My New Years Wish... The Protection of Our Public Lands

Putting the "Public" Back in "Public Trust"

"When mythic histories supplant the complexities of the past, the results can be lethal. Equitable futures for Western public lands won't be achieved when ideologues swagger in, brandishing guns and taking over federal buildings."

Like Andrew McKean's New Years Wish, I would like to Stop the Silly Talk of Selling Public Land, that includes transferring the Public's land to the states, which in all likelihood would result in privatization. This multi pronged attack against our lands/resources is currently encapsulated in the recent WTF debacle taking place in Oregon and why conservationists, whether hunting or non, should care.

Since the ever sucking majority of mainstream media refuses to do their homework, simply repeating the same crappy information or has a vested interest in painting criminals as "patriots", being the information/data maven that I am, I decided to layout a number of sources to refute these irresponsible lies circulating, especially since we have Montana legislators eager and willing to lie or intentionally bury their head in the sands to achieve their special interest objectives against our public lands, such as MT Sen. Jennifer Fielder's recent obtuse blog post - Ranching is not terrorism -- Obama should pardon ranchers and end protest peacefully, "It's no wonder the feds heavy handed treatment of the Hammond Ranching Family has stirred an uprising.The federal government was way out of bounds in charging the Hammond Family with terrorism as a result of the prescribed burns they started on their own ranch to save the range. President Obama should pardon the ranchers and put an end to the Oregon protest peacefully."

This begs the question, who the hell ever stated that ranching was terrorism? This is the kind of lying special interest fearmongering that seeks to polarize people into "us vs. them" camps, where truth and facts are normally absent from the conversation, to drive their special interests.

Let's break this down into some bite sized pieces. There are three main issues here - 1. The Hammonds repeated illegal poaching and arson violations against our public lands, our wildlife and our federal public trust employees that work on our behalf to manage our public resources; 2. the ever present lie that this federal public land belongs to the state to be privatized and 3. the narcissistic, extremist, terroristic Bundy hijacking of the Hammond jailing for their own religious and subsidized benefit.
The lie: the Hammonds are being unjustly targeted by the feds trying to steal their land as some sort of "federal overreach taking". The Truth: the Hammonds have repeatedly violated laws, lease agreements, threatened federal employees, poached our public wildlife, interfered with the public accessing their public lands, and set fire to our public lands.

Ranchers arrested at wildlife refuge - "Back in 1994, High Country News covered the arrest of the Hammonds: "According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, Dwight Hammond had repeatedly violated a special permit that allowed him to move his cows across the refuge only at specific times. In June, refuge manager Forrest Cameron notified Hammond that his right to graze cattle and grow hay on the lush waterfowl haven south of Burns was revoked. The feds also said they planned to build a fence along the refuge boundary to keep Hammond's cows out of an irrigation canal.

The events of Aug. 3 are outlined in the sworn affidavit of special agent Earl M. Kisler, who assisted in the Hammonds' arrest. On the day the fence was to be built, the crew and refuge officials arrived to find Hammond had parked his Caterpillar scraper squarely on the boundary line and disabled it, removing the battery and draining fuel lines. When a tow truck arrived to move it, Dwight Hammond showed up, leaped to the controls of the scraper and hit a lever that lowered the bucket, narrowly missing another special agent. Meanwhile, said Kisler, Steve Hammond shouted obscenities at federal officials. Neither Hammond resisted arrest."

Eastern Oregon Ranchers Convicted of Arson Resentenced to Five Years in Prison
"A jury sitting in Pendleton, Oregon found the Hammonds guilty of the arsons after a two-week trial in June 2012. The trial involved allegations that the Hammonds, owners of Hammond Ranches, Inc., ignited a series of fires on lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), on which the Hammonds had grazing rights leased to them for their cattle operation.

The jury convicted both of the Hammonds of using fire to destroy federal property for a 2001 arson known as the Hardie-Hammond Fire, located in the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area. Witnesses at trial, including a relative of the Hammonds, testified the arson occurred shortly after Steven Hammond and his hunting party illegally slaughtered several deer on BLM property. Jurors were told that Steven Hammond handed out "Strike Anywhere" matches with instructions that they be lit and dropped on the ground because they were going to "light up the whole country on fire." One witness testified that he barely escaped the eight to ten foot high flames caused by the arson. The fire consumed 139 acres of public land and destroyed all evidence of the game violations. After committing the arson, Steven Hammond called the BLM office in Burns, Oregon and claimed the fire was started on Hammond property to burn off invasive species and had inadvertently burned onto public lands. Dwight and Steven Hammond told one of their relatives to keep his mouth shut and that nobody needed to know about the fire.

