The man who posted the message is listed as a moderator on the Oregon Gold Hunters Web site.

An Ashland environmental group was put on alert earlier this month after a man posted threatening messages on a gold mining Web site suggesting that its members be shot with a high-powered rifle during a hike along the Rogue River.

KS Wild workers discovered the post at oregongoldhunters.com on March 14, a week after they hosted a public hike through federal land along the Lower Rogue River trail.

"It was pretty disturbing to read such a threat after the hike," said George Sexton, KS Wild's conservation director. "Thankfully there was no violence, but we are taking these threats seriously."

The man who posted the message is listed as a moderator on the Oregon Gold Hunters Web site. He posts under the name "Spilsnthrils."

The message suggested those who follow discussion threads on the site should show up during the KS Wild hike and confront the group.

The message then went on to say, "Another take on this is now we know where and when they will be congregated as a group. Out in the woods on their own, hmm sounds like a disaster. If a guy was (angry) enough he could sit up in the woods with a high powered assault rifle and put an end to the whole group in one swift action."

Another person under the screen name "Kerbyjack" replied that this would be a "good idea" and that others should show up armed with guns at the time of the KS Wild hike.

The messages prompted KS Wild to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Oregon Attorney General John Kroger.

Sexton equated the threatening messages with terrorism and said KS Wild will not be deterred from hosting future wilderness hikes.

"If you advocate shooting people you don't agree with for political gain, that's terrorism," Sexton said. "It doesn't get much more explicit than providing readers a time, date and a method to meet a political objective through violence."

Sexton noted the KS Wild-sponsored hikes are open to everyone and often are joined by families with young children and elderly people looking to explore Southern Oregon's public lands.

The discussion thread remained active on the Oregon Gold Hunters site Tuesday evening. A copy of the messages was sent to Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, who denounced them and in a signed letter called on law enforcement agencies in Jackson and Josephine counties to investigate the matter.

"I respect the rights of individuals and organizations to make their arguments over what they feel are the highest and best uses of public lands," Wyden wrote. "However, violence and threats of violence by either side have no place in these conversations."

The issue sparked as extremist groups across the country issued threats to federal lawmakers upon the passage of health care reform. The Associated Press has reported Democratic offices in several states have been vandalized and threatening phone calls have been made to members of Congress in the wake of the new law.

On Monday, the FBI arrested members of a Michigan extremist militia that advocated waging war with the federal government and assassinating law enforcement officials.

Oregon Gold Hunters' Web site administrator could not be reached for comment by press time Tuesday. The man who posted the message also could not be reached for comment.

Local environmental groups have been at loggerheads with miners for several years over the issue of whether public rivers and streams are open for gold dredging by private entities.

Miners often post signs around claims citing the area is now private property the miner owns while the river is being combed for gold.

Last April, a miner shot a man who had been riding off-road vehicles with friends near his claim, which was on public land near Kerby.

The victim lost an arm in the shooting and the miner, Ronald Eugene Spears, 61, faces a felony assault charge.

Threats are nothing new to KS Wild workers, Sexton said.

"We have received vague threats in the past, but nothing this detailed," Sexton added.

Regardless, the group plans to host another public hike on April 17 in the Illinois Valley.

"We are going to go on the hike and look for wildflowers on April 17," Sexton said. "That's the way it should be."

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or cconrad@mailtribune.com.