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January 4, 2016 02:50 PM

It's pretty much once in a blue moon that pro-wolf conservation group Oregon Wild and the Oregon Cattlemen's Association find themselves on the same side of the fence on a public lands issue. But when it comes to the Bundy militia's takeover of a federal building on the Malheur Wildlife Refuge they agree that they are against it.

The OCA is against the takeover, but the group does support the Hammonds, the ranchers' whose beef with the BLM (and arson episodes) launched this debacle. 

Burns, the Hammonds and Oregon Cattlemen's Association

SALEM,Ore., (01/04/2016) -- Today, January 4, 2016 Oregon ranchers Dwight and Steve Hammond have left their homes to report to a federal prison. Both ranchers are faithful, long term Oregon Cattlemen's Association members. Many have asked where the association stands on the Hammond's predicament.

The Oregon Cattlemen's Association has declared that they do not support illegal activity taken against the government but has, and will continue, to support the Hammonds via avenues that are in accordance with the law.

John O'Keeffe, current president of the OCA, said the ranchers in Burns strive to work together with surrounding agencies. "The community of Burns and the ranchers there have been very resourceful in working together with agencies on many wildlife issues," he said. "Furthermore, OCA does not support illegal activity taken against the government. This includes militia takeover of government property, such as the Malheur Wildlife Refuge."

OCA's Executive Director, Jerome Rosa, pointed out that the Oregon Cattlemen's Association has supported the Hammonds for some time and does not agree with their current re-sentencing. "OCA feels the Hammond's situation is a classic case of double jeopardy. The Hammonds were tried and convicted by a jury of their peers and have already served their sentence," Rosa said.

Although the Hammonds have already been sentenced to additional prison time, OCA is continuing to work to find ways to support them.

O'Keeffe mentioned several legal ways the organization is working to provide assistance. "We are circulating an online petition asking the White House to review the Hammonds case." A link to the petition can be found the OCA website or on their social media channels. "In addition to clemency efforts, we are working through legal avenues to help the Hammonds get their BLM grazing permits restored," said O'Keeffe.

While the Oregon Cattlemen's Association does not agree with the current legal action being taken against the Hammonds, OCA will continue to assist and represent the Hammonds solely through avenues that are in accordance with the law.

The Oregon Cattlemen's Association was founded in 1913 and works to promote environmentally and socially sound industry practices, improve and strengthen the economics of the industry, and protect its industry communities and private property rights.

Meanwhile, Oregon Wild is not only against the armed takeover, but has some choice words for the the tactics being used, calling it terrorism. 

Public Lands Under Attack by Armed Insurrectionists

Perverted interpretation of US Constitution used to justify occupation of wildlife refuge

Statement of Sean Stevens, Executive Director of Oregon Wild, on the armed occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge:

“America’s public lands -- our National Parks, National Forests, Wildlife Refuges and other special places -- are among our most prized national treasures. Yet today, our public lands are under attack by insurrectionists in Harney County, Oregon. An armed militia group led by out-of-state ringleaders has seized the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and is using threats of violence and intimidation to try and achieve their political ends.

“We are disgusted that this group is hijacking the word “patriotism” to justify its actions, while rejecting the basic tenets of American society--democracy and the rule of law. They claim their seizure of Malheur refuge is in support of two local ranchers. However, those ranchers were convicted in a court of law of arson in a case involving poaching deer on public lands and intentionally setting fires that damaged hundreds of acres of public land to hide the evidence, endangering firefighters in the area. The two ranchers in question failed to serve the mandatory minimum sentence required for their crimes, and are now being required to serve their full terms.

“The details of the Hammond case are disturbing, but they are a distraction to what is truly happening here. These armed occupiers are using intimidation and threats of violence to make a political point. They do not believe the American government should own any land, and that our National Parks, Forests, Refuges, or other lands should be privatized. They base their views on a perverted definition of the U.S. Constitution - one that has been thoroughly discredited by lawmakers, legal scholars, and the courts. Numerous opinion polls show that the American public across the political spectrum supports our public lands--places that belong to all Americans, and that all Americans have a right to responsibly use and enjoy.

“The dictionary definition of the word terrorism is “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” This word should not be used lightly, but it is exactly what the the extremist group currently occupying Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is attempting to do. The people of Oregon are scared and angry, and politicians and members of the news media should not create a double standard by labeling this group something else.

