Saturday, January 16, 2016

Occupiers remove cameras, clash with conservationists

By Kelly House | The Oregonian/OregonLive 

 The morning news briefing that has become routine over the 15-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge descended into a shouting match Saturday, complete with a bullhorn and name-calling, after a trio of conservationists tried to speak.

The spectacle erupted just after occupiers arrived for the briefing with a wicker basket full of security cameras they said they'd removed at the behest of residents and accused the government of harassing their families.

"This in my opinion is unreasonable search," said LaVoy Finicum, referencing the Fourth Amendment as he held up one of the cameras he claimed had been installed by the FBI. He invited the agency to "come pick them up."

...Members of the Center for Biological Diversity, led by executive director KierĂ¡n Suckling, arrived for Saturday briefing carrying signs and waiting for an opening to speak against the seizure of the wildlife refuge 30 miles south of Burns.

 When Finicum finished, Suckling picked up the mic.

"The center has been tangling with the Bundys since the mid-1990s," Suckling said of the Arizona-based nonprofit, which claims more than 990,000 members and activists dedicated to protecting wild places and endangered species. But before he could finish, the occupiers started screaming and booing.

"We're here to speak up for public land, which belongs to the public," Suckling continued over the roar.

Police say man arrested in vehicle stolen from refuge

Oregon State Police arrested a man Friday they said was driving a government vehicle stolen from a wildlife refuge being occupied by an armed group protesting federal land policies. Kenneth Medenbach, 62, of Crescent was arrested at a grocery store in Burns for investigation of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, authorities said. It was unclear if he has a lawyer. According to federal court records Medenbach is already facing charges in U.S. District Court in Medford after authorities said he illegally camped on federal land between May and November last year. Authorities also say they recovered a second stolen vehicle from the refuge but provided no other details. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service previously reported the vehicles had been stolen. So far authorities have not tried to remove the group from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as the standoff hits the two-week mark. As it drags on, people in the high desert area are growing increasingly weary and wary of the group. Cement barriers have been erected to block streets around the county courthouse in the small eastern Oregon town of Burns, where police from around the state have set up a command center. About 30 miles to the south at the refuge, other protesters carrying what appear to be military-style rifles scan the snow-covered rangeland from atop an old fire lookout that gives them a sweeping view of roads leading into the area. "If we all keep a calm about us everything will be OK," Brenda Pointere said Thursday as she exited a Burns restaurant...more

Bundy bodyguard -- aka 'Fluffy Unicorn' -- arrested in Ariz.

A man who served as a bodyguard to Ammon Bundy during the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and to Cliven Bundy during his earlier standoff with the federal government was arrested this week by police near Phoenix. Brian Cavalier, 44, who was known on the Oregon refuge as "Booda Bear," was arrested Monday by municipal police after they discovered he had an outstanding warrant, the Buckeye Police Department said. Cavalier was a passenger in a "suspicious vehicle" that police pulled over, said Sgt. Jason Weeks, a spokesman for the department. The driver of the vehicle also had a warrant and was arrested, Weeks said. His name was not disclosed.  Cavalier was booked into the Maricopa County jail, where he was later released by a judge. Details on the warrant were not immediately available, but one source said it did not involve federal violations. An early participant in the Malheur occupation, the heavily tattooed and big-bellied Cavalier was often seen next to Ammon Bundy wearing earbuds, a Middle Eastern-style scarf and a pistol on his hip. The Daily Mail, a British newspaper, reported last week that Cavalier falsely claimed to be a retired Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. Marine Corps has no record of him serving. Cavalier left the Malheur refuge on Jan. 5, just a few days into the occupation, according to a report by Reuters reporters who were given access inside one of the buildings and described Cavalier as "head of security." One refuge occupier yesterday confirmed that Cavalier has not returned...more

Will Bundy and Co. go to jail?

As the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge rolls into its third week, many are asking whether justice will be served when the siege ends.

No one knows whether the group led by anti-federal crusader Ammon Bundy will leave the southeast Oregon refuge peacefully. The militants had planned to deliver a presentation this evening to Harney County residents about what they want to accomplish before heading home, but elected officials have barred them from using county facilities.

LaVoy Finicum, who is among the dozen or so who have occupied Malheur since Jan. 2, said yesterday he doubts the public meeting will take place.

Assuming the militants do eventually go home, will they face prosecution? And if so, what laws will they be accused of breaking?

The occupiers protesting the federal government's ownership of lands have possibly trespassed, stolen government property, torn down fences and carried firearms where they're not supposed to -- relatively small-time offenses that could add up to significant time in jail.

But any repercussions could be slow in coming.

...Advocates for public lands -- and the rule of law -- are growing increasingly frustrated by what they see as lax enforcement of laws designed to protect the environment and federal employees. Bundy's standoff is viewed as a victory by right-wing extremists who may see little risk in challenging the government's domain over 640 million acres of public lands.

After Malheur, critics wonder what's to stop them from seizing another refuge.

"You can expect a lot more of these," said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. "They can call it 'Militia McDonald's.' They could just franchise it."

Neither the FBI, which is leading the law enforcement response, nor the Justice Department have said anything substantive about the occupation or whether charges will be filed. Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward has told Oregon Public Broadcasting that the FBI has assured him the militants will "at some point face charges."

Two weeks in, the Oregon refuge standoff is stuck 'in limbo'


