Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pair gets prison for mine demolition

Historic timbers sold for $10,000

Express Staff Writer

Two Bellevue residents were sentenced this month to 18 months in federal prison for taking apart a historic mining structure on BLM-managed land in Colorado Gulch near Hailey.

Russell Nuxoll, 37, and Janet Sylten, 51, were sentenced on June 9 in federal court in Boise on charges of destruction of government property for demolishing the mining structure by pulling down the wooden beams of the historic Snoose Mine in Colorado Gulch last August with a truck.

Sylten was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release and pay $61,462 in damages.

Wood pilfered from the mine was reportedly sold to Idaho Glulam in Carey for $10,000. Some of it has already been re-sold to a homebuilder in Jackson, Wyo., said Assistant U.S. Attorney Christian Nafzger.

BLM officials were alerted to the unlawful demolition by a mountain biker who noticed people working with chainsaws on the site, about a half mile west of the Colorado Gulch Bridge.

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The site was first recorded as an archeological site in 2002. It contained a 30-foot-tall wooden structure erected between World War I and World War II. Today, the site is a shambles of wood debris and iron machine parts.

"Before its destruction in 2009, it was the best example of a historic headframe and ore bin on public lands in the Wood River Valley," states a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Nafzger said the couple held title to a mining claim on the property, but knew, based on testimony at trial, that they were not allowed to remove anything from the site without a permit from the BLM.

"This kind of thing is a real problem because this historical wood is all of our public property, and it is winding up in millionaires' homes in Jackson Hole," Nafzger said.

He said there were no historic signs or plaques on the site, but that BLM archeologists were hoping to spend about $40,000 to develop the site with interpretive signs when the funds became available.

Nafzger said the rules that designate historic sites on public and private lands are complicated, but that a simple rule of thumb can keep would-be looters out of trouble: "If its on property that is not yours, ask before removing anything."

The recovered wood is in a BLM storage facility in Shoshone. It may be sold at public auction.

Tony Evans:

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