Keep Obama’s Justice Department Out of Burns

Right From the Start

Right From the Start

Last weekend, after a rally in support of convicted arsonists, Dwight Hammond, and his son, Steve Hammond, a group of armed men occupied the headquarters of the Malhuer National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon, in protest over the heavy hand of the federal government in administering federal lands to the detriment of adjacent landowners. The group led by Ammon Bundy – son of Nevada rancher, Clive Bundy –has stated that the protests and occupation are, in part, to “stand up” for the Hammonds since they will not stand for themselves. The Hammonds have not participated in the takeover and have, in fact, stated that the occupiers, led by Mr. Bundy, do not speak for them.

The Hammonds were convicted of burning federal lands upon which they held grazing rights. Various versions of why they set the fires run all the way from covering up poaching of deer to clearing invasive species on the land. It doesn’t really matter. The Hammonds were convicted and given relatively light prison sentences which they served. The federal government, demonstrating its “heavy hand” for those who disagree, appealed those sentences and now the Hammonds are set to begin additional prison terms under a harsher mandatory five year sentence. They voluntarily surrendered to begin those sentences on Monday.

The background of the parties are interesting and the protests over the heavy hand of the federal government and the degrees to which it will go in order to deny the continuation of the historic uses of federal lands are worth a doctoral dissertation. But mostly this boils down to an increasing “preservationist” attitude by government bureaucrats (most of whom have never visited Oregon or for that matter any of the big square “fly over” states) who believe that using federal lands in endeavors that may result in profits are simply malum prohibitum – grazing, growing, mining, drilling, etc.

But let’s leave aside the validity of the arguments raised by those whose livelihoods are now threatened by that “preservationist” philosophy. Let’s leave aside the fact that over ninety-five percent of the land in Oregon remains unoccupied by man and there is zero threat of denigration of that land. Let’s leave aside the fact that the use of the federal lands in those areas has remained virtually unchanged for decades and generations of ranching families and that the denial of the historic use of those lands by adjacent ranching families serves no legitimate purpose other than to deny access to those ranching families.

Still, this is an extraordinarily dangerous situation. On one side you have a group of people whose view of the federal government harkens back to the days of the Wild West and who view the government – not without some reason – as the primary enemy to their futures. Between taxes, regulations and arbitrary enforcement, these people feel smothered by a government grown too big, too involved in their lives and businesses and too unresponsive to their concerns. They are also armed. Time will tell whether they treat that fact with the respect that most of us who were raised in the rural West have for those arms.

On the other side you have a federal government. Its current leader has been critical of the very people who are protesting in Burns. President Barack Obama stated in August of 2008 during his presidential campaign:

“They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

And that is the attitude that permeates his administration. And it is an attitude that makes the involvement of the federal government in this “stand off” dangerously explosive. The very cause of the great frustration of Western landowners stands with all the might and overwhelming power of the government which, for many, equates to the reason for the government’s indifference toward their plight. They have lost after every turn. The might of the government has not been wielded fairly, although it appears to have been wielded lawfully. Further repression by the federal government will only heighten the feelings of betrayal by an administration that never listens but always demands.

Add to that the propensity of the Obama administration to change the narrative about international terrorism to domestic terrorism – especially “terrorism” that encompasses people they consider to be “right wing extremists” and an escalation of the situation in Malhuer County becomes, for them, a demonstrable incident and more succor for their gun control agenda.

 “Where there is great power there is great responsibility, where there is less power there is less responsibility, and where there is no power there can, I think, be no responsibility.” Winston Churchill (circa 1906).

Determination of the course of this standoff lies primarily with the federal government. Let’s be sure we understand the physical environment of this confrontation. Ammon Bundy and a group of approximately twenty-four others invaded and seized control of a building that houses the Malhuer National Wildlife Refuge administrative office. The whole area is easily isolated and control of entry and exit (meaning food and supplies) can be accomplished with a minimum number of law enforcement officials. It is the middle of the winter. Utility access (heat, electricity, water, landline communications and cellular communications) can all be controlled externally. There were no workers in the building when Bundy and his supporters occupied the building so there are no hostages. All of the business conducted at the wildlife refuge can be conducted remotely. In other words there is no critical rationale for retaking the building.

