Friday, January 08, 2016

El Chapo, Escaped Mexican Drug Lord, Is Recaptured in Gun Battle

He became a byword for government incompetence, a folk hero whose reputation soared after he burrowed his way out of the country’s most secure prison. But on Friday, nearly six months after his escape, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo, was captured again after a fierce gun battle near the coast in his home state of Sinaloa, Mexican officials said. “Mission accomplished: We have him,” President Enrique Peña Nieto announced. The arrest ended one of the most extensive manhunts undertaken by the government, involving every law enforcement agency in the country and help from the United States. But it was the Marines, Mexico’s most-trusted military forces, who managed to capture the fugitive in an early morning raid that left five of Mr. Guzmán’s gunmen dead, the Mexican authorities said. An American official also described the raid as “a Mexican op, planned and executed by Mexico.”...more

A Record Amount of US Forest Went up in Flames Last Year

Wildfires across the United States blackened more than 10 million acres of land in 2015, a new record set amid an intense drought across the West, the US Department of Agriculture reported this week. Those blazes destroyed more than 4,500 buildings, and 13 firefighters died battling them, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. Government agencies burned more than $2.6 billion on firefighting costs, which consumed more than half of the US Forest Service's budget and forced the agency to shift money away from conservation and restoration projects aimed at preventing future fires, he said. The 2015 tally of 10,125,149 acres burned tops a record set in 2006, when more than 9.9 million acres were scorched. About half of last year's acreage came from Alaska, where wildfires hit more than 5.1 million acres of woodland and tundra in that vast state...more

video - Harney Co. sheriff, Bundy meet briefly on neutral ground

Harney County Sheriff David Ward and members of the militia who overtook the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge met Thursday “to discuss a peaceful resolution” to the standoff. This is the 6th day of the militia’s occupation of the federal facility. Sheriff David Ward called for the meeting at Narrows-Princeton Road and Lava Bed Road. The meeting was very brief. Ammon Bundy said to Ward, “We pose no threat to the community whatsoever now. It’s time to get the schools open, let your community get back to living. We do not pose a threat.” “And that’s what I’m asking for,” Ward responded. “But that can be done without us leaving,” said Bundy. During the meeting, the Sheriff asked Bundy to please leave and respect the wishes of Harney County residents. The two sides plan on meeting again Friday. Governor Kate Brown released a statement while the meeting was happening, saying the protest has become unlawful. Cheers erupted at a community meeting in Burns when Sheriff Ward said it was time for a small, armed group occupying a national wildlife refuge to “pick up and go home.”  Ward told hundreds of people gathered at the meeting Wednesday evening that the group needed to leave so local people could get back to their lives. “You’re not invited to come here and bother with our citizens,” Sheriff Ward said. “I don’t believe that just a handful of people have the right to come in from outside of our area and tell us that we don’t know how to live our lives.”...KOIN

Here's the KOIN video report:

video - Hundreds attend community meeting in Burns

Hundreds of people showed up for a town hall meeting in Burns, Ore., on Wednesday as armed militiamen continued their occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Harney County Sheriff David Ward stood in front of that large group to talk about safety and the disruption the occupation has caused. Earlier this week he told Ammon Bundy and his men to pack up and go home, but Bundy has said the group won't leave until federal land is returned to the locals. The town meeting began with a standing ovation for the sheriff and a prayer for peace. People who live in Harney County have a lot of questions, and many are frustrated. "So it's about time people start standing up and stop this thing that's going on," one local resident said. One after another, people from Harney County stood in front of a microphone and voiced their opinions about the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Some spoke out in support of the takeover. "I wish that it had been done differently, but I'm glad that those guys did it," another resident said. Others are fired up about it. "Let's not get caught up. Like I'm pissed as hell right now and my boots are shakin'. But I'm proud of who I am. I'm proud to be a rancher and I'm not gonna let some other people be my face!" said someone else who lives there...more

Here is the KTVB video report:

video - Greg Walden addresses U.S. House on situation in Harney County, OR

This is a video of Congressman Walden speaking to the House, wherein he provides an explanation of the events leading up to the current situation and the real concerns of the local citizenry.  It's 24 minutes long but well worth your time if you want to understand what's going on in the West. A big thank you to Walt Anderson for calling this to my attention.

Sorry, Ranchers, You’re Actually Big-Time Government Moochers

This week, eyes have been trained on the bizarre standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, where upwards of 20 armed insurgents have seized a government building in opposition to the federal government’s continued ownership and administration of public lands in the Western states.

 It’s tempting to write off Ammon Bundy and his allies as a group of fringe radicals, but that would be a mistake: The standoff at Burns exposes a widely held belief in the West—stoked by elected officials at the state and federal level—that the federal government has and will continue to encroach on private property. “The [Bureau of Land Management] wants that land bad and they’ll probably end up getting it,” said a local man in Oregon this week. “The federal government wants to take over the state of Oregon and turn it into a park.”

In what some are calling the “Second Sagebrush Rebellion”—a successor movement to the first such wave of political action that swept Western states in the late 1970s and early 1980s—multiple state legislatures, backed by local ranchers and residents, have in recent months called for the transfer of federal land to local authorities, and with it, valuable mineral, timber and water resources. They seem to believe, as Utah legislators insist, that Congress promised to bequeath these many millions of acres at the time of statehood—that it is rightfully theirs and theirs alone.

But these neo-Sagebrush rebels couldn’t be more wrong.

Constitutional huffing and puffing aside, residents in states like Oregon and Utah have zero legal rights to the land they are trying to claim. The act declaring Utah’s statehood, for example—just like legislation granting statehood to other territories in the 19th and 20th centuries—stipulates that its Legislature “forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands.” In fact, the land that these ranchers call their own belongs to the entire country—to school teachers in New York and shipbuilders in Virginia as much as to ranchers in Oregon.

What’s more, the West has historically been a beneficiary of the U.S. government, not a victim. You won’t hear any of this from Bundy or from elected officials who mimic his argument, if not his lawlessness.

The real story is one of a niche interest group (ranchers and their allies) that feels entitled to a federal handout—potentially one of the largest in American history—at the expense of residents of East Coast, Midwest and Southeast states. Like the first Sagebrush Rebellion of 40 years ago, this revolt represents a classic case of fictional privilege, grounded in a shoddy understanding of United States history.

At Bundy encampment, outsider says militants 'attacked' his group

Violence broke out at the Bundy compound Wednesday night between its militant occupants and members of an outside group whose leader says he wants to get women and children out of the compound. Lewis Arthur, who leads a group called Veterans on Patrol and calls himself an anti-violence patriot, arrived Wednesday afternoon with a small crew.  By Wednesday night, one of Arthur's three-person crew was in the hospital, his eye blackened from a punch to the face. In an interview Thursday, Arthur blamed the injuries on Blaine Cooper, a prominent member of the group of militants who since Saturday have staged a standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The group's members say they hope to exonerate two area ranchers imprisoned on arson charges and then turn over land on the federally owned refuge to private owners...The Oregonian

Ryan Bundy fought with government long before Oregon standoff

It took three bailiffs to take Ryan Bundy into custody last year in a Utah courthouse, where they were trying to arrest him on a failure-to-appear warrant. Bundy began yelling and pulling away before being subdued, said Lt. Del Schlosser, a spokesman for Utah's Iron County Sheriff's Office. Schlosser said Bundy spent 19 hours in jail, and he must return in March to face a charge of interfering with an arresting officer. Bundy, 43, has been resisting government incursions on his life large and small since long before he, two brothers and several friends took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns six days ago. Since 2006, Bundy has rejected the authority of animal control officers to corral his roaming horse, school officials to bar his 15-year-old daughter from carrying a pocketknife and city officials to regulate his fires, his property's appearance and his driving, court records and news reports show...The Oregonian

Thursday, January 07, 2016

"This Is Government Land": The Eternal Refrain of the Federal Occupiers

Without seeking permission, a small group of defiant armed men seized control of coveted property in Oregon. They weren’t welcomed by local residents, some of whom petitioned the government to evict the intruders from federally administered land.