    The rancher arrived with the evening snowfall. He wore a white hat, a silk scarf and a face carved with Western credibility. The Bundy brothers were not expecting him, but they had a problem he thought he could help solve.
    On the one hand, their armed standoff, deep into its second week, had gained an air of stability. Over at the bunkhouse, pork and potato salad donated by a hay farmer were being served.
    A man whose military clothing had a patch that read "MILITIA" cleaned an antique Russian rifle. Another had put aside his assault weapon to strum a guitar and bellow something not complimentary of President Obama into a camera streaming live on YouTube. Hellboy, the horse that has become the standoff's unofficial mascot and irresistible camera bait, warmed in a stable.
    Across the compound, hunkered in the wildlife offices they have claimed as their headquarters, the Bundy brothers welcomed their visitor's assistance.
    "We're kind of in limbo," Ammon Bundy, the bearded leader of the occupation, told the rancher.
The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, where scores of bird species and other fauna live on nearly 200,000 acres, has become a different kind of refuge this winter — a place where the Bundys and the self-appointed militia protecting them have settled in but also appear increasingly confined.
    Bundy explained the problem: The media were portraying them as "gun-toting mean guys who are only here for ourselves." His solution: They want to go into the nearby town of Burns so they can talk directly to the people they say they are trying to protect from the federal government — the residents of Harney County.
    They also would explain why they have led an armed occupation of this remote refuge in southeast Oregon, he said, and outline the terms under which they would leave peacefully.
    The trouble is that the people of Harney County, at least through their elected leaders, including Judge Steven Grasty, the chairman of the county commission, have refused to allow the Bundys and their supporters to use the fairgrounds or any other county space. The Bundys had hoped to hold a meeting Friday but canceled because they had no place to meet.
    Although they took over a federal facility, they have been unable to command a county site.
    "How can I help?" the rancher asked the Bundys.
    "Get us a venue," they told him. "Get us a building."
    To hear the brothers tell it, the people would rally around their simple goal: transfer federal lands to local control. Let the county decide where ranchers can graze their cattle, where loggers can cut down trees, where farmers can draw water.
    In the end, Bundy said, "the county becomes the administrative body that has jurisdiction over all the public lands."
    As his brother, Ryan, put it: Make Harney "a federal-free county."
    The rancher is among those who like the idea, though he is not as optimistic it could happen.
    "I would go for a federal-free county, yes," he said. "Something will happen from this exposure we're getting."
    But what that something will be is hard to say. Local and federal officials haven't tried to force out the protesters, though they've asked them to vacate more than once. The occupiers have bivouacked here since Jan. 2 in a compound that includes offices, a bunkhouse and support buildings.
     The rancher with the silk scarf has been here since the 1960s and also grazes cattle on land adjacent to the refuge. He said he had seen ranching families give up under the burden of federal restrictions, including the Hammonds, the father and son from Harney County whose imprisonment for setting fire to federal lands is among the issues that brought the Bundys and others here.
    The rancher is active in the county and on a first-name basis with Grasty and the other commissioners. He agreed to let a reporter join his meeting with the Bundys on the condition that he not be identified.
    His idea to end the occupation: form a coalition between ranchers and local government — "15 to 20 men" — who "would mediate this thing."
    "We've got to take our country back, and this is the way we can do it," he said. "The government is not just going to give us the keys."

The Un-Bundys: Environmental Groups Plan Takeover of Federal Lands on South Spit

While the Bundy militia continues its divinely inspired defense of pocket-sized copies of the Constitution at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside of Burns (no relation), Ore., a tricorne alliance of local environmental groups is preparing its own takeover of federal land. The Mike Thompson Wildlife Area on Humboldt Bay’s South Spit is operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and these environmental activists plan to make a bold statement about that fact next week by storming the property and unleashing an onslaught of flowers and handshakes on federal employees. They might also “sing a song or two,” according to a press release issued today. Below you’ll find that joint press release, which comes from the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), the Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC) and Humboldt Baykeeper:

On Wednesday, January 20th, members of the public armed with only binoculars, an ample supply of snacks, and their love of public lands will take over the Mike Thompson Wildlife Area, located in the South Spit Cooperative Management Area. During this takeover, the public will enjoy the vast beauty of the Mike Thompson Wildlife Area, appreciate the foresight to put this land under public management, thank public employees with flowers and a hearty handshake for their good work, and maybe sing a song or two. The takeover will last for only about an hour, at which point the public will peacefully leave. All persons are welcome....more

Meet the Ragtag Coalition of Birders and Grannies Taking on Ammon Bundy

First it was the liberals and the talk show hosts, with their "yallqueda" jokes and USPS packages stuffed with dildos. Then the birders made their threats. Now, the grannies are here to tell the Bundys and their brethren to get out.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Behind the Harney County standoff, decades of economic decline

 By Molly Young

A deer leaps past the snow-dusted lumber mill, decommissioned years ago. Hay bales stored inside are an empty replacement for the hundreds of jobs the structure once held.

This remote expanse of southeast Oregon, now in the spotlight for a long anti-government standoff, was one of the most prosperous pockets of the state just 40 years ago. No place earned more money per resident in 1973 than Harney County.

All of that changed within a generation. The decline of the timber industry felled the mill, then the regional economy. Timber supported a third of the county's employment base in the 1970s. It now accounts for virtually none.

At the recession's height in 2009, unemployment hit 17 percent, the second highest rate in the state. Two-thirds of the county's children qualified for free and reduced lunch prices in 2012. Young people who leave for college often never return. Today, Harney County is one of the few in Oregon whose population is shrinking.

"It was actually a pretty exciting little town when the mills were going," said Ty Morris, who has lived in the small town of Burns for 32 years, most of his life. He now cuts hair and rents a chair at a barber shop on the county seat's North Broadway Avenue.

"The mills went out," he said, "and Burns died."

The county's long economic slide helps explain the bitterness that fuels sympathy with the causes espoused by militants at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, if not their tactics.

Desert ranching is one of few industries an environment as harsh as Harney County's has been able to sustain, and many residents say federal overreach threatens the future of this fragile bright spot.

...The community's hard feelings toward government are rooted in four decades of economic upheaval, which many blame on changing federal regulations that limited timber harvests.

Oregon Office of Economic Analysis officials say lumberyards and logging in the Malheur National Forest, which straddles the county's northern boundary, supported nearly 800 jobs in 1978. Hundreds of people worked at the Edward Hines Lumber Co., a lumberyard so vital to Harney County that the nearest town was named after it.

A buzzing local business sector grew around the timber industry. Big-name retailers such as JCPenney and Sears competed for customers, Cupernall said. The county's per capita income consistently ranked among the highest statewide in the 1970s.

"So much was driven by the mill, and they made good salaries," said Marjorie Thelen, a writer and researcher who retired east of Burns seven years ago.

The timber industry's decline began in the 1980s and continued into the 1990s when new federal policies limited harvests and increased conservation measures statewide.

Yet Harney County makes a paradoxical stage for activists seeking to limit the federal government's role in land management. Nearly half of the county's jobs -- 45 percent -- are on public payrolls. No other county in 2013 derived a greater share of wages from the government than Harney County, said Josh Lehner, an economist who has researched rural Oregon for his job at the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis. The federal government's role is particularly large. It accounts for 12 percent of jobs but 20 percent of all wages earned outside of farms. "If you take federal away, you might as well finish making us a ghost town," said Jan Cupernall, of Burns, who sits on the local historical society board.