The jury also convicted Steven Hammond of using fire to destroy federal property regarding a 2006 arson known as the Krumbo Butte Fire located in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and Steen Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area. An August lightning storm started numerous fires and a burn ban was in effect while BLM firefighters fought those fires. Despite the ban, without permission or notification to BLM, Steven Hammond started several "back fires" in an attempt save the ranch's winter feed. The fires burned onto public land and were seen by BLM firefighters camped nearby. The firefighters took steps to ensure their safety and reported the arsons.

By law, arson on federal land carries a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. When the Hammonds were originally sentenced, they argued that the five-year mandatory minimum terms were unconstitutional and the trial court agreed and imposed sentences well below what the law required based upon the jury's verdicts. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, upheld the federal law, reasoning that "given the seriousness of arson, a five-year sentence is not grossly disproportionate to the offense." The court vacated the original, unlawful sentences and ordered that the Hammonds be resentenced "in compliance with the law." In March 2015, the Supreme Court rejected the Hammonds' petitions for certiorari. Today, Chief Judge Aiken imposed five year prison terms on each of the Hammonds, with credit for time they already served.

Department of Justice Summary of Facts
"At trial, jurors heard from a hunting guide, a hunter and the hunter's father, who saw the Hammonds illegally slaughter a herd of deer on public land. At least seven deer were shot with others limping or running from the scene. Less than two hours later, the hunting guide and the hunter and his father, were forced to abandon their campsite because a fire was burning in the area where the deer were shot. The hunting guide's testimony and photographs established fires were burning hours before Steven Hammond called the BLM and said he was going to do a burn of invasive species in the area."

Warning from the Birding Community to the Terrorists in Oregon: We're Watching You
"Just a friendly warning from the birding and wildlife photography community to the Oregon terrorists. We are watching your every move, and we have been watching you for a long time. And yes absolutely you are domestic terrorists of the worst kind, and the truth about your decades of constant poaching of protected wildlife around Malheur and other wildlife refuges, national parks, national forests and BLM lands has been well-documented. For years those of us who are wildlife photographers, birdwatchers and carers of wildlife, have been documenting the activities of you poachers and criminals around many of our nation's wildlife refuges. With our powerful cameras, and ability to move unseen in the wilderness, we have found and documented your illegal hunts, your illegal traps and all sorts of illicit activities, and are constantly feeding that information to law enforcement, and we have finally got many of you poachers on the run and into jails. And I for one am a westerner sick to death of you welfare queens and cheats living off of BLM land, illegally gutting our wilderness and our wildlife. Malheur, Hart Mountain, Klamath Marsh, Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosemite etc etc, they all belong to us, we the American people, and no small group of armed thugs is going to destroy the great wildlife and national park system that our great Republican President Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir put in place over a century ago. Wildlife photographers and wildlife/bird watchers now number some 40 million people in the USA, and feed many rural western economies with our tourism dollars, and we will not stand for your sedition."

Our Public Lands, not the State's or Private
The lie: the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge land was state or private land. The Truth: this land has always been federal, with private ranchers later WILLINGLY selling their ranches to the refuge, expanding it.

Supreme Court already ruled that feds rightly own occupied refuge
"Occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge question whether the federal government has unequivocal legal rights to own and manage that land, without regard to the wishes of local property owners and ranchers.

Improbably, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on exactly that question, specifically regarding the lands of the original Malheur national refuge -- twice.

Those rulings by the nation's highest court, in 1902 and in 1935, found that the federal government has an incontrovertible claim to the refuge's wetlands and lakebeds, dating back to the 1840s, when Oregon was still a territory.

'Before Oregon was admitted to statehood, the United States is shown to have acquired title which it has never in terms conveyed away,' Justice Harlan Stone wrote in 1935...

In fact, the nation's highest court ruled seven years before Roosevelt's declaration, and again 27 years after it, that the federal government had never sold or transferred any of the 82,000 acres to French or anyone else. It was, and remains, federal land."

