i’ll admit – i only really read headlines about the militant occupation in oregon. i had a very high-level knowledge of what happened, and that was basically that some wildlife place in oregon was being held by some militants for some federal land reason. some people were wondering why they aren’t called terrorists; others are sending giant barrels of lube.
(this might be more than you know! i don’t know.)
so, i figured i’d read more on it and break it down for you so we all have a better understanding of what this is all about. and why the lube.
first of all, where is this refuge? it’s the malhuer national wildlife refuge in the lower-ish east corner of the state (more toward the middle than lower, but in that quadrant). the refuge was established in 1908 by teddy roosevelt (a great conservationist!). it’s a great pitstop for birds as far as resources go and is on the pacific flyway, a north-south corridor between alaska and patagonia. many bird watchers and avian researchers visit every year to check out the birds ($15 million yearly in the local economy).
but apparently, cattle ranchers were on the land previous to the 1908 establishment date, and this feud goes on to this day (seriously?). recently a 15-year management plan was enacted that involved many stakeholders in the area, and many ranchers were pleased with the results.
enter one dwight hammond and his son steve, who own 12,000 acres, the majority of which borders public (federal) land.
these two have been obstructing for many years. in 1994, when they got in the way of putting up a fence to keep their cattle off federal land (on our dime, note theirs), they were arrested. 500 ranchers showed up to support the hammonds after their release, and charges were dropped.
in 1999, they started a fire to burn off brush, and it got into federal land. they were warned they needed a permit. then in 2001, hunters saw them illegally slaughter deer on fed. land, and a fire started (a nephew testified that steve told him to just start lighting matches and drop them all over to light the place up). in 2006, the hammonds lit some backfires during a wildfire to protect their crop without letting the firefighters on the ground know, and in the process, the fires threatened to corner the firefighters.
they went to federal court in 2012 with many charges; they were found not guilty on two charges, guilty on two charges of arson, and four charges were thrown out if the hammonds wouldn’t appeal the two convictions and did a five-year prison sentence. the sentencing judge decided that this was too much time (this was his last day on the bench); dwight ended up getting 3 months’ time and steve a year and a day (which they served).
the US attorney on the case appealed this sentence because she didn’t think it was fair, and WON. the hammonds filed petitions to no avail, and they were set to go back to prison on jan. 4, 2016. (they also paid a $400,000 fine.)
enter the mormons (hereby known as the bundy group). the bundy group is a militant protest group that says the LDS scripture promotes defiance of the fed. government. they find a cause and go protest. (they had just gotten through with another standoff over cattle grazing rights in nevada.)
the bundys actually met with the local authorities about a peaceful protest but mentioned nothing about taking over the wildlife refuge. in late november, bundys started to filter in slowly but surely, holding rallies at fairgrounds (all peaceful so far). on dec. 30, the federal employees of the refuge were sent home early and told to not return until further notice after the bundys showed up at the refuge.
bundy himself and some select few went to the refuge and set up armed vigils and taking up defensive positions. on jan. 2, they claimed to have 150 people (other reports were 12), and other militant groups from all over the US came to the refuge as well. local law enforcement pretty much kept its distance.
what did they want? they wanted the hammonds released and for the federal government to relinquish control of the lands (remember – it was cattle grazing land before it was a wildlife refuge).
TL;DR BREAK: teddy roosevelt made wildlife refuge in oregon fed. lands in 1908, which had been cattle grazing land before. continuous dispute over this. hammonds owned lands adjacent to refuge, set many fires through years, spurring prison time for arson on federal lands. mormon militant group decides to take on this cause. currently on refuge land with other armed groups. want the federal government to give up lands that were ranchers’ first, more than 100 years ago (more on that later).
local officials are annoyed, but don’t do anything about this yet. on jan. 11, the militants tore down a section of fence that abutted a ranch, supposedly to give the ranchers access to the land, but the owners of that ranch didn’t want it torn down and repaired it.
