Of Laws and Lawlessness

Wolf update: Gov. Kate Brown signed HB 4040 into law on March 15. Opponents of the original de-listing (and this bill) believed the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) previously broke the law when it removed state endangered species protections from gray wolves; so they sued. They contend de-listing was premature and not supported by independent scientific review: bad science, bad bill. That case against de-listing is currently before the Oregon Court of Appeals (COA). But special interests, the cattlemen and the farm bureau successfully lobbied the Oregon Legislature last month to moot the case currently before the COA. I spoke with Amoroq Weiss, a biologist and attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity and Sean Stevens, executive director of Oregon Wild, two of the parties appealing the de-listing. Both verified the governor’s role in writing the final bill, despite her staff’s testimony in mid-February that she was “neutral.” Both agreed that while the case technically remains open before the COA, the friends of wolves might have just been handed a setback. Stay tuned. 

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge update: A month ago a stranger introduced herself to me in a local grocery store; she wanted to tell me her story. She had retired to Eugene after a long career as a Head Start teacher on the Burns Paiute reservation in Harney County. She expressed her deep concern regarding the welfare and protection of the Paiute tribal records, artifacts and historic sites cataloged and maintained at the refuge by various federal agencies. So it was heartbreaking last week to read The Oregonian’s headline tragically confirming her concern: “Occupier who feds say dug trench for feces, disturbed sacred artifacts faces charges.” 

After the armed occupation ended Feb. 12, while assessing damage done by the militants, the FBI discovered two large trenches dug by heavy equipment containing “significant amounts” of human feces. FBI investigators also found an “improvised road on or adjacent to grounds containing sensitive artifacts.” So, in addition to the armed conspiracy counts faced by most of the other occupiers, Jake Ryan and Sean Anderson are charged with “depredation of government property” based on this desecration. Turns out the Burns Paiute tribal leaders had good reason to express their repeated concerns during the occupation that artifacts, petroglyphs or historical items sacred to the tribe would be stolen, disrespected or destroyed. Tribal leaders have also repeatedly asked federal authorities to prosecute any related crimes.

From my perspective, the FBI discovery reveals all you need to know about the underlying moral character of these know-nothing occupiers, these so-called militants who hide behind the “Sagebrush Rebellion” movement or the “posse comitatus” movement or the “wise use” movement. For the most part these are brutal, arrogant, greedy, misinformed, macho white men. (The Oregonian estimated only 23 percent of the occupation visitors were women.) That’s why it was so laughable that the Bundy brothers’ ultimate demand was that the federal government returns the refuge to its “rightful” owners — the current citizens of Harney County! No mention of the first people, the aboriginal people, the Paiutes. Hell, these misnamed “Indians” only beat the Mormons to this area by 10,000 years or so! I’m not sure about the fundamentalist LDS, but the Paiutes have Jesus H. Christ Himself beat by a couple of millennia, not centuries, in Harney County! So I agree, sorta: Give it all back to the original “locals.” 

So far, 27 people have been indicted in connection with the armed occupation at the refuge. According to The Oregonian only four are Oregonians; most of the rest of Y’all Qaida live in Nevada, Arizona, Idaho and Utah. Seven have felony convictions, from car theft to murder, and 30 percent of the visitors during the occupation had a past bankruptcy, lien or judgment. And 17 percent of the visitors/occupiers were part of the standoff with federal rangers at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in April of 2014. And they were all friggin’ armed. GMAFB.

It’s now clear the FBI has “thrown the book” at these occupiers. The current federal estimate of the costs of the occupation is $6 million, not to mention additional costs to the state of Oregon. The trials and appeals will take years. I understand the presumption of innocence. But let’s assume that after a fair and impartial trial and appeal these knuckleheads are found guilty. I hope the sentencing judge takes into account the mitigation of this desecration of the Burns Paiute tribal heritage when putting these terrorists away.

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