This is a situation that begs for the primacy of local government in its resolution. The best solution would be for Mr. Bundy and his supporters to acknowledge that this has nothing to do with the Hammonds and that what is occurring in Malhuer County is really none of their business. They should leave and take up their cause back in Nevada where they are being directly impacted by the arbitrariness of the federal government. Failing that, the federal government should cede control of the situation to Malhuer County Sheriff Brian Wolfe. I don’t know Mr. Wolfe but his sense of what is required in this situation has to be far superior to that of the federal government. At the very least he does not have an alternative agenda regarding terrorism and gun control.




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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in 2nd Amendment, Government Abuse, Gun Control, President Obama | 30 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • BarbedStar

    1 second ago
    Very good. When at the Refuge building, Ammon and supporters found an open door and keys to the refuge. To date, the locals are supplying food and needs to the group once they understood the honest intent of the men. Locals, who’s main employment now is by the government (60%+/- )since the woods and ranches have been shut down – (100 ranches +/- have been terrorized out resulting in their private property going to BLM). The Harney County citizens fear the loss of their Federal jobs and fear to stand in the open. Dependent on the very entity that put them and their families near destitute for lack of work. The ‘righting’ of these wrongs is what Ammon is working for, calling attention to. Without the access to the land and our personal property we are not freemen.
    It needs verification, but I thought I did hear that the Hammond case was originally thrown out at the Harney County level. Also, there was a fine of $400,000 put on the Hammonds in their terrorism case. $200,000 was paid by Hammonds with $200,000 due by the end of 2015 – which was somehow paid on time. Additional penalty was that if they sell the ranch, they could only sell to the BLM as per court order. This has been a running battle with the Hammonds and BLM for nearly 30 years. BLM is after this land. Maybe why…check out US Geological Survey Bulletin #1740-B. See: YouTube William Mount for actual Bulletin review. Huge deposits of uranium and natural gas + other minerals located right under the ranch. Also, coal through out the Harney basin. Ranchers have been terrorized and harassed off their private property as it is consumed by the BLM and Malheur Refuge. All this may be for collateral against the national debt? Government holding tank of mineral wealth for foreign exploitation? See the William Mount presentation and the two little dots in the middle of the basin..what do you think?
    The Federal Government is selling the land and minerals right out from under us to foreign entities and nothing and no one has stood up for the American people. Their controls of illegal rules and reg.s on our lands that they can not/do not own is the takings of the United States from the inside out. We have had to watch it happen without our layers of representation even slowing it down – layers that have traded our mineral wealth and the jobs they provided for the big, fat, juice tit of government. Without our rights to private property, the wealth of our land from which the wealth of our country comes…how long will we have freedom? As Ammon said, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when”? I did not agree with how this stand was taken, but I sure agree that is was long over due. I do not see elected official in any corner of Oregon stand for us with his dedication shining this bright of light. His fight is for all the West, not just the Hammonds and Harney County. Are you standing in Harney County for the Constitution and your rights as a free people in 16 degree weather? I bet not… Freedom is not free,
    Further, see how the BLM is really treating the ranchers of Harney County. (for one example) go to YouTube the burning of frenchglen. It will sicken you to your core. The BLM refused compensation to any and all livestock and personal property destruction. A warning to ranchers? No terrorism charges for that!
    All of this assault on Harney County has been going on for 10’s of years and has happened under the watchful eye of Greg Walden, our 40% Conservative voting Republican Representative who just took a mighty stand with near tears on the House Floor but not in Harney County cooling this issue. He, who for years, as ridden the middle and leaned with the wind. How refreshing it would be for him to hop a plane and make sure this issue does not leave us burnt like the Frenchglen ranchers and cows. Don’t hold your breath. God bless and watch over the fighters for our freedom. Thank you for your time, life time Oregonian.

    • DavidAppell

      Ranchers are already getting a 93% discount on grazing fees, compared to the private market.

      Not to mention other farming subsidies they might be receiving.

      • redbean

        The market rate will vary, and there could be differences in the quality of public vs. private land.

        Congressional Research Service, 2012 report:
        “State and private landowners generally seek market value for grazing; in 2004, state fees ranged from $1.35 to $80 per AUM and private fees ranged from $8 to $23 per AUM. In 2010, state grazing fees continued to show wide variation, ranging from $2.28 per AUM for Arizona to $65-$150 per AUM for Texas.”

