THE SIGN over the door of his modest home reads; "You are now in Utah -- Set Your Watch Back 20 Years."
Harold Stewart, 59 prefers to live in the past. When he thinks of the present, he literally trembles with fury. "I'm one of the silent majority that's damn tired of being silent," he says."I'm just aching for a revolution."
Stewarth's revolution is the Sagebrush Rebellion, a loose, populist movement of westerners who want to ride the federal government out of their lives.
A steelworker turned prospector, Stewart has staked 6,000 mining claims on federal land in southern Utah. He owns two "cats," tow chain drills and a wagon drill with which he works some of his claims. Other claims are leased to Exxon and other companies, and bring in an irregular but sufficient income to support a wife and five children.
In the old days, it was pretty easy. He'd look at a federal geological map, pick a spot that looked favorable, search the records in the county courthouse and, if no one had staked it, he'd pay his five bucks to the county clerk and go up and plant his four-by-four in the earth.
"Before," he says, "you could locate a claim and mine it and if you made anything, it was yours."
"Before" means before the federal government, embodied in the Bureau of Land Management, began to enforce new regulations requiring bonding, reclamation and the registering of all claims with the federal government.
"These gosh-darn crazy ecologists!" Stewart fumes. "We miners make a little rathole you can get a wheelbarrow into. We don't move any hillsides. Now the government's come up with these new rules. Who's going to lend a miner $200,000 for a bond? You can't even borrow enough for a quart of wine."
Because of the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act requiring registration of claims, Stewart says, "I'm going to lose thousands of claims because I haven't got the money to file with the government. It would cost me $30,000 to record my claims -- $5 each. I'll be broke after this year. I'll have to go on welfare.