crime scenes.(65)Graham Sprague, “Josephine County Sheriff Asking Volunteers To Help Investigate Crime,” Oregon Public Broadcasting, April 8, 2014,

In May 2014 another tax levy, which would have allowed the sheriff’s department to hire more patrol deputies, failed as well. Up for re-election that November, Gilbertson continued to spend his time cavorting with Hard Right groups. In Grants Pass in June 2014—in conjunction with The Liberators, a Douglas County-based group with politics similar to the Patriot movement—Gilbertson cohosted an event called “The Solution Revolution” that featured land transfer advocate Ken Ivory.(66)Grants Pass has its own police department, and the Oregon State Patrol had to step in and provide increased coverage for the county. “Since the 2012 budget cuts, 72 percent of patrol calls handled by Oregon State Patrol in the county were referred to that agency by the Sheriff’s Office. In 2013, state troopers investigated 797 cases in Josephine County, compared to 148 cases in nearby Jackson County, which has more than double the population.” See Melissa McRobbie, “Gilbertson wants to be sheriff a third time,” Daily Courier (Grants Pass, OR), April 23, 2016, In October 2014, the first squad of volunteer crime scene investigators were supposed to start work. See Les Zaitz, “Josephine County citizens becoming crime scene investigators to bolster thin police ranks,” Oregonian/OregonLive, September 19, 2014,; “Solution Revolution is June 7, 2014,” Pie N Politics, May 22, 2014,

In November 2014, Gilbertson lost his election to Dave Daniel, 18,282 to 14,385 (56 to 44 percent).(67)“Votes Percent, Sheriff” in “Summary Report, Josephine County, Oregon, General Election, November 4, 2014,Josephine County, 2, GENERAL.pdf Along with vowing to be part of the Oath Keepers’ Community Watch of Josephine County after his term ended, he also remained or became a member of the Oath Keepers, the Pacific Patriots Network, and the CSPOA.(68)Tay Wiles, “Sugar Pine Mine, the Other Standoff,” High Country News, February 2, 2016,
During the Sugar Pine Mine incident, he expressed his support for the miners. One of his former employees, Mary Emerick, was the local Oath Keepers’ press contact during this time.(69)James Pogue, “The Oath Keepers Are Ready for War with the Federal Government,” Vice, September 14, 2015, Emerick also spoke at the 2014 Community Watch meeting in Cave Junction. When residents, concerned about the sudden influx of paramilitaries, held a press conference, Oath Keeper Joseph Rice disrupted it—while Gilbertson told media, “If I were still Sheriff, I would be right where the Oath Keepers are.”(70)“They are the Oath Keepers, we are the Peace Makers,” Rural Organizing Project, May 7, 2015,; Thomas Moriarty, “Residents say Sugar Pine Mine supporters sully Josephine County’s reputation,” April 24, 2015, Mail Tribune (Medford, OR),

Although Gilbertson has kept a lower profile since then, his signature appears on the December 11, 2015, “Redress of Grievance” that Patriot movement activists and groups—including the Bundy Family and the Oath Keepers—were distributing in support of the Hammond family before the Malheur occupation.(71)We the People—United Individuals of these States United, et al., “NOTICE: Redress of Grievance,” dated December 11, 2015, Holding Block, December 30, 2015,

In April 2016, Gilbertson reappeared, asking that the Josephine County clerk’s office record his “Marshal of the Continental uNited States of American Oath of Office” [sic]. This made-up title is part of his affiliation with a new Sovereign Citizen-style group, the Continental Court System of the united States, which includes a number of fake judges who also played roles in the Malheur occupation.(72)Shaun Hall, “Gilbertson’s Path of Office Raises Eyebrows,” Daily Courier (Grants Pass, OR), June 2, 2016, (See box on group on p. 69.) In April and June July 2016, Gilbertson appeared at Cave Junction Neighborhood Watch meetings organized by Guenter Ambron. At one, the agenda included “sending a representative” to a new Committee of Safety.(73)“Neighborhood Watch Leadership/Captains Meeting—Fire Season / form Committee Of Safety,” Nextdoor event on June 13, 2016,; “Neighborhood Watch Meeting With Gil Gilbertson,” Nextdoor event for April 5, 2016, Apparently, any tension between the National Liberty Alliance and Continental Court System of the united States is not stopping Gilbertson and Ambron from working together.


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