Rather than sending in the troops to uproot the uninvited settlers, the U.S. government told the local residents to accommodate them even as they put up fences and started to run cattle on the land they had seized. This destroyed the local agricultural balance, leaving many of the locals near starvation. 

Hunger can drive a man to do desperate things, especially when its effects are visible in the faces of his children. Driven beyond forbearance, many of the locals resorted to violence. Although federal authorities were unimpressed by the pleas of starving people, they acted with alacrity to put down what they considered an armed insurrection, driving the locals from the scene and conferring title to the land on those who had occupied it illegally.

This is how the Paiutes were evicted from what is now Harney County, Oregon, the 10,000-square-mile territory that serves as backdrop to the ongoing occupation of vacant federal buildings by a small group calling itselfCitizens for Constitutional Freedom...

The CCF’s defiance of federal “authority” – which thus far has not involved violence -- has been denounced as “trespassing,” “terrorism,” and “treason.”  Yet the original white settlement of the county was done illegally. In that instance, the Feds made common cause with law-breakers (and, if you will, terrorists) to dispossess the uncooperative Paiutes, who had been promised the land as part of a peace agreement. 

 Harney County was named after General William S. Harney, who rose to prominence during a punitive expedition in the 1850s to “chastise” restive Sioux for organizing armed resistance against white encroachment on lands supposedly guaranteed to them by treaty. In the 1860s, the outpost named after the general was established not far (in relative terms) from present-day Burns.

Fort Harney played a key role in the “Snake War,” a four-year campaign to subdue and assimilate the Paiute and Shoshone Indians in Idaho, Oregon, and Nevada. That relatively obscure conflict was, in the words of historian Gregory Michno, “the deadliest Western Indian war in American history.”

One federal objective in the Snake War was to break the resistance of the Paiutes and confine them in a reservation. As originally constituted in 1872, the Malheur Reservation encompassed some 1,778,560 acres of land supposedly set aside for the use of nomadic Indian bands who had lived in the region since time immemorial.

...During (Indian Agent) Linville’s tenure, records a Paiute tribal history, “stockmen and ranchers were pressuring the government to turn over reservation lands for settlement and grazing of cattle. They were not even waiting for a federal mandate but began to run their livestock and even build ranch homes on the reservation.” Contention over the area near Fort Harney was especially acute: The Paiutes gathered camas roots – a staple of their diet -- in the fertile valley. The arrival of cattle made this impossible. 

Rather than treating those ranchers as terrorists or subversives for unlawfully seizing land held in trust by the federal government, the administration of President U.S. Grant simply ratified the illegal seizures. 

In 1876, President Grant “ordered the northern shores of Malheur Lake open for settlement,” thereby cutting off another important harvest area from the Paiutes.  Compounding the injury with an insult, Grant appointed William Rinehart, a veteran of the Snake War, as the Indian Agent.

...While their means have prompted widespread criticism, the CCF’s cause is one that resonates with rural westerners, including at least some of the ranchers who live nearby, and have seen many of their neighbors and colleagues driven away by the Feds. Ranchers and others living on federally administered lands haven’t yet been confronted with the grim alternatives described by General Crook – “warpath or starvation” – but the engineered destruction of their livelihood is encouraging a healthy and understandable militancy among many of them.
...Whatever else one might say about the CCF, the motives animating its occupation are much more commendable than those of the squatters who illegally occupied Harney County in the 1870s. The same Regime that made “settlers” and “county fathers” out of the first occupiers is determined to cage or kill the CCF in the service of the same principle expressed by the execrable Indian Agent William Rinehart: “This is government land.” 

US Attorney Who Got Ranchers More Jail Time Was Investigated For ‘Erratic Behavior’

The U.S. attorney who pushed for incarcerating two Oregon ranchers was under investigation for stalking one of her employees when she resigned from office in April, allegedly for “health issues.” Amanda Marshall, the U.S. attorney for Oregon, pushed for ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond to be put back in prison after they were convicted of arson in 2012 and served time under an expansive anti-terrorism law. Marshall, however, was the subject of a federal investigation into her “erratic behavior” regarding one of her colleagues. Sources told The Oregonian in March the Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general was looking into Marshall’s “erratic behavior involving a subordinate.” Sources said Marshall constantly texted and emailed Scott Kerin, an assistant U.S. Attorney. The Oregonian reported Marshall even admonished Kerin “for spending too much time with a woman who was not his wife.” Marshall went on indefinite leave as news of the investigation broke, but didn’t formally resign from office until May 15, 2015. The Oregonian reported Marshall left because health issues were affecting her work, but reports of a federal probe into her behavior may have played a role.  Marshall’s lawyer tried to claim Kerin was in fact the subject of the inspector general’s probe, but the IG’s office, in a rare move, put out a statement rebutting Marshall’s attorney — though the IG did not confirm or deny the existence of a probe. It’s unclear if Marshall’s erratic behavior had any effect on the Hammonds’ prosecution, but it will likely raise questions about the rare decision by federal prosecutors to push for Dwight and Steven to be reincarcerated...more

 More wolves killed in city’s suburban areas

Three more wolves have been snared and killed in the McIntyre Creek and Porter Creek areas, says a senior conservation officer. Kevin Johnstone said today two wolves were killed last Thursday and the other one was killed last Saturday. The first wolf was killed in the same area on Dec. 23. Johnstone said all four wolves were killed in quick-kill snares. Conservation officers are continuing to monitor the situation, he said. Johnstone said the wolves are frequenting residential areas where you don’t expect to see them, such as in the area of Pine Street and Ponderosa Drive in Porter Creek. “They have become habituated to a point where we are just not comfortable with their behaviour,” said the acting manager of the field operations. Most recently, he added, three wolves were seen last Saturday near Robert Service Way and the Alaska Highway. Johnstone said they suspect the wolves are from the same pack but have begun to disperse because of all the activity. It’s difficult to say whether these wolves are the same that were responsible for killing at least three dogs south of the city earlier this winter, he said...more

Leader of armed protesters in Oregon took out $530,000 federal loan

Ammon Bundy, a leader of the armed protesters who took over a federal building in Oregon, and his family are known for battling the federal government. But Bundy told CNN on Tuesday that he's not opposed to government and said that taking a six-figure loan from the Small Business Administration doesn't conflict with his political philosophy. Bundy borrowed $530,000 in 2010 for his company, Valet Fleet Service LLC, according to public records on Valet Fleet Service is a truck maintenance company in Arizona. "I am not anti-government," he said when asked about the loan while standing outside the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, adding that he thinks "there is a role for government and that the federal government's role is to protect the states from the outside world."...CNN

