The Great Chicken (Alaska) Raid Lays An Egg

By Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor

EPALogoA few days ago, there was some good-natured banter in the comments about Chicken, Alaska. Since I have relatives who do gold mining there during the summer months, I followed up with some reading about Chicken. This old gold mining town was founded in 1886. We often hear of something being “in the middle of nowhere.” In this case it’s true. Chicken is a six hour drive northeast of Fairbanks on the Taylor Highway, which goes to Dawson, Yukon.

This is one of the most isolated and difficult to reach communities on the North American continent. The only way in and out is either by the Taylor Highway or a small airstrip. I was surprised to learn that this town of 17 people (6 households and 4 families) was the subject of a raid last fall. The raid was carried out by a black-clad SWAT team in full body armor and armed to the teeth. The eight agents appeared out of nowhere in the tiny town. They were from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on a mission to inspect the water associated with gold mining.

Now to put this in perspective, my relatives appear to be among the suspects. I did the math on the suspect to agent ratio, and there was a SWAT officer for every 2.17 persons in town. However, the true population is the subject of some debate. The 2010 Census recorded a population of seven (7) people. There are, of course, the determined travelers making the Fairbanks to Dawson trek. I say “determined” travelers, because it is a trip that one has to be determined to make in order to even consider the drive. That clearly made the odds in favor of the townspeople, so it is understandable the officers were all dressed in body armor and armed with a variety of firearms.

After their inspection of the mining and miners, the Federal agents warned the miners to not put so much mud in the creeks. Really. That was their order.

I was never able to find out if they seized any of Susan’s cinnamon rolls or pies for “evidence.” Susan sells her baked goods to tourists passing through on their way to the Yukon Territory or south to Fairbanks.

To their credit, Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich have attempted to inquire into the task force’s actions. Alaska Congressman Don Young is also trying to get information. So far, straight answers are not forthcoming from the EPA. The EPA has refused to publicly explain why it used armed officers as part of what it called a “multi-jurisdictional” investigation of possible Clean Water Act violations in the area. In a conference call with Alaska’s Senators and Congressman Young, members of their staff, state police officers, the EPA claimed it sent in the task force armed and wearing body armor because of information it received from the Alaska State Troopers about “rampant drug and human trafficking going on in the area.” Officials with the state police say that is simply not true, which is a polite way of saying the EPA is lying. The State Troopers have no information, and never had any information, regarding “rampant drug and human trafficking.”

The citizens of Alaska and especially the town of Chicken, have a lot of questions about this raid by armed Federal agents. Alaskans have a deep distrust of Federal agencies, which have traditionally been heavy handed in their interactions with local citizens.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) says one of its compliance officers went along with the task force, but claim it was only to look for potential state violations at the mine sites.

The DEC admits its officer was armed. It seems safe to assume the DEC officer was one of the black clad SWAT officers in body armor. What has been learned so far is that in addition to the DEC officer, the raid was carried out by members of the EPA, the FBI, Coast Guard, and the Department of Defense.

So that we know what kind of town required a full squad of SWAT officers, we need to take a look at the town.

Next, we take a look at a miner who must be one of those ordered by the EPA to not put mud into the creek as he mined for gold. Looks like he could be a drug and human trafficker to me. Real shifty eyed type.

Don’t put mud into the water. That’s what they ordered. I have to wonder if those guys have ever SEEN an Alaskan mudflat. Last time I was in Anchorage, I flew with a bush pilot. For thirty minutes of the flight–at 120 mph–we were over mudflats, and the end was not in sight. Don’t put mud into the water indeed!