Is this their model for the rural West? Federal dominance or a ghost town? It must be, for this is what federal policies have brought to many areas.

Community meeting with Ammon Bundy called off for lack of venue

A meeting where armed protesters occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge planned to announce their exit strategy has been called off for want of a venue. "Our county judge has blocked our path," said Travis Williams, a Drewsey rancher on the Harney County Committee of Safety. "We're working on that right now. We will be having one soon, but we do not know when or where." The meeting was planned Friday night at the Harney County fairgrounds, but officials denied their request to use the spot. County commissioner Steven Grasty said Wednesday that the county won't let any group affiliated with the occupiers use its property. Members of the committee said the county has no right to deny use of the building because its leaders disagree with the group. They're considering legal action, saying the denial infringes on their rights under the First Amendment. A statement published on the committee's website states that it could file an action against Harney County for those violations. The statement goes on to say that the county can't block use of public facilities "as long as we follow the normal process."...more

There Will Be Blood: What Ammon Bundy’s fight has to do with the future of U.S. energy

...The efforts to free up federal land, including some by those in Congress, have mostly been symbolic so far, and would likely meet with a veto from Obama were they to make it that far. However they provide a useful talking point for Republicans trying to cater to the far-right base of their party.

Whether drilling on these near-pristine lands is appropriate or not is something BLM will be forced to consider more closely in the future. The bureau is receiving strong resistance to drilling from environmentalists and the “Keep it in the Ground” movement, both of which are concerned about the role fossil fuels play in climate change.

...According to Marissa Knodel with the climate and energy team at Friends of the Earth, a justice-minded environmental group, it’s becoming increasingly clear that more drilling, fracking, and polluting on public lands is not in the public interest.

Knodel said BLM has a “huge role to play” in stopping leases that will lock the United States into both a future dependent upon fossil fuel infrastructure, such as pipelines, as well as preventing further increases in greenhouse gas emissions. These are both key aspects in mitigating climate change as burning all the fossil fuels already leased worldwide would emit enough emissions into the atmosphere to raise temperatures by 2 degrees Celsius—the point at which the impacts of climate change will become catastrophic, according to scientists.

The climate action group has done the math: In order to stay below 2 degrees warming, we can emit 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide over the foreseeable future. If corporations burned all the fossil fuels currently in their reserves, it would release 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide, five times that amount.

Trump Campaign Official Praises ‘Great Success’ Of Bundy Standoff

I have a lot in common with the Bundys. Here's what I'd like to say to them.

by Chris Dempsey

Like the Bundy brothers now illegally occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, I'm a lifelong rural Westerner, and I believe that if I were to talk with them, we'd most likely find we have a lot in common. 

There's the way our lives were shaped by the land, for instance. I was born in Nevada, and I grew up and now live in southwestern Idaho. Though my family worked as carpenters, we lived on small farms where we raised cows and grew hay for the winter. Like the Bundys and many of their allies, I come from hard working, blue-collar folks.

From them I learned to love the land, especially the Northwestern high desert. I've hunted the uplands of eastern Oregon from Juntura to Rome, and from Leslie Gulch to the Imnaha. Much of that country is open range where cattle graze. Thanks to ranchers, I've watered my bird dogs at troughs where ranchers had enhanced a spring, benefitting both cattle and wildlife.

I imagine that if the Bundys and I sat down over coffee, we'd start trading stories about our early years. Pretty quickly, though, our differences would emerge. They'd insist that taking over a wildlife refuge is speaking for "the people" – Westerners frustrated by the federal government. I couldn't let that stand.

I'd respond by saying: That wildlife refuge you're occupying belongs to me and to 320 million other Americans. You are trespassing, taking advantage of the hospitality and tolerance of the rest of the American people. You are abusing the rights you so readily invoke by occupying the refuge indefinitely. I would remind you that you are free to stay a maximum of 14 days, because that is the camping limit in most places, and it was put in place so that everyone can share the land.

That wildlife refuge you're occupying belongs to me and to 320 million other Americans.

And therein lies the problem. Go try to manage anything that has 320 million owners, each claiming an equal right to have a say in how it is managed.  Just try it.  Go "collaborate" with 320 million owners. 

Armed occupiers promise plan to leave refuge, but signal longer stay

As the armed occupation of a Harney County wildlife refuge drags into its 13th day, protesters are sending mixed signals about their plans. On one hand, Ammon Bundy and his followers who have taken over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge planned to announce their exit strategy to the community Friday. But they've also contacted nearby sheriffs and other officials looking for support. They've accumulated a large stash of food and supplies after making pleas to supporters online. And at a daily press briefing Thursday, Bundy held forth on the subject of patience, saying he believed the continued presence of the occupiers was giving the county residents courage and hope. "This hope is building and it's a slow process," Bundy said. "We know it has to happen now. We know this is the place, Harney County, and that these are the people." He didn't offer an update on his plans, nor on the the planned meeting where he previously said he would announce plans to leave. Bundy and his affiliates are still seeking a place to hold the meeting after the county government said it couldn't be held at the county fairgrounds. Protesters have indicated they would decamp if county residents wanted them to leave. At past community meetings, many people have been vocal in asking Bundy and the others to go home...more

Harney County won't host community meeting with Bundy as headliner

Harney County has told an Ammon Bundy-affiliated group of locals that it can't hold a planned community meeting at the county-owned fairgrounds. The location for the meeting has become a wedge between the Harney County Committee of Safety and the county government, once loosely allied in their desire for Bundy to leave town. The self-appointed committee planned to host Bundy and Montana militia leader Ryan Payne on Friday to outline the militants' exit plan. They've said the 7 p.m. meeting will go on, with or without a meeting space furnished by the county or another community group...more

Oregon occupiers call for common law grand jury

Ammon Bundy, the man leading a group of armed protesters who have taken over a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, called Wednesday for a common law grand jury to examine what he called violations of the U.S. Constitution. He said officials in Harney County, including Judge Steve Grasty, have failed to protect the citizens of the county. Bundy wants the county to allow for a common law jury, outside of the court system, to hear evidence against the judge and others. Earlier Wednesday, a spokesman for a self-proclaimed common law judge said a grand jury could form within a week and hold a trial. Michael Emory said the judge would act in a supervisory role, and the citizens in the jury would decide if officials should be arrested...more