Bundy: Dispute is jurisdictional issue with feds

Hours after the Burns Paiute Tribe called for an end to the armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, militia leader Ammon Bundy said the heart of the issue is who has jurisdiction over these lands. Surrounded by a group of supporters, Ammon Bundy told the media Wednesday they have evidence “to exonerate the Hammonds,” the Oregon ranchers who are now serving a prison sentence in California for arson on federal lands. Bundy said they “have multiple witnesses” to the 2006 fire the Hammonds admitted starting. Bundy said these witnesses saw people with the Bureau of Land Management start the fire which threatened the Hammonds’ land. Because of the threat, Bundy said, the Hammonds started the back fire. “That’s never been reviewed in court,” he said, adding they have “strong enough evidence we will be able to get the Hammonds released.”  Bundy — who refused to say how many people are now at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge with his militia — said the heart of this matter is “a jurisdictional issue between the federal and the state governments.” The people, he said, are being abused by the federal government in an abuse of territorial authority...KOIN

Whose land is it, anyway? Critics, supporters of armed Oregon occupiers agree protest must end

Aligning the varying factions of the wider community touched by this development is difficult. For instance, the armed protesters led by Ammon Bundy – the son of anti-government rancher Cliven Bundy – are demanding the federal government relinquish its claim to about three-quarters of the land in the county, then “return” it to the local residents. The trouble is, the feds never stole it from the locals living there now, so much as they did from the indigenous people there nearly two centuries ago. "The protesters have no right to this land. It belongs to the native people who live here," Charlotte Rodrique, chair of the Paiute tribe in Burns, told reporters earlier on Wednesday in front of the tribe’s cultural center. Sharper words have also appeared on social media and in traditional media, sparking debate about whether to call the armed occupiers “terrorists” or not. One retired police chief with decades of experience in training SWAT teams urges the latter. "If we demonize them, if we make them domestic terrorists, then the political ability to deal with them harshly increases," Steve Ijames said in an NPR interview. The Associated Press has gone from describing the protesters as a “militia” to “armed men” or “armed ranchers,” saying the word “militia” confuses its international audience. Two leaders of national groups favorable to the principle of militias are working to prevent an escalation. Upon allegedly receiving a tip that US military special operators were assigned to the area, Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, released an urgent message to those occupying the federal facility, including in his headline: “Keep Women and Children Out of There.” “If a dozen men die in a shootout, that is one thing, but if children die, there will be a civil war,” Rhodes wrote on the Oath Keepers website. He added a statement of disapproval, saying the armed occupation “is not in keeping with the moral imperative of only using the threat of force in defense when people’s lives are at stake, as at Bundy Ranch in 2014.”...more

Insight - Pizza, rifles and tension: a night inside the Oregon protest

The doorknob rattled. Two of the men occupying a federal biologist's office in a stand-off over land rights hopped from their chairs and swung rifles towards the locked door. There was no knock - the established procedure for gaining entry to the nerve centre of the siege mounted by brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy at this eastern Oregon nature centre. The Bundys’ body guard stood in silent alert but heard no voices from the snowy darkness outside. "Should we approach the door or not?" Ryan asked, creeping towards a window. Ammon, armed with only a cell phone, remained seated and shook off the tension, saying dryly, "Oh, it's fun to live this way." Since Saturday, the brothers and a small band of supporters have occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which they seized to protest the U.S. government’s control of vast tracts of Western land. On Tuesday, for the first time, they allowed two reporters to join them inside their refuge for a night marked by long discussions and moments of hair-trigger tension. Earlier, the Bundys had heard from people they trusted that federal law enforcement agents were assembling in Burns, the nearest town, a half hour’s drive away. Federal officials have said they have no plans to approach the refuge...Reuters

Black Hawk helicopter makes surprise landing at Lincoln County ranch

It was just another foggy winter day for Devin Sisk as she was driving to her rural home at Bonita Canyon Ranch near Corona Friday, but an exciting turn of events livened up the Sisk family's New Year's weekend. Sisk noticed a low flying Black Hawk helicopter, but didn't pay much attention since military aircraft are a common sight in the area. As she continued the trip home the fog became heavier. By the the time Sisk arrived at her house, the medical helicopter was landing, socked in by the poor visibility and dangerous flying conditions. The Army National Guard flight crew of three was on its way to help with clean up efforts in Carlsbad in the aftermath of the blizzard Goliath when it landed at the ranch. "They just asked if they could sit in the pasture for an hour or so until the fog cleared up," Sisk said. Sisk then opened her home to the unexpected house guests, inviting them in for coffee. When the fog did not lift in time for the crew to continue to their destination, they were invited to stay at the family's nearby bunkhouse for the night. "Anybody would have taken them in, we just got to be the lucky ones to have their company," Sisk said. The group was treated to hospitality typical of those in the ranching community. Sisk fed the three supper at her house and her mother-in-law, Beth Sisk, prepared breakfast for the trio the following morning...more

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Bees Hurt by Some Crop Pesticides, But Not All

A major pesticide harms honeybees when used on cotton and citrus but not on other big crops like corn, berries and tobacco, the Environmental Protection Agency found. It's the first scientific risk assessment of the much-debated class of pesticides called neonicotinoids and how they affect bees on a chronic long-term basis. The EPA found in some cases the chemical didn't harm bees or their hives but in other cases it posed a significant risk. It mostly depended on the crop, a nuanced answer that neither clears the way for an outright ban nor is a blanket go-ahead for continued use. Both the pesticide maker and anti-pesticide advocates were unhappy with report. The issue is important because honeybees are in trouble and they do more than make honey. They are crucial to our food supply: About one-third of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants, and the honeybee is responsible for 80 percent of that pollination...more

'I Need to Get Home': Oregon Occupiers Hint at Exit Plan

LaVoy Finicum
Four days into their occupation, the anti-government activists who took over a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon hinted on Tuesday that their days there might be numbered. Ringleader Ammon Bundy insisted they "have a plan" to help ranchers in Harney County avoid the fate of Dwight Hammond and his son Steven, who are now in federal prison for setting fires on their ranch that spread to government land. "We are implementing this plan," Bundy said. "We see a time coming very soon where the community will begin to participate more in that and begin to take that over so they can claim their own rights." Bundy did not divulge any details of their "plan." But he said that when the community is "strong enough to defend" their rights "then we will go home." But LaVoy Finicum, one the gunmen who seized the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, made it clear he wanted to get back to his Nevada ranch. "I need to get home," he said. "I got cows that are scattered and lost." Later Tuesday, Finicum told reporters that he believed authorities had signed arrest warrants for five people, including himself. The 54-year-old brought his rifle and made a small camp in the snow and said, "they can come serve it right here." Ammon Bundy said members of the group heard that the FBI may move against them, but he did not say why he believed that or where he got his information. The group moved heavy equipment to a barricade Tuesday night...NBC