        Here’s the BLM’s explanation:
        “The Federal grazing fee is computed by using a 1966 base value of $1.23 per AUM for livestock grazing on public lands in Western states. The figure is then adjusted each year according to three factors – current private grazing land lease rates, beef cattle prices, and the cost of livestock production. In effect, the fee rises, falls, or stays the same based on market conditions, with livestock operators paying more when conditions are better and less when conditions have declined. Thus, the grazing fee is not a cost-recovery fee, but a market-driven fee.”

        “Livestock grazing can result in impacts on public land resources, but well-managed grazing provides numerous environmental benefits as well. For example, while livestock grazing can lead to increases in some invasive species, well-managed grazing can be used to manage vegetation. Intensively managed “targeted” grazing can control some invasive plant species or reduce the fuels that contribute to severe wildfires. Besides providing such traditional products as meat and fiber, well-managed rangelands and other private ranch lands support healthy watersheds, carbon sequestration, recreational opportunities, and wildlife habitat. Livestock grazing on public lands helps maintain the private ranches that, in turn, preserve the open spaces that have helped write the West’s history and will continue to shape this region’s character in the years to come.”

        I guess the BLM thinks the deal is worth it, since they value other things besides money.

        • DavidAppell
          • redbean

            Actually, I did read it before I replied earlier but didn’t want to say what I was thinking: the Center for Biological Diversity is an activist group and thus chose a higher figure to fit their agenda.

          • DavidAppell

            That’s all you got, an “activist group?” Can’t dispute any of their arguments??

            Lame. Get lost.

          • Brindle hiis lickety aback

            David Appell is a refugee from another state of affairs and his presence here about as animal smarmy as Phoebe and her Unicorn for the age groupies bridled. . .

          • DavidAppell

            How is CBD an “actvist” group?

          • redbean

            You say that like it’s a bad word. I was merely pointing out that CBD chose an amount at the higher end of the data, which is not as cut and dry and some would have it – lots of factors involved.

            Per the Congressional Research Service report previously cited:

            “In 2005, several groups petitioned the BLM and FS to raise the grazing fees, asserting that the fees did not reflect the fair market value of federal forage. When the agencies did not respond to the petition, the groups sued. (13)”

            “(13) Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Department of the Interior, No. 1:10-cv-00952-PLF (D.D.C. complaint filed
            June 6, 2010).”

            They sue government agencies and are passionate, some might say religious, about their beliefs. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

            “The Center’s programs are devoted to protecting biodiversity in different arenas through science; legal action; policy advocacy; negotiation with government and industry; and creative, strategic media and outreach.”

          • DavidAppell

            I didn’t say it’s a bad word. They have a point of view. What’s wrong with that?

      • BarbedStar

        You go out and hire on for a week of ranch life in Harney County – you won’t last two days. These ranchers earn very dime they get. It is not 9-5 living. You go out and pull out a dead calf to save the mother cow in 16 degree early spring weather. Have BLM start a fire and not tell you just to find your cattle trapped by the fence, scared with burns or dead. Put up your seasons hay only to find you have to buy additional because a wildfire wiped out the graze on the allotment you just paid for and there is nothing left in pasture for 500 pairs. PS, take your gloves – yer lily white computer hands will shred by noon.

        • Eric Blair

          David never claimed the work was easy, so what you are posting is simply a straw man attempt to divert the conversation. The fact is, grazing fees do not cover the cost of maintaining the program. It is a subsidy from taxpayers to ranchers, and grazing rights are being given to ranchers are below market costs.

          • redbean

            The BLM has values other than market costs:
            “Besides providing such traditional products as meat and fiber, well-managed rangelands and other private ranch lands support healthy
            watersheds, carbon sequestration, recreational opportunities, and wildlife habitat. Livestock grazing on public lands helps maintain the
            private ranches that, in turn, preserve the open spaces that have helped write the West’s history and will continue to shape this region’s
            character in the years to come.”