Sources:

Alaska Dispatch: News and Voices From the Last Frontier

Gold Prospectors Association

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51 thoughts on “The Great Chicken (Alaska) Raid Lays An Egg

  1. Had a nice hitch/hiking trip from Dawson City to Fairbanks on that highway in the summer of1972. Took a few days, starting at Keno Hill mine & Elsa, Yukon. It really was hitch/HIKING, up to 35 miles walking in a day. Cars were few, especially in Canada, but were as likely to pick you up as not. I laid out my bedroll each night next to the highway & often made a fire from the abundant dried sticks most everywhere. I’d brought a bunch of aluminum wrapped potatoes from the silver mine town’s kitchens, kindly donated after my few months of working there since February (Elsa) and they baked well in the fire. Figuring how long to sleep was a problem with no true darkness in June. Don’t recall Chicken, but if its on that highway, I walked or drove through it. Somewhere around there a teenage moose & I frightened each other by practically running into each other; we are talking about 1 meter! The main difference between Canada & Alaska at that time was that the Canadian roadhouses were made of unpeeled logs & the USA ones were peeled & lacquered. Its hard to imagine a swat team response out that way. Totally unnecessary of course but more than half of them are unnecessary anywhere.Unless you are trying to turn George Orwell into a profit, rather than a writer.

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  3. The real chickens were the agents who went there suited up like that. I don’t know what the animal situation is up there so maybe one guy could sling a rifle over his shoulder. Tactical gear? Bah.

    Some of those EPA guys should go back to their desks and stop playing SWAT team. They probably wouldn’t make it as Fish & Wildlife agents, who encounter modern rifle and shotgun hunters often on a daily basis if they feel they have to dress up like commandos to make sure some miner isn’t making mud pies in a creek.

    From a practical standpoint, why would you want to get all decked out with all that hot, heavy, and bulky gear and go trottring about the woods? A regular patrol uniform and gear can be 20 to 25 pounds depending on the season, why add another 20 pounds to hunt mud pies?

    I have a hard time believing the human trafficing/drug runner angle. It sounds more to me like these agents got caught with their Kevlar pants down. So, they came up with this dire threat to justify over-reacting as they did.

  4. Although I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I am still amazed at how people can live in environments like Alaska (I do not like cold weather; when I retire, heading further south-maybe Florida or Southern Cal, maybe even AZ).

  5. Ran the last pulp mill in California. We were raided for suspected environmental violations by a 13 agency task force (50 state and federal cops – all armed and armored). Set up by an ambitious local DA.

    Remember, this was a mill in Northern California operated by middle class workers and staff – not a den of human traffickers.

    Adolescents pretending to be Rambo. Aside from the cost to taxpayers (you and I), it was offensive and potentially dangerous. To their credit, most of the agents were embarrassed – but they went along with the game.

    I developed a life long contempt for law enforcement – dangerous children given guns and power.

    Now when I read about “our brave men and women in blue” I roll my eyes and think of those clowns playing grownup.

    To end the story, my investors and I sold our mill to the Chinese – they ran the plant profitably for two years and then walked away leaving a stinking mess and lots of unpaid bills (including the workers). We had invested for the long haul (including trying to structure an employee buyout), but after that experience, we took our money and left.

  6. Could this have been an excuse for a training exercise? Even if the EPA legitimately needed to inspect the water, all they needed was a nerdy professor type with a test kit. And maybe a state trooper as a companion to look out for wildlife.

    Does anyone else think that the militarizing of every US agency is an end run around the Posse Comitatus Act?

  7. Talk about federal overreach.
    This seems to be a recent trend of enforcement of the EPA nationwide, essentially the EPA has defined picking up mud, silt and water and then putting it back unchanged as pollution.
    It has gotten so bad that Idaho, which has been a widespread target of the EPA for this activity, has introduced state legislation to nullify all EPA regulation and actions within the state.
    It is activity like this that will cause states, in incremental ways, to effectively secede from the union, even if not formally.

    http://dailycaller.com/2014/02/19/going-rogue-idaho-wants-to-nullify-all-epa-regulations/

  8. A good cinnamon roll is worth it’s weight in gold. I bet that’s what they were really after. ;)

  9. I think that these guys were simply bored and wanted to do something exciting so that they could dress up. The real justification was undoubtedly self generated drug activity reports. As I once had an Agricultural agent notify me that he was armed on my aircraft, I asked him what he needed a gun for. I asked it the gophers were THAT big in MN. He never answered.

