Oregon has recently suffered an “us versus them” protest with the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns by militia extremists. Burns, OR and Harney County have created a protest of their own. “Militia Not Welcome Here,” one sign says. Many law-abiding residents just don’t want the occupiers there.
Why is this happening? Because Ammon Bundy was told by God to do so. Huh? Yeah, that’s what I thought when I read it. “after receiving a divine message ordering him to do so” according to Wikipedia.
After studying the history, it can be seen as a bit of the Hatfields and McCoys kind of feuding. Historically a Harney County family named Hammond ran cattle across this open land before President Theodore Roosevelt created the refuge in 1908 and it became federal land. Today it is renowned by bird watchers for the many varieties of birds that hang out there.
Since 1908, the Hammonds have violated agreements with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service off and on with a lot of name calling into the bargain. Present day Hammonds are in prison having been convicted of arson on Malheur Refuge land. There is more than one story about how the fires started but, of course, the Hammonds think the land should be theirs. And the feuding continues. Only the Hammonds are in prison.
So, Bundy hot footed it to Malheur from Phoenix to stage an armed occupation of the buildings, along with a few Arizona militia friends and militia from Oregon and many other states, in protest of the Hammonds being in prison. Interestingly, the jailed Hammonds have stated they did not want or ask for this from anyone and do not condone it.
So far, as everyone knows, there is one dead Arizona rancher, LaVoy Finicum, one wounded person, Bundy’s brother, Bundy is in jail and a total of 16 people have been indicted by a Grand Jury in this case. That includes the 4 armed people still occupying the Malheur Refuge.
Oregon’s governor stated that this event is costing Oregon tax payers about $100,000.00 per week.
Additionally, the occupiers have carved a new road across land sacred to the Burns Native American Paiute Tribe and have rifled through boxes of ancient artifacts belonging to the tribe. These artifacts were being stored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the Paiute Tribe. Malheur was a Paiute reservation at one time. The Paiute just want the occupiers to leave the refuge and stop desecrating sacred ground.
Bundy heads a group that calls itself Citizens for Constitutional Freedom. But, instead of working through and with the political system for change, these people go out and Ya Hoo it by occupying land that belongs to you, me and every other U.S. citizen with guns ready to shoot anyone who might come within range.
There is a reason national parks, reserves, refuges and sanctuaries were created. Preservation of wild lands and wildlife is something most of us want.
These lands are the only places where some species live or, at least, live in abundance and roam free. We also want to be able to enjoy visiting them (remember the birding at Malheur) without having to dodge bullets. And we have a right to. They are our lands protected by our government paid for with our tax dollars.
Really! Who do these people think they are to deprive all of us of our Constitutional Rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness and the enjoyment of our national lands?!
If the last 4 do not just give up, eventually this will not end well. Even Bundy told them to leave. Bundy says he doesn’t even know who they are. None of them are Oregon residents.
People from all over have offered time and money to help repair the damage done during this armed occupation. One can but hope the peace and beauty of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge will return. The sooner, the better. It’s a beautiful place.
Photo: by Greg Gillson http://nwbackyardbirder.blogspot.com