Don't Mess with the Bull Moose News flash: Our public lands already belong to the people. And we have a he-man Republican rancher to thank for it.
"During his presidency, Roosevelt created the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 1908, turning unclaimed government property into one of more than 50 'bird reservations.' ...

And he accomplished all this, remember, as a serious cattleman and Republican. The story of tensions between federal land managers and disgruntled western ranchers is nothing new; it's been going on for centuries. To hear some folks tell it, the story pits a rapacious and inept Washington, D.C., bureaucracy against the common-sense wisdom of locals who have been working on (and living off) western lands for generations, and whose cultures and livelihoods are inextricably tied to its copious bounty and responsible stewardship.

In that telling, the story becomes a kind of populist romance, brimming with many beloved tropes that Americans have absorbed over the two and a half centuries we've been analyzing and celebrating our own exceptionalism. The rugged individualist standing up to the corrupt, effete machine. The soulful underdog, reluctantly but resolutely taking on the soulless establishment. The frontier spirit versus the dreaded 'Washington mind-set.'

But it's also so ridiculously reductive as to constitute a lie. And were he alive today, Teddy Roosevelt would be the first to call anti-government ranchers out on that lie. If he needed examples to illustrate and personalize his points, he could easily pull them from his own life experience. In his 1910 memoir, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, he wrote grippingly and horrifyingly of how a combination of harsh weather, wildfires, and massive overgrazing rendered the ranchlands of the Dakota Badlands-including his own 5,000 acres-utterly worthless for raising cattle."

In Oregon, Myth Mixes With Anger
"This version of history bears little resemblance to the actual past. Before the federal agencies came to eastern Oregon, large ranching operations from California had monopolized hundreds of thousands of acres of rangeland. Irrigation developers controlled water, cattle barons controlled the grass, and settlers were essentially locked out. Tensions were high.

During the 1890s, a populist, anti-monopolist rhetoric emerged among settlers and news editors. The local newspaper deplored the fact that the great Western ranges were passing into 'the hands of a few big cattle or sheep companies,' and predicted that soon 'an aristocracy of range lords and cattle kings would rule our mountains and plains.' In 1897, Peter French, the cattle baron who controlled the largest ranching empire in America, along the Blitzen River, was murdered by an angry homesteader. Arson, violence and grinding poverty flourished."

Terroristic Bundy Hijacking

The Bundy Militia's Particular Brand Of Mormonism
"Ammon Bundy uses much of the same language as his father, mixing Mormon religious symbolism with a disgust of the federal government.
Speaking to Harney County residents last December, Ammon Bundy explained why he became involved in the Dwight and Steven Hammond case that sparked this takeover of federal property. 'I got this urge that I needed write something,' Bundy said. 'I asked the good Lord...I need some help. And he gave me that help. The Lord is not pleased what has happened with the Hammonds.' "

The Bundy's citing their Mormon faith as the basis of their actions, has prompted a statement from the Mormon Church : "While the disagreement occurring in Oregon about the use of federal lands is not a Church matter, Church leaders strongly condemn the armed seizure of the facility and are deeply troubled by the reports that those who have seized the facility suggest that they are doing so based on scriptural principles," the statement read. "This armed occupation can in no way be justified on a scriptural basis. We are privileged to live in a nation where conflicts with government or private groups can - and should - be settled using peaceful means, according to the laws of the land."

Former BLM chief: Bundy's pursuing an agenda on public land
"People like Cliven Bundy and sons are using the ruse of public land grazing as an excuse for pursuing an agenda, which is anti-federal government, and has very little to do with grazing on public lands... One thing that offends me is the fact that they continue to say they are supporting ranchers that have permits. My experience is that over 90 percent of ranchers I've worked with in the past are good stewards that fully comply and have cooperative relationship with land managers...

I think the delay in bringing them [Cliven Bundy] to justice has empowered other extremists to pursue radical tactics and I think that's what we're seeing in Oregon. If someone doesn't think there will be any repercussions for breaking the law, they will continue to act. There have to be repercussions... I believe there will be. There are better mechanisms for pursing disagreements than picking up arms and occupying federal facilities and threatening people's lives."

Why the Hell Is an Armed Militia Occupying a Federal Building in Oregon?
" 'But these people don't own the land,' one commenter wrote on Sunday. 'It's a federal wildlife preserve and it has been since 1908. Why are ranchers from Nevada claiming a federal wildlife preserve in Oregon belongs to them? There is no world in which that even makes sense.' ...