  10. I’ve been to Alaska twice and it is breathtaking. I am pleasantly surprised that this post was made. Obama has turned the EPA into the DEA. And there are few things enviromentalists despise more than mining. It is akin to a meth lab for fringe environmental folk. I’m sure these EPA goons were pumped up taking down this dangerous group of miners. Great post.

  11. Simms, You’re absolutely correct. But a government that wants to let everyone know WHO’S IN CHARGE uses these gestapo tactics to intimidate. There are more and more libertarians being created daily.

  12. Gary,
    There is already a substantial percentage of the Alaska population that would like to secede. The entire population of the state is little more than a half million. Half of those live and work in Anchorage, population 300,000. The only way in and out of many places is by bush plane, and even those are inaccessible in winter or when foggy.

    I talked to a couple of bush pilots about what happened after 9-11 when the FAA closed all airspace, even to lightplanes. The pilots told me that the manure hit the ventilator, because unlike Chicken, a high percentage of tiny communities have no road access at all. Air is the only way in or out for sick or injured, to bring supplies, and for law enforcement officers to get to crime scenes. The FAA finally saw the idiocy of restricting Alaskan airspace for bush planes and lifted the no-fly restrictions. Alaska is hardly a target-rich environment for terrorists.

    These are self-sufficient folks. Alaska has no sales tax, no income tax, and is the only state that gives its citizens money every year just for living there. The state sends every single citizen about $1,600 every October. Many Alaskans feel they don’t really need the US government. Alaska is already larger than many countries, and has more natural resources than many countries.

    State law enforcement has a much better relationship with the citizenry than Federal agencies. Federal agents tend to be ham-handed in their dealings with the locals. In one case, they ordered a 70-year-old fisherman to stop his boat in the middle of the river and prepare for boarding for inspection. If one knows anything at all about Alaska rivers, you don’t “stop” a boat in the middle of the stream. The elderly gentleman turned to the bank, beaching his boat where he could talk to them on dry land. He was promptly arrested and transported over a hundred miles to a Federal Magistrate. He was convicted on Federal charges of failing to comply with a lawful order.

    It is a beautiful place as well. So beautiful it makes your head hurt just to look out the window in the morning, but it can also be a dangerous place. Humans are not necessarily at the top of the food chain.

  13. “The only way in and out is either by the Taylor Highway or a small airstrip.”

    Followed closely by:
    “The eight agents appeared out of nowhere in the tiny town.”

    Uhhh… I don’t know about you, but I have a pretty good guess about how they got there.

    On a different note: Violations of the CWA carry huge potential penalties, which can even include jail time. EPA enforcement officials receive threats all the time. I’m sure you can imagine some super rural-living people making comments about what might happen to an EPA official who “barges in trying to tell them what to do.” The agency can’t risk that somebody might actually act out, so they use an abundance of caution.

    We’ve got enough examples on this blog of police officers and others ACTUALLY abusing their power and killing/beating people for minor or no offenses. Maybe we should focus on that and stop trying to act like officers merely dressing up for a worst-case-scenario that doesn’t come is some huge abuse of power.

  14. Beautiful scenery along that road. Reminds me of Hogsback Road in Washngton County, or the Coulee Region, both in WI.

  15. Alaska is pilot heaven. We flew Skagway Air around the area. Hell, instead of taking the very unreliable state ferry 15 miles to Haines, we took Skagway Air. They were like a taxi. My son sat up next to the pilot. We spent the day and the pilot gave us his cell, saying, “Give me a ring when you guys want to come back.” Folks love to make fun of Alaska because of Palin. But, these are a diverse group of great iconoclasts. And, a trip over to the Yukon is also worth the effort. Even a bit more rugged.

  16. Andrea,

    Could be a false flag to turn people “against the EPA.”

    It isn’t easy to destroy the planet’s Global Climate Systems which support human life.