Oregon rancher to militants: Your message resonates, but protest is unwise

The Bundy brothers haven't heeded requests by the mayor, the sheriff, or the police to cease their occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. On Tuesday, a prominent Harney County rancher planned to drive his pickup truck to the standoff at the refuge headquarters, hoping maybe the occupiers would hear the message more clearly if it came from one of their own kind. The man, who spoke with The Oregonian/OregonLive but asked not to be named for fear of repercussions, said he planned to visit the refuge Tuesday in hopes of getting some face time with the militants' leaders, specifically Ammon Bundy. Many of the roughly 20 people occupying the bird sanctuary 30 miles south of Burns are ranchers hailing from Nevada, Arizona, and other western states. As a fellow rancher, the Harney County man shares their point-of-view about the government. While he sympathizes with the militants' overarching message decrying government land control and its impact on private enterprise, the rancher said he disagrees with their approach. "What they're saying is great – not their process," he said. His statements come as militant leaders say they have no immediate plans to leave, but would do so if "the community" indicated they aren't welcome. He said they have no indication of that. Although local and state leaders have condemned the group's actions, militant leader Ammon Bundy said area ranchers have visited the compound to offer food and support...The Oregonian

Truck blocks entrance to US land as armed standoff persists

A pickup truck blocked the entrance Tuesday to a national wildlife preserve where a small armed group upset over federal land policy has occupied the frozen swath of remote Oregon since the weekend. From a watchtower, a member of the group looked out over the snowy grounds. The activists who came to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge were bundled in camouflage, ear muffs and cowboy hats in the bleak, high desert of eastern Oregon where they seemed more likely to encounter wildlife than people. That may be a key reason why law enforcement has not taken action against the group of about two dozen activists opposing the imprisonment of father-and-son ranchers who set fire to federal land. “These guys are out in the middle of nowhere, and they haven’t threatened anybody that I know of,” said Jim Glennon, a longtime police commander who now owns the Illinois-based law enforcement training organization Calibre Press. “There’s no hurry. If there’s not an immediate threat to anyone’s life, why create a situation where there would be?” No one had been hurt and no one was being held hostage. The takeover puts federal officials in a delicate position of deciding whether to confront the occupiers, risking bloodshed, or stand back and possibly embolden others to directly confront the government...AP

Here’s The Story Of The Ranchers Whose Case Sparked A Militia Standoff In Oregon

In 1994, Dwight Hammond said he was willing to die to save his ranch. He also threatened to kill the U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials who got in his way, the manager of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon said at the time. Hammond — who, with his son, Steven, surrendered at a federal prison on Monday — has for decades clashed with the federal land authorities who own most of the land surrounding his ranch. The disputes have long been a rallying cry for those who see the federal government as overreaching its authority over local residents and their daily lives...For the Hammond family, the situation has always been personal. “It’s our livelihood,” Dwight Hammond told CNN in 1995. “It’s our — it’s everything. It’s life itself.”...Dwight Hammond first made national headlines after he was arrested on suspicion of forcibly impeding, intimidating, and interfering with federal officers engaged in official duties. The case was later dropped. The incident stemmed from a dispute over a fence. In 1994, U.S. Fish and Wildlife began to build a fence blocking Hammond’s cattle from foraging for food and water. Authorities said a grazing permit had been revoked, but Hammond said he maintained water rights. A piece of Dwight Hammond’s farm equipment blocked the fence building, and the verbal dispute began. Forrest Cameron, who was then the manager of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, told the Chicago Tribune that the rancher threatened to kill him as he tried to do his job. Dwight Hammond told CNN the alleged threat may have been a misperception. “I’ve said that I was willing to die,” he said. “Maybe they’re willing to die. I don’t know.” Dwight Hammond was released from custody after pleading not guilty, and three years later, court records show the case was dismissed. Prosecutors said the family intentionally set the fires to destroy juniper and sagebrush to make way for grass and grazing.  
Though the Hammonds held grazing rights, burning the public land required approval from the government. But prosecutors alleged the family was fed up with the lengthy process of environmental study required by the Bureau of Land Management before controlled burns. The Hammonds had been ranchers for generations, defense lawyers said, working on a patchwork of private and federal land to which they held grazing rights. In the rugged, remote terrain, establishing exactly who was where at the time of a fire — as well as whether it was arson — wouldn’t be easy, defense lawyers said. A number of the charges, including witness tampering, were dismissed. Ultimately, Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted of using fire to damage and destroy the property of the United States...BuzzFeed News

Vegan Jerky To Be Hand-Delivered to Oregon Cattle-Ranching Militia

The militant cattle ranchers currently occupying Malheur National Wildlife Refuge have appealed for snacks, and PETA is answering the call with a hand-delivered package of vegan jerky that contains more protein than beef does. The PETA staffers, who will bear signs reading, “The End (of Animal Agriculture) Is Nigh: Get Out Now!” are suggesting that militia members learn to raise crops, not cows—allowing the many species of wild animals the refuge was designed to protect to release

State Agriculture Official To Meet With Farmers, Ranchers

The state's top agriculture official will be talking to dairy farmers and beef cattle ranchers in southeastern New Mexico impacted by last month's record snowstorm.  New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte will join officials from the state's Farm Service Agency at two informational meetings organized by the Dairy Producers of New Mexico. The purpose of the meetings is to discuss disaster programs with dairy farmers, ranchers and other affected agricultural producers. One meeting is scheduled Wednesday in Roswell at the Chaves County Extension Office with the other Thursday in Clovis at the city's Civic Center...more

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

The Case for Civil Disobedience in Oregon

by David French

Watching the news yesterday, a person could be forgiven for thinking that a small group of Americans had literally lost their minds. Militias are marching through Oregon on behalf of convicted arsonists? A small band of armed men has taken over a federal building? The story practically writes itself. 
Or does it? Deranged militiamen spoiling for a fight against the federal government make for good copy, but what if they’re right? What if the government viciously and unjustly prosecuted a rancher family so as to drive them from their land? Then protest, including civil disobedience, would be not just understandable but moral, and maybe even necessary. 
Ignore for a moment the #OregonUnderAttack hashtag — a rallying cry for leftists accusing the protesters of terrorism — and the liberal media’s self-satisfied cackling. Read the court documents in the case that triggered the protest, and the accounts of sympathetic ranchers. What emerges is a picture of a federal agency that will use any means necessary, including abusing federal anti-terrorism statutes, to increase government landholdings.

