Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Rancher: 'I didn't know anything' about Bundy entering property, destroying fence

Tim Puckett, the rancher whose cattle graze private rangeland adjoining the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, said he didn't give Ammon Bundy and his band of armed militants permission to enter the ranch Monday afternoon and destroy a publicly owned fence.  In fact, Puckett said Tuesday that he has never spoken to Bundy, the leader of a militant group that has occupied the refuge headquarters compound since Jan. 2. The militants are protesting the federal government's land-use policies, advocating for public property to be turned over to local ranchers and loggers. Bundy, an Arizona businessman and son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, claimed Monday that Puckett gave him permission to enter the ranch and that Puckett actually asked the militants to cut out the fence so his cattle could graze on more land – which is publicly owned refuge land. "I didn't know anything about it 'til late [Monday] night," Puckett told The Oregonian/OregonLive. "They didn't have my permission to do anything." Puckett acknowledged that one of his representatives at the ranch showed the militants where the fence was and allowed them on the property. But the representative did not give them permission to tear out the fence, he said. "I guess that makes me responsible," he said. The representative, he said, did not have the authority to speak on Puckett's behalf. But Puckett, who has ranches in several locations and was traveling to Burns Tuesday from more than 100 miles away, said he never heard about the militants' plan to destroy the fence. He feels like he "got drawn into something that I had nothing to do with." He said he doesn't condone the militants' actions and never asked them to cut the fence. "I am very upset," Puckett said. His ranch hands have already repaired the fence. "They're not coming onto my place no more," he said of the militants. "If they do, I'm gonna have to do something about it. I don't want them going across my ground." He said he has no beef with the Bureau of Land Management. "I work with BLM," Puckett said. "I have no problem with them." He said government officials told him of their plans to erect the fence, which he said "has not nor will it affect my cattle operation." Puckett, a hay farmer, said he agrees with militants that local ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son, Steven Hammond, were treated unfairly by the government when they were sent back to federal prison for setting fires that spread to public land. "Whatever the people did to help [the Hammonds] other than taking over the refuge, I was in favor of," Puckett said. "In my opinion, the Hammonds did get screwed."...more

Here is the full statement released by Puckett:

Statement from rancher Tim Puckett
"As owner of the ranch that borders the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters, I would like to make it clear that I DO NOT condone nor did I ask for the protesters at the refuge to cut fences to allow my cows access to the refuge. The protesters are quoting a representative who did not have the authority to speak on my behalf.
"I have no grievances with the refuge or the BLM. I have BLM grazing permits that I use each year, and I am a good steward of the land. I am a hay farmer, I DO NOT DEPEND ON THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO RAISE MY CATTLE. I have been in Harney County for four years, in no way do I feel that I am entitled to the refuge for grazing. I was informed of the fence last fall prior to its construction, and it has not nor will it affect my cattle operation."
Tim Puckett, Golden Rule Farms

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