Putting the "Public" Back in "Public Trust"
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
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
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 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
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
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
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 PrivateThe 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
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
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
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."
"During his presidency, Roosevelt created the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
in 1908, turning unclaimed government property into one of more than 50 'bird reservations.' ...
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.
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
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
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
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 HijackingThe Bundy Militia's Particular Brand Of MormonismFormer BLM chief: Bundy's pursuing an agenda on public land
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
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..."
'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.' ...
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?
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.'...
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)
OREGON REFUGE STANDOFF LATEST EXTREMIST JIHAD
Federal Inaction for 19 Months on Bundy Spawns More Militia Confrontations
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.
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.'...
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.
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.
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 email@example.com for the next week.