...In 2010 — almost nine years after the 2001 burn — the government filed a 19-count indictment against the Hammonds that included charges under the Federal Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which mandates a five-year prison term for anyone who “maliciously damages or destroys, or attempts to damage or destroy, by means of fire or an explosive, any building, vehicle, or other personal or real property in whole or in part owned or possessed by, or leased to, the United States.”
At trial, the jury found the Hammonds guilty of maliciously setting fire to public property worth less than $1,000, acquitted them of other charges, and deadlocked on the government’s conspiracy claims. While the jury continued to deliberate, the Hammonds and the prosecution reached a plea agreement in which the Hammonds agreed to waive their appeal rights and accept the jury’s verdict. It was their understanding that the plea agreement would end the case. At sentencing, the trial court refused to apply the mandatory-minimum sentence, holding that five years in prison would be “grossly disproportionate to the severity of the offenses” and that the Hammonds’ fires “could not have been conduct intended [to be covered] under” the Anti-terrorism act:
When you say, you know, what if you burn sagebrush in the suburbs of Los Angeles where there are houses up those ravines? Might apply. Out in the wilderness here, I don’t think that’s what the Congress intended. And in addition, it just would not be — would not meet any idea I have of justice, proportionality. . . . It would be a sentence which would shock the conscience to me. 
Thus, he found that the mandatory-minimum sentence would — under the facts of this case — violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment.” He sentenced Steven Hammond to two concurrent prison terms of twelve months and one day and Dwight Hammond to one prison term of three months. The Hammonds served their sentences without incident or controversy.
The federal government, however, was not content to let the matter rest. Despite the absence of any meaningful damage to federal land, the U.S. Attorney appealed the trial judge’s sentencing decision, demanding that the Hammonds return to prison to serve a full five-year sentence. 
The case went to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the court ruled against the Hammonds, rejecting their argument that the prosecutor violated the plea agreement by filing an appeal and dismissing the trial court’s Eighth Amendment concerns. The Hammonds were ordered back to prison. At the same time, they were struggling to pay a $400,000 civil settlement with the federal government, the terms of which gave the government right of first refusal to purchase their property if they couldn’t scrape together the money.

There’s a clear argument that the government engaged in an overzealous, vindictive prosecution here. By no stretch of the imagination were the Hammonds terrorists, yet they were prosecuted under an anti-terrorism statute. The government could have let the case end once the men had served their sentences, yet it pressed for more jail time. And the whole time, it held in its back pocket potential rights to the family’s property. To the outside observer, it appears the government has attempted to crush private homeowners and destroy their livelihood in a quest for even more land. If that’s the case, civil disobedience is a valuable course of action. By occupying a vacant federal building, protesters can bring national attention to an injustice that would otherwise go unnoticed and unremedied. Moreover, they can bring attention once again to the federal government’s more systemic persecution of private landowners. 

2016: When Climate Activists Aim to Halt Federal Coal Leases

With the Keystone XL pipeline rejected and Royal Dutch Shell's Arctic drilling plans abandoned, activists have a new agenda for 2016: bringing climate accountability to the federal fossil fuel program.
The Obama administration's sweep of climate policies, from rules curbing power plant emissions to tightening fuel economy standards for cars, has so far bypassed one of the government's biggest carbon-polluting programs: leasing public land to companies for extraction of oil, natural gas and coal. In 2012, federal fossil fuel production released more than 1,340 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent—that's similar to the annual emissions of more than 280 million cars, according to a report by the liberal think-tank Center for American Progress. This must change if the United States is serious about moving to a low-carbon economy and meeting its goal of reducing emissions 32 percent compared to 2005 levels by 2030, climate campaigners say. "We can't even begin to move in that direction if the United States is going to keep auctioning off publicly owned coal, oil, and gas, effectively giving the fossil fuel industry every incentive to stay in business," said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director at WildEarth Guardians. The Denver-based green group is focused on overhauling the federal coal program, the program's largest emissions source. The group won one high-profile lawsuit on this issue in May, when a federal court judge ordered regulators to redo a coal expansion application in Colorado; the judge ruled that they insufficiently accounted for climate impacts in their environmental assessment, among other issues. Next year, WildEarth Guardians expects decisions for similar pending lawsuits across Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming...more

Obama Claims He "Believes in the Second Amendment" During Gun Control Executive Action Announcement

Speaking from the White House Tuesday, President Obama gave a long, rambling speech about gun control and eventually touched on his long awaited executive actions surrounding the issue. The White House released the details of his actions last night and you can find them here.

During his remarks, President Obama claimed he is a believer in the Second Amendment and that we can reduce "gun-violence" while respecting constitutional rights.

"I believe in the Second Amendment, it's written right there on the paper," Obama said.

But Obama's history shows otherwise. Not only did he go around Congress today to push his gun control agenda, an action the American people condemn on a variety of issues, he supports extreme gun control measures that are contrary to the Second Amendment according to the multiple Supreme Court rulings. A few examples...more

On the establishment of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge

There is some inaccurate or incomplete information floating around on this topic. Below is the E.O. by President Roosevelt creating the original preserve:

It is hereby ordered that all smallest legal subdivisions which touch the shoreline of Lakes Malheur and Harney and the streams and waters connecting these lakes in township twenty-five south, ranges thirty-two, thirty-two and one-half and thirty-three; township twenty-six south, ranges twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one, thirty-two and thirty-three; township twenty-seven south, ranges twenty-nine, twenty-nine and one-half, thirty and thirty-two, all east of the Willamette Meridian, Oregon, together with all islands and unsurveyed lands situated within the meander lines of said lakes and connecting waters, as segregated by the broken line shown upon the diagram hereto attached and made a part of this Order, are hereby reserved, subject to valid existing rights, and set aside for the use of the Department of Agriculture as a preserve and breeding-ground for native birds. The taking or destruction of birds' eggs and nests, and the taking or killing of any species of native bird for any purpose whatsoever, except under such rules and regulations as may be prescribed by the Secretary of Agriculture, is prohibited, and warning is expressly given to all persons not to commit within the reserved territory any of the acts hereby enjoined. This reserve to be known as Lake Malheur Reservation.
Signature of Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt.
The White House,
August 18, 1908.

Lake Malheur Reservation EO 929 illustration.jpg

That order was preceded by an order of President U.S. Grant of Sept. 12, 1872, which created the 1.8 million acre Malheur Indian Reservation (I've been unable to find a copy of that EO on the 'net). According to Wikipedia, that order was "discontinued" in 1879:

The Malheur Indian Reservation was an Indian reservation established for the Northern Paiute in eastern Oregon and northern Nevada from 1872 to 1879. The federal government "discontinued" the reservation after the Bannock War of 1878, under pressure from European-American settlers who wanted the land, a negative recommendation against continuing it by its agent William V. Rinehart, the internment of more than 500 Paiute on the Yakama Indian Reservation, and reluctance of the Bannock and Paiute to return to the lands after the war.

Currently, according to the USFWS, the refuge contains 187,757 acres, and underwent significant expansions in 1935 and 1942:

The 65,000 acre Blitzen Valley was purchased in 1935 and added to the refuge to secure water rights for Malheur and Mud Lake. With the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1933, the refuge was able to use this additional manpower in 1935 to begin major improvements on the refuge. The CCC constructed most of the infrastructure in the Blitzen Valley including the Center Patrol Road which travels through the center of the refuge. The 14,000 acre Double-O unit was added to the refuge in 1942 and provides important shorebird habitat, as well as waterfowl nesting areas.

That's all I have for now. Would welcome any additions or clarifications.

Oregon Cattlemen’s Association statement on the situation in Burns Oregon

Today, January 4, 2016 Oregon ranchers Dwight and Steve Hammond have left their homes to report to a federal prison. Both ranchers are faithful, long term Oregon Cattlemen’s Association members. Many have asked where the association stands on the Hammond’s predicament.

The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association has declared that they do not support illegal activity taken against the government but has, and will continue, to support the Hammonds via avenues that are in accordance with the law.