    They have many ways to do it as the chant Oilah Akbar! Oilah Akbar!

    The deception is done mainly via the home-grown ignorance of the Oil-Qaeda huggers..

  17. A chicken in every pot. A pot plant in every chicken coup. A chicken in every Third World coup. It is a Third World to which we are coming. The cops are taking us there. We are chickens as we do nothing Soon we will be in the pot.

  18. I have been to Alaska in the summer to visit some former coworkers who moved to Alaska to run the pipeline, and I was struck by the fantastic beauty. I understood why they moved there, but I could not stand the cold or the moose or grizzly bears.

    One has to remember that many Federal employees were sent there to get them out of the way where they could do little damage. When I was at Ameriflight, there was one FAA inspector who caused major damage to the company in SAC. The first time he saw our BE-99 that had two fuel spots on the ground, and thought it had a fuel leak. So the company towed the plane to a mechanic to inspect it. Turns out, that the pilot had simply turned of the master switch before the EPA can had time enough to pump the excess fuel after shutdown on the engines back into the fuel tanks. So the can overflowed onto the ground. A few weeks later the idiot looked at the brake disc on the plane and without checking any manual, decided that they were worn and out of spec. So once again, a tow to the hangar to disassemble the wheels, and mic the disc. Turns out Ameriflight had just put in newer thin discs that would dissipate heat better. They were BRAND NEW! Unfortunately, the contract mechanic broke off one of the wheel lugs in the process, so a new part had to be shipped to SAC and another plane sent up with the part and to be used for the run back to OAK.

    Our Director of Maintenance had done a lot of favors for the FAA and did pro bono work on many occasions. He had enough and made some loud complaints to the FAA. The FAA could not fire the idiot, but they could and did send him to Point Barrow AK so he would either do no damage, or get shot if he persisted in being stupid

  19. @Andrea “I’m sure you can imagine some super rural-living people making comments about what might happen to an EPA official who “barges in trying to tell them what to do.” The agency can’t risk that somebody might actually act out, so they use an abundance of caution.”

    Andrea, that’s called “worst first thinking.” (Google it) It’s where you imagine the worst possible thing that could possibly happen and then proceed as if that is the most likely thing to happen. It promotes fear mongering and distrust.

    It was much more likely that the extreme actions used by the EPA, instead of a civil approach, would have caused an extreme reaction from the locals by agitating them right off the bat. But the locals didn’t act extremely to the raid, did they?

    When was the last time that some “super rural-living” person in Alaska harmed an EPA agent? When was the last time that some “super rural-living” person in Alaska harmed an unarmed guy with a test kit?

  20. I think Andrea is someone who can rationalize the SWAT raids until she’s the barrel end of one. Then she’ll cry louder than anyone.

  21. Simms,

    The greatest harm to Alaska has always been, and is now still being done by Oil-Qaeda operatives.

    Such as the ExxonValdez ship of state:

    The native people had sold their land to the military oil complex for one dollar on the promise that the oilsters would be very careful and take care of the environment.

    Well, forked man speaks with white tongue, so the oil company of course violated the agreement.

    The Exxon Valdez’s radar had not been working for a very long time, and was not even activated on that fateful day. The oil robber barons were not careful, so once again the native Americans were wronged by the oil crusaders.

    To this day there is still oil on beaches in that vast pristine area. Since no one comes to look very much, the oil companies have gotten away with it.

    And the judges of some of the courts, possibly beholding to the oil companies in “prior lifetimes” in some way, have cut the damages Exxon has to pay down to a small percentage of the original jury awards.

    The addiction to oil continues like a plague.

    (Spill Baby Spill – 3). This was probably an episode in the Hypocrisy Olympics where the people spilling some dirt in the streams are scolded while Oil-Qaeda’s world destroying terrorism continues to be celebrated.