“Oregon Wild calls upon local, state and federal authorities in Oregon to work to resolve this conflict without the violence and bloodshed that the insurrectionists seek, so that Malheur National Wildlife Refuge can once again be a protected haven for wildlife. Elected officials, in no uncertain terms, must denounce this terrorism. We also urge federal and state law enforcement to ensure that the perpetrators of this crime are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Background:

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was set aside 100 years ago to protect wetlands for migratory and breeding waterfowl, waterbirds, shorebirds, songbirds, and raptors. As the Portland Audubon Society has noted:

In 2013, the Refuge adopted a long-term management plan developed through an inclusive collaborative process that brought together the local community, tribes, conservation groups, state and federal agencies, and other stakeholders. These stakeholders have continued to work together to implement this strategy which includes one of the biggest wetland restoration efforts ever undertaken.

The group occupying these public lands is led by members of the Cliven Bundy family, who previously staged an armed stand-off with federal law enforcement after they refused to pay the American public grazing fees, despite running their cattle on public lands for more than two decades. Individuals at that stand-off, including some now at Malheur, bragged about pointing sniper scopes at law enforcement officers. The individuals involved in this insurrection have yet to be held accountable to the law.

In recent months we have witnessed increasingly divisive rhetoric in our national political dialogue pertaining to America’s public lands. Comments spanning from local politicians to candidates for president have emboldened this kind of behavior. Oregon state legislators, county commissioners, and sheriffs have become increasingly outspoken in their desire to seize public lands away from the American public and turn it over to extractive interests. Indeed, in the 2015 session of the Oregon Legislature there were several bills introduced with the intent to seize national public lands.

January 4, 2016 01:07 PM

The Oregonian and OPB have reporters on the scene of the Bundy occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County Oregon, aka #VanillaISIS (let's note Daesh is more appropriate, but that doesn't hashtag as well). 

High Country News has been covering the "Sagebrush Rebellion" for 40 years. Scroll down to 1994 for an article on the Malheur refuge.

OPB's Amanda Peacher's tweet showing the Bundy militia's supplies is rather telling. Her Twitter feed is worth a follow for followers of the refuge takeover.

 

In comparison to the events in Oregon, reading up on the saga of the Shoshone Dann sisters of Nevada in their battle for land makes for an informative read. As the columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal points out, "The Danns had the support of the United Nations, but not the endorsement of armed 'patriots' or an outpouring of assistance from conservative media outlets and right-wing political action networks."

The Portland Audobon Society weighs in on the Harney County standoff, writing:

The occupation of Malheur by armed, out of state militia groups puts one of America’s most important wildlife refuges at risk. It violates the most basic principles of the Public Trust Doctrine and holds hostage public lands and public resources to serve the very narrow political agenda of the occupiers. The occupiers have used the flimsiest of pretexts to justify their actions—the conviction of two local ranchers in a case involving arson and poaching on public lands. Notably, neither the local community or the individuals convicted have requested or endorsed the occupation or the assistance of militia groups.

And the FBI is now involved.

FBI STATEMENT ON HARNEY COUNTY SITUATION
News Release from FBI - Oregon

The FBI is working with the Harney County Sheriff's Office, Oregon State Police and other local and state law enforcement agencies to bring a peaceful resolution to the situation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

The FBI is the lead investigative agency for the situation at the refuge.

Due to safety considerations for both those inside the refuge as well as the law enforcement officers involved, we will not be releasing any specifics with regards to the law enforcement response.

And below (click the image for the full document) is the summary of the court case that led the Hammonds to go to prison, and the Bundys to show up in rural Oregon. The acting U.S. attorney points out the government never called the Hammonds terrorists.

December 29, 2015 11:51 AM

Hood River County will see a citizen initiative on the ballot next May banning Nestle and other water companies from capturing and bottlng millions of gallons of fresh water. Click on the logo for a link to organizers' website.

December 22, 2015 12:44 PM

Bernie Sanders has made strong statements about health care costs in the U.S. compared to other countries. Is he correct? Politifact takes a look.

December 22, 2015 03:27 PM

The National Science Foundation announced today that the White House awarded University of Oregon chemistry professor Geri Richmond a National Medal of Science, the nation's highest honor for achievements in science. She is one of nine awardees this year.

Richmond has a giant list of accomplishments and accolades — she runs a chemistry research lab at the UO, serves as a U.S. Science Envoy and is the creator of the COACh program, which helps women scientists all over the world advance their careers. 

Read more about Richmond and her program in EW's August cover story, "What's the Big Idea?"

Photo by Todd Cooper.

Photo by Todd Cooper

December 21, 2015 04:26 PM

Mother Jones last week took a look at the hard-fought agreement hashed out over years on the Klamath water war.