John O’Keeffe, current president of the OCA, said the ranchers in Burns strive to work together with surrounding agencies. “The community of Burns and the ranchers there have been very resourceful in working together with agencies on many wildlife issues,” he said. “Furthermore, OCA does not support illegal activity taken against the government. This includes militia takeover of government property, such as the Malheur Wildlife Refuge.”

OCA’s Executive Director, Jerome Rosa, pointed out that the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association has supported the Hammonds for some time and does not agree with their current re-sentencing. “OCA feels the Hammond’s situation is a classic case of double jeopardy. The Hammonds were tried and convicted by a jury of their peers and have already served their sentence,” Rosa said.

Although the Hammonds have already been sentenced to additional prison time, OCA is continuing to work to find ways to support them.

O’Keeffe mentioned several legal ways the organization is working to provide assistance. “We are circulating an online petition asking the White House to review the Hammonds case.” A link to the petition can be found the OCA website or on their social media channels. “In addition to clemency efforts, we are working through legal avenues to help the Hammonds get their BLM grazing permits restored,” said O’Keeffe.

While the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association does not agree with the current legal action being taken against the Hammonds, OCA will continue to assist and represent the Hammonds solely through avenues that are in accordance with the law.

The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association was founded in 1913 and works to promote environmentally and socially sound industry practices, improve and strengthen the economics of the industry, and protect its industry communities and private property rights.


GOP Candidates, White House Urge Peaceful End to Oregon Standoff

Republican presidential candidates and the White House called Monday for a peaceful resolution to the armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, a location where a group of militia members along with some family members of the Nevada rancher, Cliven Bundy, are occupying a building on federal land. During a press conference in Boone, Iowa, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) urged the militia members to "stand down peacefully." "Everyone has a Constitutional right to protest, to speak our minds, but we don’t have a constitutional right to use force and violence and threaten force and violence on others," Cruz said. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) sounded a similar note in an interview with KBUR in Oregon. “You can’t be lawless," Rubio said in comments first reported by BuzzFeed. "We live in a republic. There are ways to change the laws of this country and the policies. If we get frustrated with it, that’s why we have elections. That’s why we have people we can hold accountable.” Rubio said he did think "there is too much federal control over land, especially out in the western part of the United States." "We should fix it," he said. "But no one should be doing it in a way that’s outside the law." Speaking to reporters after a town hall meeting in Staten Island, New York, GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson weighed in. "I think it's ridiculous that the government owns so much land and that we should enact a program whereby we gradually begin to restore that land to the states," Carson said, while acknowledging, "we can't do it all in one fell swoop because they wouldn't be able to afford it." Carson also said, "I think right now the government's handling it in the right way by not being confrontational."...ABC

Ranchers report to prison as sheriff calls for end to ‘armed occupation’

The father-and-son ranchers whose legal battle spurred the takeover of a federal wildlife building in eastern Oregon reported to prison Monday as the local sheriff called on armed militants to “end this peacefully.” Harney County Sheriff David M. Ward said at a press conference that Dwight and Steven Hammond, the father-and-son ranchers whose legal battle over arson convictions spurred the protest, reported at 1:37 p.m. Monday to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons in California. Attorneys for the Hammonds, who have previously said that the occupiers do not speak for them, released a statement Monday saying that their clients “respect the rule of law.” “Dwight and Steven Hammond respect the rule of law. They have litigated this matter within the federal courts for over five years and, in every instance, have followed the order of the court without incident or violation,” said the statement from attorneys W. Alan Schroeder, Kendra M. Matthews and Lawrence Matasar. The attorneys said they will seek executive clemency from President Obama for their clients, who had already served sentences but were resentenced to an additional five years for a 2006 accident in which a prescribed burn on their property spread onto federal land, charring 127 acres. Prosecutors sought the additional sentence under the federal Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which prompted an outcry from ranchers and others who described the penalty as overkill. Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow with the libertarian Cato Institute who lives near Bend, Oregon, called the five-year sentences “totally insane.” “This sets a terrible precedent because anybody who owns land in the West is going to be near federal land, and a lot of those landowners need to burn their land to prevent fire hazards from developing, because if you don’t burn, you get a huge buildup of fuel,” Mr. O’Toole said. “So you have to burn, and now the precedent is if your burn laps over onto federal land on just one acre, you go to jail for five years.”...Washington Times

The Oregon standoff is far bigger than a group of armed men in a refuge

They say the federal government stripped them of their land and resources. And they’re not alone.
The weekend occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon may seem like the ravings of a small group of armed activists, but it belongs to a much larger movement in the western United States. Lawmakers in at least 11 states have in recent years explored the possibility of taking back federal land in their own way: through their state legislatures.

Before this weekend’s incident, and before the Cliven Bundy confrontation in Nevada in 2014, there was Utah’s H.B. 148. In 2012, Utah passed that bill into law, requiring the federal government turn over the public lands within the state. The law carried little force — the end-of-2014 deadline for the transfer came and went — but it signified the start of a new chapter in the four-decade fight over Western land.

At the time, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) described it as a necessary step.

“This bill creates a mechanism to put the federal government on notice that Utah must be restored to its rightful place as a co-equal partner,” he said in a signing statement. “The federal government retaining control of two-thirds of our landmass was never in the bargain when we became a state, and it is indefensible 116 years later.”

Proponents of the movement say it’s about local control and taking back what rightly belongs to state residents.

Critics fear that reclaiming public land could become a financial burden for states and may be the first step toward the land being sold off or otherwise losing its protected status.

The fight itself stretches back to the passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, which confirmed the policy of federal retention of public lands. Since then, lawmakers throughout the West have pushed back against the lack of control over land within their borders, including during the famous “Sagebrush Rebellion” of the 1970s and 1980s — a movement that counted Ronald Reagan among its supporters.

In Oregon, frustration over federal land rights has been building for years

B.J. Soper has seen the frustration building for years in this rural corner of Oregon. The federal government owns more than half the land in the state, as it does across much of the West. It used to be routine for ranchers to get permits to graze cattle or cut timber or work mines — a way to make a living from the land. Then came increasing environmental regulations, and the federal land became more for owls and sage grouse than for local people trying to feed their families, said Soper, 39, who lives 100 miles up the road in Bend. “What people in Western states are dealing with is the destruction of their way of life,” said Soper, a father of four who was once a professional rodeo rider. “When frustration builds up, people lash out.” “These are tough issues to resolve, because they are about people’s values,” said John Freemuth, a professor of public policy at Boise State University in Idaho, about 220 miles east of Burns. Freemuth said that in recent decades, the federal government has placed increasing emphasis on the environment, which has led to more restrictions on ranching, grazing and mining and other traditional uses of the land. That has led to frustration among many rural Westerners, who feel a sharp disconnect with a federal government run by people in urban centers. “They have a concern that they are being left behind, that their values and their concerns are really irrelevant to the urban folks around the country,” Freemuth said. Len Vohs, who was mayor of Burns from 2008 to 2010, said he, like many locals, shares the frustration with the federal government that drove Bundy and others to occupy the wildlife refuge. But he said few support their tactics, and most wish they would just go home. “The federal government has done a gross injustice to the Hammonds, which has severely damaged the long-term trust and cooperation that ranchers and foresters and recreationists have had with BLM,” the Oregon Farm Bureau, a nonprofit representing the state’s farmers and ranchers, said in a statement. “However, the illegal activity of so-called militia groups only harms the Hammonds and the rest of the community because it diverts public attention and scrutiny away from the injustice that the federal government perpetrated on this Oregon family.”...Washington Post