    Men have brought their powers of subduing the forces of nature to such a pitch that by using them they could now very easily exterminate one another to the last man. They know this –hence arises a great part of their current unrest, their dejection, their mood of apprehension.” – Sigmund Freud

  22. Wow, google street view has made it to Chicken, AK. Is that road even paved? It looks like just packed dirt.

  23. Dredd, this goes back to the softball question Katy Curic tossed to Palin in the 2008 election. The SCOTUS had just overturned the billion dollar award against Exxon, and Palin’s office had put out a press release on that subject denouncing the ruling. So when she asked about SCOTUS rulings other than Roe vs Wade she disagreed with, she obviously thought it was an easy question for her to answer since it was so recent, and affected Alaska so badly. But unfortunately Palin did not read any newspapers, or even her own press releases. Of course, Curic should have known that a beauty pageant contestant would not be up to date on important subjects.

  24. Very interesting case Chuck. While I am sure there are times when the EPA agents need to be armed, this was not one of them. I would love to see an accounting to figure out what this excursion cost the taxpayer.

  25. while I disagree with the raid, siltation does effect fish reproduction. Since fishing and guiding are big money makers it seems reasonable to me to try and accomadate both gold mining and fishing.

  26. randyjet

    Dredd, this goes back to the softball question Katy Curic tossed to Palin in the 2008 election. The SCOTUS had just overturned the billion dollar award against Exxon, and Palin’s office had put out a press release on that subject denouncing the ruling. So when she asked about SCOTUS rulings other than Roe vs Wade she disagreed with, she obviously thought it was an easy question for her to answer since it was so recent, and affected Alaska so badly. But unfortunately Palin did not read any newspapers, or even her own press releases. Of course, Curic should have known that a beauty pageant contestant would not be up to date on important subjects.
    ================
    She eloped with Todd about the time of the Exxon Valdez terrorist attack, so her mind was elsewhere.

  27. Personally, I’d far rather see this kind of thing than the lax enforcement of regulations on water, mines, air, etal or the good-ol’-boy-buddy-buddy relationship of regulators and those they regulate as championed by conservatives. The former causes confusion and hurt feelings, the latter, as in the cases of the West Virginia miners and Gulf oil riggers a couple of years ago, can and has caused deaths and severe environmental damage.

  28. Then there’s rcampbell’s take. Summarized, Err on the side of automatic weapons pointed @ potential violators. They wouldn’t do this horseshit to a big mining corporation, they pick on a few folks in a remote town. Yeah, that’s better than lax enforcement. You too could be on the barrel end of a goon squad like this. Do you think you’re immune? YOU ARE NOT!

  29. “Have no fear of robbers or murderers. They are external dangers, petty dangers. We should fear ourselves. Prejudices are the real robbers; vices the real murders. The great dangers are within us. Why worry about what threatens our heads or purses? Let us think instead of what threatens our souls.”
    — Victor Hugo

  30. nick:

    conservatives think that is the reason why most regulations dont work. From living here in DC it seems that many in government service are liberal. So it is not unrealistic to think that most regulators are as well. If poor, stupid, ignorant conservative businessmen are out foxing liberal regulators, well maybe progressives arent quite as smart as they think they are.

    Regulations need to be realistic and based on good science not on politically correct science.

    Most regulations are created as a benefit to some favored company or industry. That in itself is criminal in my mind.

  31. Bron, Absolutely. You pay and you get the regulations you want, or don’t want. Science has virtually nothing to do w/ it. Govt. employees are Dems because that’s who butters their toast. I know some pretty conservative govt. employees, but they vote Dem. People vote their purse first.

  32. Well, Alaska would seem like the most likely candidate to secede – it is huge, has enough natural resources to easily be self-sufficient, and is quite separated from the continental US.
    I guess the only wild card would be who would protect it militarily if it did secede.
    I guess it could maintain a national defense agreement with the US Govt. I mean if the US could do this for South Korea it should be able to do it for Alaska.