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Oregon Fire Chief Resigns, Sides With Bundy Brothers (video)

Harney County, Oregon, fire chief Chris Briels resigned on Jan. 13 based on his distrust of the local government and his belief that FBI agents are going undercover near the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which Ammon Bundy's militia has illegally occupied since Jan. 2 (video below). Briels held a press conference with Bundy and said he gave his resignation to county Judge Steve Grasty, KATU reports. Briels recalled joining the Community Committee for Public Safety, which has said it may fight for local ranchers' land rights after Bundy's militia leaves. “I’ve been told by [Grasty] to distance myself from this committee of public safety," Briels said. "I’ve been told that we don’t know what we’re doing. I’ve been told that my life is in danger. I’ve been told all kinds of things. I will not be told what to do. I have my own mind, and I will use my own mind, not somebody else’s.” Briels then recalled confronting some strangers at the local armory and taking pictures of their vehicles, but not being allowed to see the county sheriff about the incident. Briels said he was told to call 911, but called dispatch instead, which ran the license plates that "came back to undercover FBI agents."...more

Here's a video from the press conference:

Back To The Gym — Feds Pay For Shrimp To Hit The Treadmills Again!

Shrimp will once again run on a treadmill at taxpayers’ expense. A National Science Foundation funded-experiment that tested how sickness impaired shrimp mobility by putting the crustaceans on a treadmill made an uproar in the media and in Congress nearly five years ago. Yet the NSF has once again given tax dollars to the same researchers to put the would-be seafood on a cardiovascular workout regime. NSF awarded $761,978 to the College of Charleston on Jan. 6, 2012 to investigate “how high levels of carbon dioxide in coastal waters interfere with the health of shrimp and crab species,” NSF spokeswoman Jessica Arriens told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “This will help us understand how these animals – important both ecologically and economically – can adapt to environmental change.”...more

Cuomo pledges New York will be coal-free by 2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants his state to be coal-free by 2020. The Democrat made the declaration in his State of the State address Wednesday, announcing he wants his state's three remaining coal plants to be closed or shifted to renewable energy by 2020. The coal plants account for 4 percent of New York's energy, and one plant is already scheduled to close this year. Cuomo said public health is the top priority. "We will help the few remaining coal plants transition, but we must clean our air and protect our health and that must be our first priority," Cuomo said. Cuomo announced an energy plan in December that sets the goal of a 40 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector by 2030. Cuomo also wants 50 percent of the state's electricity to come from renewable energy by 2030. Among the commitments Cuomo has made to renewable energy is installing 150,000 new solar panels and 300 new wind turbines and converting all State University of New York campuses to renewable energy by 2020...more

EPA ‘Lost’ Two Years Worth Of Emails For Employee Who Colluded To Kill Pebble Mine

by Michael Bastasch

Government investigators looking into the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rejection of the Pebble Mine project found 25 months of missing emails from the account of an employee who allegedly played a major role in derailing a crucial Alaska mine project.

The EPA inspector general (IG) found that former EPA employee Phil North was using his private email account to help Alaskan tribes opposed to the Pebble Mine project in Bristol Bay draft a letter urging the government to take unprecedented measures to kill the project.

“This action was a possible misuse of position,” according to an IG report released Wednesday. “Agency employees must remain impartial in dealings with outside parties, particularly those that are considering petitioning or have petitioned the agency to take action on a matter.”

Investigators also noted, “Region 10 identified 25 months of missing emails for the retired employee that overlapped with the 52-month time period of our review” which hampered the IG’s ability to fully examine all of North’s government emails.

But that’s not all. Investigators were also unable to get a hold of North’s private email account which he used to coordinate with Pebble Mine opposition. The IG reported that “despite issuing a subpoena, we were unable to obtain additional personal emails for the retired employee.”

What’s most startling is that the IG’s subpoena failed to get North’s private emails because the former EPA ecologist fled the country shortly after congressional investigators issued a subpoena for him to be deposed in 2013. He was last spotted in Australia.

New Mexico is 1st to issue plans to sue EPA over mine spill

New Mexico plans to sue the federal government and the owners of two Colorado mines that were the source of a massive spill last year that contaminated rivers in three Western states, officials said Thursday. The New Mexico Environment Department said it filed a notice of its intention to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the spill, becoming the first to do so. The lawsuit also would target the state of Colorado and the owners of the Gold King and Sunnyside Mines. An EPA cleanup crew accidentally unleashed millions of gallons of contaminated wastewater in August at the inactive Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado. It fouled rivers in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico with contaminants including arsenic and lead, temporarily shutting down drinking-water supplies and raising concerns about long-term effects to agriculture. The New Mexico regulators said they will sue if the EPA does not begin to take meaningful measures to clean up the affected areas and agree to a long-term plan that will research and monitor the effects of the spill. “From the very beginning, the EPA failed to hold itself accountable in the same way that it would a private business,” said Ryan Flynn, state Environment Department cabinet secretary. The federal agency is reviewing New Mexico’s plans to sue, spokeswoman Christie St. Clair said...more

Eastern Oregon officials worried protest could migrate, occupiers visit neighboring sheriff

By Sean Hart

Members of the armed group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge traveled to John Day Tuesday to ask the Grant County sheriff to join their cause.

He declined, but county commissioners throughout Eastern Oregon have discussed the possibility that the protest could “migrate” elsewhere in the region.

Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer said three members of the militia asked him to travel to Harney County, but he refused to do so without the approval of the Harney County sheriff. Palmer would not say whether he agreed with the occupation, but described those participating as “patriots.”

“I think it’s brought some things to light that might not have otherwise got the attention that they did,” he said of the occupation. “I do believe that the resolution and solution to the way this is going to be handled, if it’s handled properly, could have a long-lasting effect on our county as well.”

Palmer said any positive outcome, however, would require the government to make some concessions.
“I believe the government is going to have to concede to something,” he said. “I don’t think these guys are going to give up without knowing that they’ve done something that benefits the people of our country or our region.”

...Palmer said he has spoken to Harney County Sheriff David Ward and told him he would not interfere without permission. Palmer said he has “a pretty good working relationship” with the sheriff from the neighboring county.

Palmer said, however, that he was not willing to excoriate the occupation either.

“About the only thing (Ward) really told me is I’m welcome to come down there if I would shame and humiliate them into giving up and I said, ‘No, I won’t do that,”’ Palmer said. “I’m not in the business of denouncing or shaming or humiliating anybody.”