Expect 'wait-them-out' law enforcement response to militants in Oregon, experts say

Expect law enforcement to take a "wait-them-out'' approach to the occupation by a group of militants at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge southeast of Burns, experts say. The FBI's aggressive and deadly showdowns at Waco and Ruby Ridge in the early 1990s became catalysts for rewriting how to handle sieges by extremists. The federal response drew a public outcry, congressional hearings and internal investigations. In the years since, the FBI has moved toward low-key negotiations and keeping tactical teams and their equipment out of sight until warranted. "Certainly in a case where there doesn't appear to be any immediate concern about hostages or immediate safety to the public, I would hope a reasonable approach would happen here," said Michael German, a former FBI agent who now serves as a national security expert and fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law. He was an FBI agent for 16 years, specializing in counterterrorism cases involving far-right groups. The FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives use more patience now. That's what happened in the Montana Freeman case of 1996, when federal law enforcement "took a 'wait them out' approach rather than try to do any heavy-handed armed intervention,'' German said. Outside Burns, the 20 or so armed occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge haven't become violent. No one is being held hostage. The reserve isn't an essential government operation. "Silence and patience are friends that never betray, particularly for law enforcement," said Brian Levin, director of California State University's Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism and a former New York police officer. "We have a group of armed squatters who are extremists holed up on a desolate unoccupied compound," Levin said. "There is no imminent threat to public safety, to commerce or structures at this time."...The Oregonian

Burns, Oregon residents' message to militia: 'Go away'

Monday evening at the empty Elkhorn Cafe, owner Terry Williams was washing dishes silently. He paused to brew a cup of coffee and talk about a group of armed men occupying federal buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge...Locals have said group's claim to defend the plight of the Hammonds, a father and son pair who recently returned to federal prison after an arson conviction, and to be acting with their interests in mind, is tenuous. Some see the situation only as a distraction. Burns schools are closed and employees who would normally be at the wildlife refuge haven't been able to return. "The local kids have a week off school. They have to play basketball games in John Day and practice in Drewsey," Williams said. The true cause is mandatory minimum sentencing laws, he said. The Hammonds were subject to minimum sentences for their arson convictions. Part of the controversy is that the Hammonds were given a lenient sentence, which they served. In a rare move, the federal government appealed the sentence, and the Hammonds were sentenced again for the mandatory five years. That double sentencing, many residents say, is unjust, but taking up arms against the government is another thing altogether...USA Today

A man washing dishes understands the you think the media and the politicians ever will?

Monday, January 04, 2016

Media coverage of the Hammond/Bundy event and issues, and the two real issues not being addresed

The media is, of course, biased on this and for the most part ignorant of federal land law, and that is reflected in the links below.

To me, there are two primary issues here.  The first is the passage of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, purportedly to protect us from foreign and domestic terrorists, and the fact the feds charged the Hammonds under that law, all over "damage" to less than 200 acres.  This one action by the feds makes it clear to me they really are after this family.

The second is the back story on what has happened to all the ranching families in this area and the role of the federal agencies in their demise.

The MSM is decidedly not covering these issues, and the public is not getting the full story, unfortunately.  We can look forward to more stories about the "occupation" while the real travesties of justice go unaddressed.

The Absurdly Harsh Penalties That Sparked the Oregon Rancher Protest

The first fire set by the Hammonds, which was intended to eliminate invasive species on their property, ended up consuming 139 acres of federal land. The second fire, which was aimed at protecting the Hammonds' winter feed from a wildfire sparked by lightning, burned about an acre of public land. Although the Hammonds did not seek the required government permission for either burn, the damage to federal land seems to have been unintentional. In 2012 they were nevertheless convicted under 18 USC 844(f)(1), which prescribes a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for anyone who "maliciously damages or destroys, or attempts to damage or destroy, by means of fire or an explosive," any federal property. Viewing that penalty as clearly unjust given the facts of the case, U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan instead imposed a three-month sentence on Dwight Hammond, who was convicted of one count, and two concurrent one-year sentences on Steven Hammond, who was convicted of two counts. Those terms were within the ranges recommended by federal sentencing guidelines that would have applied but for the statutory minimum, which Hogan rejected as inconsistent with the Eighth Amendment. Last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, responding to a government appeal, disagreed with Hogan, saying he had no choice but to impose five-year sentences on both men, since "a minimum sentence mandated by statute is not a suggestion that courts have discretion to disregard." That is why the Hammonds, who had already completed their original sentences, were ordered back to federal prison, the development that led to Saturday's protest. In rejecting Hogan's conclusion that the mandatory minimum was unconstitutional as applied to the Hammonds, the 9th Circuit noted that the Supreme Court "has upheld far tougher sentences for less serious or, at the very least, comparable offenses." The examples it cited included "a sentence of fifty years to life under California's three-strikes law for stealing nine videotapes," "a sentence of twenty-five years to life under California's three-strikes law for the theft of three golf clubs," "a forty-year sentence for possession of nine ounces of marijuana with the intent to distribute," and "a life sentence under Texas's recidivist statute for obtaining $120.75 by false pretenses." If those penalties did not qualify as "grossly disproportionate," the appeals court reasoned, five years for accidentally setting fire to federal land cannot possibly exceed the limits imposed by the Eighth Amendment. In other words, since even worse miscarriages of justice have passed constitutional muster, this one must be OK too. Given the binding authority of the Supreme Court's precedents, the 9th Circuit's legal reasoning is hard to fault. But it highlights the gap between what is legal and what is right, a gap that occasionally inspires judges to commit random acts of fairness...Reason

Militiamen Plan For What's Next As The Hammonds Head To Prison

Ammon Bundy emerged from a small brick building at the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge shortly after 11 a.m. Sunday. He wouldn’t say how many protesters were present at the site of the occupied federal complex, but fewer than 20 people were visible Sunday afternoon. The leader of the occupation spoke in cool, calm tones as he explained why he and other self-described militiamen broke into and took over the complex Saturday. “This refuge, from its very inception has been a tool of tyranny,” said Bundy. He believes the federal government overstepped its constitutional bounds in its original purchase of the land back in 1908...OPM