  33. I know lots of government employees and they bad mouth liberals and vote conservative only. Maybe back in the days of FDR they were somewhat liberal, but now they are all in bed with the companies they are supposed to regulate and are disloyal to their country and government in their own future interests. That is why you will find most chickenhawks on the conservative side.

  34. Gary T if they are so independent, then they can give up all the government subsidies and aid they get. They are the leading recipient of Federal government largess, PLUS the rest of ALL of us PAID for “their” land by the way and the government has given away much of that too.

  35. Too much oil and other natural resources. The US would never allow Alaska to secede. But, maybe Putin will try and take it back. He has Obama on the ropes in the Ukraine.

  36. I can personally vouch for some of the ridiculousness of the EPA.

    In the county I worked in there were several incidences where the EPA would come in an rip farmers a new one just for doing ordinary farming practices, threatening them with fines. It was not uncommon for neighbor disputes to erupt where one of them would call the EPA and rat out the other for alleged violations. The burning of crops was one of them. If it was not done exactly to the specs the EPA decided they levied $10,000 fines against them.

    This is how ridiculous it got. The EPA fined an orchardist who burned out the trees that were uprooted for a new crop, but the orchardist was permitted to burn off prunings (small branches that need to be trimmed off) but not trunks. So to protect himself he “pruned” the trees all the way down to the trunk.

    Another big nightmare for the EPA was dust. Every few years there is a drought and irrigation and rain is not as available. Some areas become dusty and blow. EPA has hassled farmers for dust blowing and fined them. This is more of a soil conservation issue than anything but blowing dust is, like, part of nature.

    One of the most ridiculous EPA stories I can remember was from a BNSF Railroad Police officer. There is an area on the West end of our county that is a gigantic sand dune and is very dry around it. The department of transportation has been mining sand from the area since at least the 1960’s for winter road sanding. The railroad’s right of way passes through this. The area for thirty years has attracted many motocross bike entusiasts due to its large hills and dunes.

    He told me the railroad got nicked by the EPA because it did not prevent motorcyclists from kicking up dust on their right of way and threatened BNSF with a big fine if they didn’t comply. It was highly cost prohibitive for the railroad to fence off all the rangeland on its right of way (not to mention putting some form of gate on both ends of this to block the motorcyclists riding around it). To aggravate things was BNSF’s main East / West trunkline in central WA. Plus, if the motorcyclists just rode a yard past the fence it would create the same dust conditions, but at least BNSF would be off the hook.

    To placate the EPA for a while he had to patrol this three mile area looking for motorcyclists while leaving the thousands of miles of other trackline off the radar.

    The entire experience taught me one thing. The EPA seems to want to go after low hanging fruit such as the farmers or the railroad so that they can pump the numbers up to make it look statistically they are doing something. Unfortunately regular people are victimized in the process.

  37. Government regulations are like the Mafia protection racket. You pay protection[lobbyists giving cash to legislators] and you’re protected. Individuals can’t pay protection. So they get picked on by regulators. The IRS is famous for this. They LOVE to audit small businesses. Big corporations, well they pay no taxes. This bullying by the government on the small guy should not come as any revelation. But, I know it does to some here.

  38. The enigmatic tragedy which I observe lurks within understanding human life as purely adversarial-oppositional and grounded on escalating reciprocal retaliation is of an aspect of the intrinsic nature of the group psychosis of mirror-neuron-replicated deception, to wit, a person who is actually deceived cannot be consciously aware of being deceived because being consciously aware of being deceived is contiguous with being not-deceived.

    If the process of becoming deceived is sufficiently painful, the pain of deception concurrently becomes both too immense to be forgotten and too immense to be remembered, and some sort of biological/neurological moral injury trauma becomes inescapable.

    Thus, methinks, the work of the late physiologist, Benjamin Libet, to the effect that socially-normal people make decisions unconsciously about 500 milliseconds before becoming consciously aware of the decision already made and already being enacted out.

    By what form of faux pseudo-truthfulness can a person’s consciousness be held accountable for decisions not consciously made and therefore never made within consciously willful control or supervision?

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