Tension between ranchers and federal officials is dangerously high in Nevada

byContact Reporter

Gerald "Jerry" Smith grew up in Nevada and went to work for the Bureau of Land Management right after college. As a local, he figured he was uniquely suited to work with the ranchers who have long resented the federal government's role in land management here.

It didn't quite work out that way.

Now retired from a job as district manager for the BLM, Smith knows all about the tensions that have long defined relations between ranchers in the rural West and the federal government, which manages much of the region's land. Those tensions have boiled over in recent days at a wildlife refuge in Oregon and are at a perpetual simmer here.

Now it is Smith's successor as district manager, Doug Furtado, who has become the enemy for many people in the region.

Although there have been no violence or threats here, the risk is real. Federal employees in Nevada have been attacked in the past over land-use disputes — shot at, their offices and cars bombed.

"We got to live in this community," said Smith, who supervised, trained and still hunts with Furtado in this community where many carry concealed handguns. "All these issues, none of them are worth dying over. I worry about that — so does Doug."

Just off the interstate leading into this northern Nevada town of about 3,600 ringed by the snow-capped peaks of the Shoshone and Sheep Creek ranges, protesting ranchers pitched their "Cowboy Grass Camp" on a muddy roadside across from the gray stucco ranch house that serves as the BLM's district office.

Two white tepees flapped in the wind last week beside a canvas tent sometimes occupied by the ranchers, who tend their cattle on nearby spreads passed down through generations. They tacked hand-lettered red, white and blue signs to a nearby metal ranch gate urging drivers to "Support ranchers," "Protect grazing, water rights" and "Honk to impeach Furtado!"

"I lay on it when I go by," said rancher Eddyann Filippini, 59. "You do what you got to do when the devil's got the sword to your throat."

Furtado, district manager for the last five years, listens to the honking from inside his office. He is no longer allowed to speak publicly and was recently forced to back off on drought-driven grazing restrictions he imposed in 2013 and cede control of negotiations with ranchers to the state director.

Park Service Perverts Groped Female Colleagues, Got Wrist Slaps

Grand Canyon District National Parks Service male staffers withheld food from female coworkers who declined their sexual advances, groped them, and took photos under their dresses, according to a new Department of Interior Office of Inspector General report. Park Service managers rarely disciplined the offenders, despite a “long-term pattern of sexual harassment and hostile work environment” over the last 13 years, the IG said. When offenders were disciplined, they received suspensions varying from five to 30 days. Grand Canyon River District supervisors often failed to investigate or report the incidents, and senior local Park Service managers compromised the privacy of alleged victims by circulating internals emails containing their names and complaints to too many staff members. Park Service officials in New Mexico also hired a former Grand Canyon district employee who resigned amid sexual harassment and misconduct allegations...more

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Exclusive tour - 'We may be breaking codes, but not supreme law of the land' - Bundy

On the 10th day of an armed standoff on federal property near Burns, Oregon, the leader of a rancher militia, Ammon Bundy, said he and his supporters “are breaking codes and regulations, but we are not breaking the supreme law of the land.”

RT’s Simone Del Rosario took a tour around the Malheur National Wildlife Preserve with Bundy, who led militia members and anti-government activists in a takeover on January 2. They believe that the federal ownership of the land is unconstitutional and that it should belong to the local community.

Bundy says that people are left with the choice of either obeying the government-imposed codes or making the government follow the US Constitution.

His group, which came up with the name "Citizens for Constitutional Freedom" (CCF) after repeated media queries, is not lacking in resources, despite what some have assumed. There are offices, bunkhouses, workshops and a mess hall stocked with plenty of food.

One conference room, where CCF meets with locals or the militia-aligned "Committee of Safety," is also used for storing federal government documents. Bundy admits to poring over files detailing how the feds interact with each other as well as neighboring ranchers.

“We always put everything back in where they’re supposed to go, but we’re definitely looking through and seeking for different things, like, you know, how did they take so-and-so’s water rights away and kind of what their perception of those things are,” Bundy said.

While it is not clear exactly how many people are occupying the federal grounds, the passion of many is undeniable. James Stanton, a disabled and retired Navy diver from Ft. Sumner, New Mexico, arrived with a heartfelt gift for Bundy. Stanton’s old Navy uniform jacket symbolizes his past military service, and was dedicated to Bundy.

For Bundy, it’s an example of “what’s happening across the country.”

“I don’t think people would be here if they did not see that there is truly a problem, and that if they did not have hope that we could resolve it, and that’s what we’re doing here,” Bundy said.

Here's the RT news report:

'Every gun in house is loaded' -- scare tactics rattle residents near Oregon occupation

The evening was supposed to be a prelude to Christmas for a local pastor and his family, but now more than three weeks later, they keep their curtains closed, doors locked and a sharp lookout for the strangers who haunted their holidays that night. Fear of the militants occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and roaming the communities of Burns and Hines sits like a heavy winter fog over the area. More than a dozen local residents have reported to authorities that they were harassed in the weeks leading up to the occupation and in the days since. Different trucks, SUVs and other vehicles — most with out-of-state licenses — have followed the residents. Four of the people who filed reports agreed to share their accounts with The Oregonian/OregonLive only if their names and identifying information were withheld because they feared further harassment. Law enforcement sources confirmed each had reported the episodes. Jason Patrick of the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, the self-styled militia at the refuge, said Tuesday the group had no role in any intimidation. "It's never been us," he said. "It would serve no purpose."...more

Armed Oregon occupiers to reveal departure plans

The armed group that took over a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon more than a week ago will host a community meeting Friday to explain its position and announce when it will leave, one of the leaders of the group said, according to local media. The meeting will take place Friday at 7 p.m. PST,KTVZ-TV reported. It comes against a backdrop of growing resentment among residents of Burns, Ore., to the group, which arrived Jan. 2. There were no signs of an imminent departure, however. "There should be a dialogue," LaVoy Finicum, a rancher from Arizona, said Tuesday while announcing the meeting, The Oregonian reported. It was not immediately clear where the gathering would be held.

video - Oregon militant throws tantrum about hate mail pkgs. (including dildos)

From The Oregonian:

The self-styled patriots holed up in Burns sent out a plea for snacks and supplies, and America responded. But many of the care packages landing at the commandeered Malheur Wildlife Refuge headquarters aren't exactly giving aid and comfort to the armed anti-government protesters. Certainly, sex toys and a bag of gelatin ... ahem, male body parts weren't what they had in mind.