          • BarbedStar

            redbean….I think I’m in love…. Don’t waste your breath on these pilgrims with soybeans ‘tween their ears. I’ll bring my custom hay hooks and we’ll go show’em how it’s done. They don’t have a clue and haven’t even heard of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, much less read them. The non-governmental BLM and USFS regularly use extremely terrible tactics and poor management to strip the ranchers and the people of this country bare. The ranchers and the people of Burns, Oregon are learning a lot and starting to stand for their Constitutional rights, because they are willing to listen and learn with an open mind. Something you folks just don’t seem to get the hang of. Ranching is a billion + dollar business in Oregon and supports the businesses and jobs of all these rural towns and counties throughout the West. No ranchers, no jobs…oh, wait! They can all work for the government like the loggers do. At the end of your day while you are sippen’ your Starbuck double latte and chatting tripe to your buds, ranchers still have a third more of their day left to go. They pay the fees set before them. If they are subsidized by our government, it’s legal ’til it’s not. That’s life. Get over it or change it. “Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called WHINING!”

          • Eric Blair

            Whining… sort of like what you’re doing?

            I see.. if someone disagrees with you about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, it must mean they’ve never read it?

            Whatcha planning on doing with the hay hooks?

        • DavidAppell

          The ranchers are getting a HUGE federal subsidy. And they can’t even be appreciative about it. They are greedy.

        • DavidAppell

          Why do ranchers deserve huge government subsidies?

  • Eric Blair

    Perhaps we should go back a little further, and return the land to the peoples that were there before ranchers..: These aren’t the first armed whites to take over that Oregon land…

    • Jonathan

      Careful, Eric, unless you are Native with that capital N, you might be asked to leave too.

      • Eric Blair

        *shrug* I don’t really believe that is going to happen. However, I don’t cry and whine when the Government doesn’t grant me, at cheap rates, exclusive use of public property.

        However, if you’re going to make a huge case about how long your family has ranched the land, how it’s not fair to have it taken from you, how your rights are being violated… you’d best be aware that your ownership of the land was based upon theft and force. If the Paiute or Shoshone approached the Bundy’s, and used that exact same argument they are using, what do you think their response would be?

        They’re very selective in their view of when property rights started. To their benefit. Nor do they seem to appreciate the role the Federal government had in clearing the land of those pesky natives so that they could buy it on the cheap.

        • redbean

          The Hammonds purchased their ranch in 1964, long after those events.

          • Eric Blair

            Fruit of the poisoned tree. If someone buys a car that was stolen from you, by someone else, are you out of luck?

        • redbean

          Speaking of cheap rates, who says the fees for recreational uses are fair?

          • Eric Blair

            That is certainly a fair topic to bring up. That, however, is not the topic on hand. Write an article for OC on user fees for recreational use of Federally owned lands, and we can have that discussion.

    • DavidAppell

      I learned today that most Mexicans have far more native American DNA in them than do most European Americans — by a factor of about 10.

    • redbean

      Yes, let’s do return it, all of it, and allow the new/original owners to develop it as they wish without US government interference.

  • DavidAppell

    Larry wrote:
    “The Hammonds were convicted and given relatively light prison sentences which they served. The federal government, demonstrating its “heavy hand” for those who disagree, appealed those sentences….”

    Larry is lying.

    The Hammond sentences did not meet minimal sentencing requirements. (Which are mostly a product of conservatives.) Their initial sentences did not accord with the law. A second judge made sure they did.

    Start doing at least some basic research, Larry. You’re enough of a joke as it is.

    • redbean

      “The Hammonds were originally charged under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 with nine counts – including starting several other fires — but the jury saw otherwise and acquitted them of all but two counts: starting the fires they admitted to in the first place. The judge sentenced them to less than the federal mandatory, stating that what the government was asking – five years – was “disproportionate” and if imposed would’ve ‘shocked my conscience.’”

      “The government wasn’t satisfied with that, and they appealed the decision. Judge Ann Aiken – the same judge who ruled that the prison system has a right to keep its safety standards confidential, even though a prisoner had died under dicey circumstances – agreed with the Justice Department, and the Hammonds must now serve full five-year sentences, minus time already served. They have agreed to turn themselves in, in spite of the protests on their behalf.”

      • DavidAppell

        Judges don’t get to ignore laws just because they don’t like them.

  • Connie Kosuda

    think it’s more important to keep the domestic terrorists (which the cowboy types in Malheur are ) out of Burns.

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