Idaho organization does not support Oregon protest

Brandon Curtiss, president of III% of Idaho, said Sunday night that the organization does not condone the execution of the armed militia protest at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. III% of Idaho — based in Meridian — joined with III% of Oregon, the Pacific Patriot Network, Harney County and Burns community members in a rally for the Hammond family Saturday afternoon from noon to about 2:30 p.m. The rally took place along Main Street in Burns, Oregon. Curtiss said the rally marched through Main Street and stopped at the Hammond's residence, where marchers placed flowers and spoke with the Hammond family about Dwight and Steven Hammond returning to prison. Curtiss said about 350 people walked through town for about two and a half hours. About 100 people from III% of Idaho marched, according to Curtiss. Curtiss said no one from III% of Idaho joined the protest at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which is about 30 minutes outside of Burns in Harney County. After the rally, around 3 p.m., a “splinter group,” lead by Ammond Bundy called marchers to come take a “hard stand.” Curtiss said Bundy did not make it clear followers would be driving out to and occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Curtiss said he found this out later. “The events that came after (the rally) were a complete surprise,” Curtiss said. Curtiss said III% Idaho is a non-partisan organization which stands for and protects citizen rights and restoring the Constitution. III% of Idaho feels that Dwight and Steven Hammond are in a situation of double jeopardy, according to Curtiss. The Constitution states that no one shall be tried twice for the same crime. The intent of the rally was to demonstrate that the Hammond family's constitutional rights were violated. “The intent was to show the Hammond family that there are people who care,” Curtiss said. After the rally, III% of Idaho and the other organizations held a town hall meeting at the Burns fairgrounds. The meeting initially was scheduled to discuss the Hammond's situation. The meeting later turned into a Q&A about the militia protest at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Curtiss said it was difficult to answer questions about the protest because the organizations had just heard about it...Idaho Press Tribune

The Hammond Family Does Not Want An Armed Standoff

We cannot force ourselves or our protection on people who do not want it. Dwight and Steven Hammond have made it clear, through their attorney, that they just want to turn themselves in and serve out their sentence. And that clear statement of their intent should be the end of the discussion on this. No patriot group or individual has the right or the authority to force an armed stand off on this family, or around them, against their wishes. You cannot help someone who does not want your help, and who are not willing and ready to take a hard stand themselves...Oath Keepers

Full Story on What’s Going on In Oregon – Militia Take Over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge In Protest to Hammond Family Persecution…

HISTORY: (aa) The Harney Basin (were the Hammond ranch is established) was settled in the 1870’s. The valley was settled by multiple ranchers and was known to have run over 300,000 head of cattle. These ranchers developed a state of the art irrigated system to water the meadows, and it soon became a favorite stopping place for migrating birds on their annual trek north. (ab) In 1908 President Theodor Roosevelt, in a political scheme, create an “Indian reservation” around the Malheur, Mud & Harney Lakes and declared it “as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds”. Later this “Indian reservation” (without Indians) became the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. (a) In 1964 the Hammonds purchased their ranch in the Harney Basin. The purchase included approximately 6000 acres of private property, 4 grazing rights on public land, a small ranch house and 3 water rights. The ranch is around 53 miles South of Burns, Oregon. (a1) By the 1970’s nearly all the ranches adjacent to the Blitzen Valley were purchased by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and added to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge covers over 187,000 acres and stretches over 45 miles long and 37 miles wide. The expansion of the refuge grew and surrounds to the Hammond’s ranch. Being approached many times by the FWS, the Hammonds refused to sell. Other ranchers also choose not to sell. (a2) During the 1970’s the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), took a different approach to get the ranchers to sell. Ranchers were told that, “grazing was detrimental to wildlife and must be reduced”. 32 out of 53 permits were revoked and many ranchers were forced to leave. Grazing fees were raised significantly for those who were allowed to remain. Refuge personnel took over the irrigation system claiming it as their own. (a3) By 1980 a conflict was well on its way over water allocations on the adjacent privately owned Silvies Plain. The FWS wanted to acquire the ranch lands on the Silvies Plain to add to their already vast holdings. Refuge personnel intentional diverted the water to bypassing the vast meadowlands, directing the water into the rising Malheur Lakes. Within a few short years the surface area of the lakes doubled. Thirty-one ranches on the Silvies plains were flooded. Homes, corrals, barns and graze-land were washed a way and destroyed. The ranchers that once fought to keep the FWS from taking their land, now broke and destroyed, begged the FWS to acquire their useless ranches. In 1989 the waters began to recede and now the once thriving privately owned Silvies pains are a proud part of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge claimed by the FWS. (a4) By the 1990’s the Hammonds were one of the very few ranchers that still owned private property adjacent to the refuge. Susie Hammond in an effort to make sense of what was going on began compiling fact about the refuge. In a hidden public record she found a study that was done by the FWS in 1975. The study showed that the “no use” policies of the FWS on the refuge were causing the wildlife to leave the refuge and move to private property. The study showed that the private property adjacent to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge produced 4 times more ducks and geese than the refuge did. It also showed that the migrating birds were 13 times more likely to land on private property than on the refuge. When Susie brought this to the attention of the FWS and refuge personnel, her and her family became the subjects of a long train of abuses and corruptions...The Last Refuge

The mysterious fires that led to the Bundy clan’s Oregon standoff

It was a stark reversal of a scenario that Billy Joel outlined years ago: They did start the fire. But, beyond that fact, consensus on why the Hammond family of Harney County, Ore., set ranch land ablaze twice in the past 15 years remained elusive. This, as armed anti-government activists stormed and seized a federal wildlife refuge in the name of the Hammonds. Never, it seemed, have two groups of people looked at the same conflagration and come to such different conclusions. According to Ammon Bundy — leader of anti-government protesters now occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, about 30 miles southeast of Burns, Ore. — the Hammonds are victims of the long arm of the federal government, gentleman ranchers punished for raising cattle on their own land. In other words, they are American heroes. “The Hammond family has been battered and abused by the federal government for over a decade,” Bundy wrote in an email in November, according to BuzzFeed reporter Jim Dalrymple II. “Now they have been declared as ‘terrorist’ and sentenced to 5 years in prison. For what? … using their ranch.” The federal government, of course, told quite a different tale of the fires that led to Bundy’s action. It declared — and, in 2012, a jury agreed — that Dwight Lincoln Hammond Jr., 73, and his son, Steven Dwight Hammond, 46, are arsonists, criminals now on their way to federal prison to serve five years for an elaborate scheme to cover up wrongdoing that put lives in danger...Washington Post

What spurred the armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in southeast Oregon

The several-hundred-person procession through Burns, Ore., concluded at Dwight Hammond’s doorstep early Saturday evening. In a town of less than 3,000 tucked in Oregon’s southeast corner, it was a massive show of support for Hammond, 73, and his son Steven, 46, as they prepared to report to federal prison Monday. “I thank everyone who came out here today,” Dwight Hammond told the supporters after he and his wife hugged each of them. “See you in five years.”...“Most Americans, if they knew the story of the threats and the charges brought against these ranchers, they would say this isn’t right,” said Jeff Roberts, one of the organizers of Saturday’s rally. “We really wanted to show the family support and let them know that they’re not alone. That Americans don’t turn their backs on them.” But there is a stark divide among the ranks over how to best remedy the plight of the cattle rancher. Some activists, such as Roberts, think the battle will be won through a deliberate public awareness campaign, rallies and town hall meetings. Others, including some armed militias, have another tact in mind: armed resistance. As Saturday’s rally concluded, a small subsection of attendees, led by Ammon Bundy, began launching into impromptu speeches and, to the horror of many of the rally’s primary organizers, declared that it was time for the group to take up arms. “Those who want to go take a hard stand, get in your trucks and follow me!” Bundy declared to the group at the conclusion of the event, according to several people who were in attendance. “We were just aghast,” Roberts said. “There were absolutely not 150 of them,” Roberts said Sunday morning. “He had a small handful of supporters, maybe a dozen. I saw them as they pulled out in their trucks.”...Washington Post