Here's the video:

video - Colbert Mocks Bundy Militia’s Begging for Supplies to Sustain ‘Revolution’

During last night’s The Late Show, Stephen Colbert took aim once again at Ammon Bundy‘s peacefully-armed ‘militia’ as they continue their two-week takeover of an Oregon federal wildlife refuge. Throughout their occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the armed mob has been sending out calls asking outsiders to join them, and for others to send “food or supplies or anything” to keep them going until their demands are met. Colbert specifically pointed to an email sent from Bundy’s mother, showing the mob has sent out a grocery list that definitely asks for more than what is strictly necessary. After moving past requests for food, Colbert went over how their list asks for luxuries like cigarettes and hair care products. “It’s one thing to face off against the jackbooted thugs of the tyrannical government, (but) it’s another to have to fight the frizzies,” Colbert said. This was just the tip of the iceberg though, for Colbert half-assumed they were turning the place into a bed and breakfast by also asking for items like pillows, bed sheets, throw rugs, and French vanilla creamer. “It’s just like Patrick Henry said at the Boston Tea Party: ‘Give me French vanilla or give me hazelnut — they’re both yummy,” Colbert declared sarcastically...more

Here's the video from The Late Show

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

Self-appointed 'judge' arrives in Burns to ask local residents to charge government officials with crimes

A self-proclaimed "U.S. Superior Court judge" who has been involved in past property rights protests in other states arrived Tuesday in Burns with plans to convene an extra-legal "citizens grand jury" that he said will review evidence that public officials may have committed crimes. Bruce Doucette, a 54-year-old owner of a computer design and repair shop in suburban Denver, told The Oregonian/OregonLive, that he made the trip at the request of Harney County residents. He said he met with the armed occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to hear their evidence, which he called "significant," that government officials have committed crimes. But he declined to say which officials or which crimes they discussed and said a privately appointed "grand jury" of Harney County residents, not he as a self-appointed judge, would decide whether to charge anyone with a crime. "The grand jury will convene in private and make its decisions in private," Doucette said. "The role of a superior court judge is not very glorified. All we do is write up" what the local citizens decide, he said. Doucette's entry into the fray and claim to special Constitutional powers is the latest in a 11-day drama that has drawn a series of attention-seeking, Constitution-citing characters who say they can help Harney County residents solve their problems with federal restrictions on use of public lands...more

Burr, Bundy and the West

By Gene Fischer

Aaron Burr and Ammon Bundy are very different men whose narratives have one thing in common.
They both attempted to incite armed rebellion in the American west, and in the process exposed Jeffersonian principles about the rights of men to rebel against their government to the light of day.

Aaron Burr was from the generation of the American Revolution, serving an as officer in the Continental Army. After the war he became a New York lawyer of considerable talent and a politician in that state. He reached the height of his career when he served as Thomas Jefferson’s vice-president during his first term. However, he was dropped as vice-president in part because of his killing of Alexander Hamilton during a duel. He had been charged with murder, but was acquitted.

Out of favor with official Washington, Aaron Burr developed a plan to create his own “empire,” an empire that included part of the Louisiana Territory in the new west. Burr planned to ally himself with men who “favored a separation of the western states from the Atlantic states.”  Burr’s military action fell apart before it started, and he was eventually arrested in February of 1807 on the Tombigbee River, in present day Alabama.

He was tried for treason, but was acquitted in a trial heard by Chief Justice John Marshall.

Will comment on this and similar tactics later.

New Mexico is #1 in natural gas wasted on public lands

By Kent Salazar

...When methane is released into the air through venting, burned off through flaring, or lost through leaky equipment, oil and gas companies are taking and wasting our resource—a finite one. And that is unconscionable. In 2014 alone, New Mexico’s oil and gas producers reported wasting more than 180,000 metric tons of methane—enough to heat more than 168,000 homes each year. It’s largely avoidable, which makes it even more unacceptable and disrespectful to future generations that will have to deal with the consequences of this waste.

Venting and flaring is not only wasteful from a moral perspective, but it is also costing the people of this state millions each year. A report commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund found that New Mexico ranks number 1 in lost natural gas—an estimated $100 million worth of gas is lost each year. That means New Mexicans are missing out on millions of dollars in income from lost royalties and taxes that could have gone to things like schools and infrastructure.

180,000 metric tons of methane each year going up into the air is even more serious when you think about the costs it has on our health. Alongside methane, oil and gas operations release toxic pollutants such as benzene as well as volatile organic compounds that create smog which harms lungs— increasing asthma attacks, aggravating lung diseases, making the lungs more susceptible to infection, creating lung scar tissue, and much more.

We informed you of  the EDF study and NM's ranking in June of last year.  Not surprising, especially if you remember this from December of 2014.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Excerpts From Obama's SOTU - No threats, Just Climate Change

Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.

But even if the planet wasn’t at stake; even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record — until 2015 turned out even hotter — why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future?

Seven years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history. Here are the results. In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power. On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal — in jobs that pay better than average. We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy — something environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support. Meanwhile, we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly sixty percent, and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.

Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either.

Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from dirty energy. Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future — especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels. That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet. That way, we put money back into those communities and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.

None of this will happen overnight, and yes, there are plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo. But the jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, and the planet we’ll preserve — that’s the kind of future our kids and grandkids deserve.

Climate change is just one of many issues where our security is linked to the rest of the world. And that’s why the third big question we have to answer is how to keep America safe and strong without either isolating ourselves or trying to nation-build everywhere there’s a problem.

...American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world — except when we kill terrorists; or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling. Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right. It means seeing our foreign assistance as part of our national security, not charity. When we lead nearly 200 nations to the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change — that helps vulnerable countries, but it also protects our children.

Who's who inside and on the outskirts of the Malheur occupation

by Tay Wiles and Jonathan Thompson

The armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon is now on its tenth day and is showing no immediate signs of letting up. The occupiers, led by Ammon Bundy, have demanded that the federal government hand over the refuge to the citizens of Harney County. Bundy’s actions reflect the decades-long Sagebrush Rebellion tradition in which ranchers, miners and other land users have sparred with federal agencies over how public lands are managed. Many of Bundy’s fellow occupiers at Malheur are members of militia groups who are new to the rebellion, but who share a constitutionalist, right-wing ideology.

