Militias busting rural budgets

  Officials in Darby, Mont., a town of 625 in Ravalli County, estimate that dealing with militia leader Cal Greenup and his family cost $7,000 in enforcement and legal expenses. That scuffle, along with $13,000 in legal fees spent on another anti-government resident who sued the town over a drunk driving arrest, took nearly all of Darby's taxes, town clerk Miriam Rodgers told the Missoulian. Also, bills in Musselshell County, Mont., where there was a February confrontation with several self-described "freemen," including Militia of Montana's John Trochmann, have skyrocketed, says the county attorney. "These exorbitant costs are being absorbed by (taxpayers) for people who are tax protesters," says county Sheriff Paul Smith. If Republicans in Congress get their way, local authorities could shoulder even more of the burden. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, recommended to the House Appropriations Committee in May "zeroing out" the entire law enforcement budget for the Bureau of Land Management. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, supports disarming federal agents to alleviate public fear and suspicion, and Rep. Helen Chenoweth, R-Idaho, wants to prohibit federal officers from arming themselves without the permission of local authorities. And if that weren't enough, some Montana businessmen fear that militia activity is driving away tourists. Says Darby mayor and bar owner Rich Higgins: "I feel a downturn in business in town, and it might be attributable to the militia."

* Elizabeth Manning

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