in the meantime, the bundy group is poring through government papers to see if there has been any wrongdoing to ranchers. they also follow the federal employees home and harrass them. finally, in the middle of january, one of them is arrested for driving a stolen federal vehicle from the refuge.
the militants start vandalizing the refuge, hoping to incite some violent reaction, and they also rifle through american indian artifacts that were stored at the refuge (REALLY????). there was a community meeting on the 16th, which the bundys attended, and all the local peeps were very vocal about this group needing to leave.
now the group is trying to enlist the help of a neighboring county sheriff, who happens to be a member of an anti-government law enforcement group (not quite sure how THAT works…). apparently they are thinking about kidnapping local officials and taking over the county government.
so why hasn’t the government really stepped in? well, the FBI is involved, talking with local law enforcement, but there are no hostages, no law enforcement on-site to issue any orders to disobey, and they’d really like to have this end peacefully (waco was bad). the bundy group has basically been very forthright in that they won’t leave until the hammonds are released and the lands given back to the state, county, and/or ranchers.
TL;DR 2: the FBI is kind of involved, but no one seems to be entirely worried since there are no hostages, and they’re only hurting themselves sitting out there in the snow. (so far.)
THE ISSUES AT HAND
- what if we just…LET THEM SIT THERE?? i mean, would that be the worst thing in the world if this group just wants to hang out at the refuge? they have the right to assemble (though this is not the way to do it; get your permit!). it’d be nice if they didn’t haul their firearms on federal lands, but ultimately, they’re just a bunch of attention seekers who currently aren’t hurting anything really, until…
- i’m waiting for spring to come and let the birders work this out. once the birds start flying through that pacific flyway, the watchers will come, and then we’ll see what happens. the birders have been especially vocal about this, saying they’ve been watching the militants and feeding information to the government. it’ll be interesting to see if these two groups do, indeed, clash come springtime. that’s the point when the government really will need to get involved if there is violence.
- so what’s up with the lube? one of the militants posted on his facebook account to help them out and send food, supplies – anything that might help. of course this got around to people with a sense of humor, and then the militants were complaining about receiving a bunch of dildos and penis candy. max temkin, the guy who created cards against humanity, sent them a 55-gallon drum of personal lubricant to go with those dildos. it cost him about $1200 and $17.99 for expedited shipping 🙂
- how about the birds? according to officials, this shouldn’t affect the birds too much unless people start shooting at them. the refuge was created as a pitstop for birds among all this ranch land, so it’s a very popular and needed spot. TR was a conservationist’s dream (probably because he liked hunting). he established this bird refuge right around the time ladies’ hats were adorned with feathers every which way, and some bird populations were declining due to this. the snowy egret was almost wiped out. so you could say that the land doesn’t really belong to the federal government; it belongs to the birds…
- which brings up a very good question about ownership. if the ranchers are out there protesting federal lands established 108 years ago that used to be used as ranch land in the previous 50 years or so to that, let’s think about who on earth should really be protesting out there (besides the birds). i’d like to see some american indians out there making appearances and debating ownership rights with these militants. really, the ownership should go to the Paiute Tribe. the ranchers never really owned the land. the paiute signed a treaty in mid 1800s (which the US promptly broke, of course), and it went from paiute to federal land to wildlife refuge. john green has a really really good video on that you should watch. so this whole vandalizing american indian artifacts thing by the militants is really kind of ironic.
TL;DR: a couple of idiots committed arson and poaching on a federal wildlife refuge and got a light sentence, which was later overturned and they had to do the whole prison sentence. weird mormon extremist group comes in to protest their prison sentence and the ownership of that land. they aren’t hurting anyone since it’s in the middle of nowhere, so officials doing not a lot. spring is coming, however, and the birdwatchers may storm the castle, so to speak. but really, ownership rights? it goes to the birds or the original owners, the paiute american indians. also, the creator of cards against humanity sent a 55-gallon drum of personal lubricant to the militants.
TL;DR the TL;DR: don’t commit arson and poach animals on federal lands. you’re gonna have a bad time.
thank you to:
and all the links on this post!