For several days, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been present at an ad hoc staging area at the Burns Municipal Airport. The agency has been mum about its activities other than that it is monitoring the situation.

Last week, Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward met in person with Ammon Bundy to ask him and the group of occupiers to leave the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, but those conversations appear to have had few actionable results.

This past weekend, a group of four militiamen from around the Pacific Northwest visited Bundy at the refuge, the FBI staging area, and Sheriff Ward, in what they say is an attempt to end the current stalemate and promote dialogue. Below here are the key players.

Oregon occupation planned for months by Ammon Bundy and Montana militia leader

By Carli Brosseau

It may have looked spontaneous, but the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge a week ago was part of a plan Ammon Bundy and a trusted associate developed largely in secret over the past two months.

Bundy, the son of controversial Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, and Ryan Payne, a militia leader from Montana, came to believe that an armed occupation was the only way to bring enough attention to a pair of local ranchers heading to prison and change the underlying problem: federal land ownership.
Even as a wider network of anti-government groups and community members rejected taking action stronger than holding a public rally, Bundy and Payne privately strategized an occupation they felt was necessary to spread their message.

The Oregonian/OregonLive conducted dozens of interviews with Bundy, Payne, their supporters and federal officials that show how the leaders worked parallel tracks. They encouraged local organizers to plan a peaceful rally to back the ranchers -- Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son, Steven Hammond -- while they scoped out potential sites for a takeover.

Bundy and Payne were calculating and charismatic. The Hammonds' plight hit at the heart of their belief system. As Payne cased several federal offices in Burns and visited the refuge on multiple occasions, Bundy spent his time interviewing the Hammonds and pulling court files associated with their case.

Their presence in Burns, and the growing support for the Hammonds online, rattled the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service enough that it began making safety arrangements for its 17 employees at the refuge -- a horseshoe-shaped bird sanctuary that surrounds the Hammonds' ranch. A photo of Payne was posted in a refuge building for workers to be on the lookout.

But still no one appeared to know specifically about a planned occupation -- not the FBI, not Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward, not the Hammond rally organizers.

Bundy-led Oregon standoff a mixed bag for Western federal lands crusade


The Bundy-led occupation unfolding in rural Oregon may have delivered a public relations blow to the lawful effort to loosen the federal government’s grip on Western lands, but in one key respect, the protest may also be helping.

Even as the group led by rancher Ammon Bundy comes under criticism for the takeover of a federal building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, there’s no denying that the standoff with law enforcement has heightened the profile outside the rural West of the often-ignored public lands debate.

“I’d like to think it’s hurting their cause, but it is raising public attention,” said Randal O'Toole, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and former forester who lives near Bend, Oregon.

The issue received front-page treatment Monday in The New York Times, which hasn’t shown that kind of interest in the public lands debate since the last Bundy-led protest in 2014: the standoff between Cliven Bundy, Ammon Bundy’s father, with federal agents over his refusal to pay up in a dispute over about $1 million in grazing fees.

As to whether the armed protesters locked in a low-key standoff with law enforcement at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters will ultimately harm their cause, “time will tell,” said Mr. O'Toole.

Nobody is more closely associated with the federal lands issue than Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory, the West Jordan Republican who leads the American Lands Council. After three sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and others took over the unoccupied building Jan. 2 near Burns, Oregon, Mr. Ivory condemned the action.

“A modern day Shays’ rebellion is NOT the way to solve fed abuse, overreach and mismgmt of public lands,” Mr. Ivory said on Twitter.

At the same time, Mr. Ivory, who has pushed for state legislation to start the process of transferring lands to the states, said he understands what motivates such protests, citing the “deep frustration” over the federal government’s vast property holdings.

About 50 percent of the land west of the Rocky Mountains is federally owned, versus about 5 percent of the land east of that.

“You’ve got bureaucrats thousands of miles away that put policy over people. They put politics over the health and welfare of the land,” Mr. Ivory said Monday in an interview with The Washington Times. “To the extent that we’re having a national dialogue on that, it’s a very positive thing. But the solution is education, legislation, litigation.”

The occupiers themselves have been compared to terrorists and tagged with sarcastic nicknames like “Y’all Qaeda” and “Vanilla ISIS” on social media.

In a Jan. 5 op-ed, The Oregonian newspaper dismissed the group as a “flock of loons,” but the liberal-leaning paper also said that “the frustration of rural Oregonians with federal land management is understandable.”

US Attorney Misleads Constituents About Feds Treatment Of Oregon Ranchers

The Acting-U.S. Attorney for Oregon insists the federal government is not treating Dwight and Steven Hammond as terrorists, although the same attorney’s office used a law explicitly intended to deter terrorists to file an appeal to stiffen their sentences, sending the 73-year-old man and his son back to prison for five years. Dwight and Steven were convicted in 2012 of committing arson on federal land, a crime for which the sentence is a mandatory minimum of five years in prison as a result of an anti-terrorism law passed in 1996. But the U.S. District Judge regarded a five year sentence as unconstitutionally harsh in the Hammond’s case, and sentenced Dwight to three months in prison and Steven to two years in prison.  The statement leaves out the fact that an anti-terrorism law is the sole reason the Hammonds have been sentenced to another five years in prison each. The U.S. District Judge originally imposed a lighter sentence on the Hammonds exactly because they were not charged or convicted of terrorism or any crime he viewed as deserving of five years in prison.
A spokeswoman for Williams told The Daily Caller News Foundation the attorney stands by his statement saying the government did not treat or consider the Hammonds as terrorists...more

How the media was tricked by an Ammon Bundy parody Twitter account

The man who convinced dozens of media outlets that he was the occupying rancher Ammon Bundy with nothing more than a parody Twitter account is a 35-year old West Texan man who earns a living, at least in part, by raising chickens and goats. “I got goats in the background,” he told The Post in a Friday morning phone interview, speaking in a Southern drawl. Soon after, as if on cue, the interview was interrupted by a loud bleating noise. @Ammon_Bundy is not the real Ammon Bundy, who says he does not have a Twitter account. But the account was quoted and mentioned for days in news articles and cable broadcasts about the armed occupation of a portion of federal land in Oregon. “The Saint” registered the parody account in the earliest hours of Jan. 3, when he began tweeting a couple of real quotes that Bundy had given media. Within hours, his friends told him that they saw the account appear during a CNN broadcast — attributed to Bundy himself. “I was like ‘woah.’ I didn’t really expect anything to happen like that. That was not my intention,” he said. Soon after, reporters began reaching out to the parody account, expecting to reach Bundy through it. It was at that point that he decided to see how far he could go until someone caught on that the account was fake — that happened Wednesday morning...more