'These men came to Harney County claiming to be part of militia groups supporting local ranchers,' said Harney County Sheriff David M. Ward in a statement Sunday. 'When in reality these men had alternative motives, to attempt to overthrow the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States.'...

What you have at the end of the day is a bunch of very angry men, many of them belonging to a resurgent militia movement that dates back to President Obama's inauguration.
'Soon after the election, we saw the formation of dozens of militia groups throughout the country,' Daryl Johnson, a former analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, recently told Vox. 'They were down under 80 groups, we see them balloon up to about 150 groups by the end of 2008, and by 2010, we had over 300 militia groups operating in the US.' "

Oath Keepers even disputes this Bundy Hijacking, "Oath Keepers, Mike Vanderboegh (of the Three Percenters), and other groups are condemning this action by Ammon and his cohorts. Why? Because it serves no purpose that benefits the Liberty Movement. On the contrary, it harms the Movement. Ammon's group has become the aggressors, and, by doing so, loses the moral high ground."

 Oregon Standoff: Lessons From The Freeman Case, Montana Public Radio interview with John Connor, Montana's assistant attorney general at the time of Freeman standoff in 1996.

In my mind, one of the most important articles is that put out by PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility)
Federal Inaction for 19 Months on Bundy Spawns More Militia Confrontations
Washington, DC -This week's armed seize of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in "Oregon by self-styled 'militia' stems from the lack of a coherent response to earlier confrontations with anti-government extremists, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), pointing to a threat assessment from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  The failure by the federal government to take any action following the April 2014 armed stand-off with renegade rancher Cliven Bundy was seen by his supporters as a victory and encouraged his sons and other followers to stage similar clashes.

'Rather than abating conflict, the federal hands-off approach has backfired and enables the Bundy clan to franchise a "Militia McDonalds," ' stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting the current 'call to arms' to spread resistance against 'federal tyranny.' 'In Nevada, federal authorities have ceded a 200-square mile militarized zone on national park and range lands as a staging ground for further operations to challenge the legitimacy of public ownership.'...

'This armed takeover should be treated as a terrorist act designed to spread fear in the community,' added Ruch, pointing to the Secretary of Interior closing all nearby federal offices due to concern about employee safety; even local public schools are closed.  'Demanding public attention at the point of a gun is not the exercise of First Amendment rights but the actions of deluded wackos.' "

My concluding thoughts...  
if we, as conservationists, dont stand up for our public lands/waters, our fish/wildlife and access, how can we blame our public trust employees if they back down in the face of armed threats and special interest political pressure determined to chip away at our ownership? Now is the time to rise up as good owners, make our voices heard, exert our will to support our employees in managing our interests, for responsible management and for their security and protection. If we turn a blind eye, ignore the repeated offenses, capitulate to the terrorists, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Carter Niemeyer recently shared in an email, "The takeover of public lands by the states is a REAL danger. Politicians are engineering ways to make it happen. Misinformation is always a key factor, along with apathy on our part, thinking it could never happen." Please make yourself aware of what is really going on and what is at stake, for future generations.

To co opt a favored quote, " 'Conservation' never dies a natural death. It dies because we dont know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds, it dies of weariness, of withering, of tarnishings."

Care! Fight for our conservation values, they dont take care of themselves!

Please email  U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, requesting an investigation of these extremist militia actions - Title 18 of United States Code § 2384 defines "Seditious conspiracy" as conspiring "to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof..." These Bundy traitors have directly opposed the force of the federal government with arms, delayed the execution of the law by illegally interfering with the judicial process, and occupied and possessed property of the U.S. federal government.

Statistically, people generally contact officials to complain, so also email U.S. Department of Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell, encouraging the BLM, USFWS, NPS boldness in managing our public lands and resources for the Public Trust, following through on regulations, thereby promoting the safety of her employees, our Public Trust employees. The Nevada BLM and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge being current cases in point.

BTW, I have another week up north, meaning I have not had access to my EMWH email address for 3 weeks, so if you need to email, please use for the next week.

If you would like to further this work and research,   please click to contribute to EMWH.
Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu


Wildlife  &



513 1/2 W. Curtiss St., Bozeman, MT 59715
Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat, 513 1/2 W. Curtiss St., Bozeman, MT 59715
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