Oregon sheriff accuses armed protesters of intimidating federal employees

An Oregon sheriff accused members of a small, armed group occupying a national wildlife refuge of attempting to intimidate federal employees and law enforcement officers. Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward told a community meeting Monday night that officers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife employees have reported being followed to their homes and observed while inside and that self-identified "militia members" have tried to engage them in debates about their status as federal employees. Ward said law enforcement at every level "will not be intimidated from doing their jobs", telling community members, "there's an hour glass and it's running out," The Oregonian reported...more

Monday, January 11, 2016

Senate Sponsors Of Anti-Terror Law Silent On Feds Using It Against Oregon Ranchers

Senators who co-sponsored a 1996 anti-terrorism and death penalty law used by federal prosecutors to put two Oregon ranchers convicted of arson back in prison, won’t say whether or not this is a misuse of a law meant to fight terrorism. The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to several lawmakers who co-sponsored the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 to see if they thought it was being appropriately used to put ranchers, not terrorists, in jail after already serving prison time. Despite having days to respond, three of the four current and former senators wouldn’t reply to TheDCNF. Only former Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl responded to TheDCNF’s request, but only did so to say he was declining to comment on whether or not the terrorist law was being misused. The anti-terrorist act was introduced by then-Sen. Bob Dole in the 1990s to fight terrorism and create an effective death penalty, but it’s now being used to lockup two Oregon ranchers for arson on federally-owned land. The ranchers are by no means terrorists, and their re-incarceration sparked militiamen to take over a building on federal lands. The bill had eight co-sponsors, four of whom TheDCNF reached out to for comment. Reporters sought comment from Kyl, former Oklahoma Republican Sen. Don Nickles, and current Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a Republican, and Dianne Feinstein of California, a Democrat...more

Former Interior Secretary Salazar: Bundys 'out of touch' on lands issues

Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the Bundys, who are at the center of a 10-day siege of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon, don't represent the views of Western residents and are merely jockeying for attention. "The Bundys and those who sympathize with them are far out of touch with most folks living in the West. By and large Westerners do not agree with the policies or sentiments being advocated in Oregon," Salazar said in a Monday teleconference. "Bundy and his ilk are just squeaky wheels getting the grease." Salazar, a Colorado native who was a U.S. senator and served as Interior secretary from 2008 to 2013, spoke to 2016 poll results on public lands issues released by the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project. The annual Conservation in the West survey — which included Nevada residents for the first time — tapped opinions of 400 registered voters in seven Western states, including Utah. Salazar said the showdown at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside of Burns, Oregon, led by Ammon Bundy — son of Cliven Bundy who had an armed confrontation with the federal government over ranching — does not reflect top concerns among residents of Western states. "What Westerners are actually concerned about is drought and water scarcity, our dependence on foreign oil, climate change and the outdoor recreation economy. Westerners want our public lands to stay public," he said...more

Oregon Democrat: Obama Admin to Blame for Bundy Standoff

Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon, said that the Obama administration’s “abject failure” to enforce the law has led to the current standoff at a wildlife refuge in his state. DeFazio blamed the administration for the standoff at Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in recent comments to a local Portland radio station, BuzzFeed first reported. “I think one of the most interesting analysis I’d seen was done by the Southern Poverty Law Center,” DeFazio said. “And they said the abject failure of the Obama administration to enforce the law against Cliven Bundy and backing down under threats of violence, prosecuting no one, not collecting the fees, not removing his illegal grazing, has greatly emboldened and caused a proliferation of militia movements and I would say this pretty much a direct result of that.” “So this time, they need to enforce the law,” DeFazio said...more

Ammon Bundy and the Paradoxes of Mormon Political Theologies

Ammon is the son of Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher who has previously led a standoff with the American government; like his father, Ammon defends his actions through religious belief and justification. Most importantly, as a Mormon, Bundy mixes LDS symbolism with a libertarian language of disgust for the federal government. He claims he prayed and received inspiration that guided his activities: “The Lord was not pleased with what has happening with the Hammonds,” he said. His protest against federal overreach, he believes, is an extension of his Mormon faith. In another interview, Bundy explained: “I have no idea what God wants done, but he did inspire me to have the sheriffs across the United States take away these weapons, disarm these bureaucracies, and he also gave me a little inspiration on what would happen if they didn’t do that.” This is as much a religious mission as it is a political action. If Ammon followed the example of his father from several years before, then prior to their quest, he would have fasted and prayed for the “spirit of their forefathers to be with them.” Even though the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has already condemned Bundy’s actions, many have pointed out the consistencies within his beliefs and particular moments from Mormon history. Some have even noted how this Mormon context is necessary to understand Bundy’s activities. Indeed, the Mormon past provides a lot of evidence for this interpretation, as there were plenty of individuals and moments that have demonstrated a penchant for violence within the LDS tradition. But this episode is also an important lesson in the danger of attempting to connect a straight line between traditions and individuals. Ammon Bundy is a product of Mormonism, but his Mormonism is also a product of his own making. His armed standoff is just another tale in the paradoxical history of LDS believers who have paved their own way by framing political beliefs through theological prisms. The Mormon tradition, like virtually any religious tradition, provides the material for both violent and pacifist strains, thus making it difficult, if not impossible, to simply connect the dots between the LDS faith and Bundy’s actions. Indeed, forfeiting superficial appeals to strict coherency or literal continuity within a faith tradition allows the true elasticity and dynamism of Mormonism, not to mention American religion, to come into view. The name “Ammon” comes from the Book of Mormon, a scriptural text Latter-day Saints believe contains the story of an Israelite family who left Israel, settled in the Americas centuries before Christ, and established an extensive proto-Christian civilization. A son of one of the text’s most righteous figures, King Mosiah, the Book of Mormon’s Ammon spends his early years rebelling against the church. After being convinced of his wicked ways and converted to the gospel by an intervening angel, however, Ammon becomes an iconic missionary to the “Lamanites,” a neighboring and wicked tribe who had rejected God’s message...more