Saturday, January 30, 2016

Judge denies pre-trial release of Bundy brothers

A federal judge says she won't release from jail three of the main figures behind an armed standoff at an Oregon wildlife refuge. U.S. Magistrate Judge Stacie Beckerman said at court hearings Friday for group leader Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan Bundy and Ryan Payne that they pose a danger to the community and she's concerned they won't follow orders to return to Oregon for criminal proceedings. Bundy told the judge has no interest in returning to the refuge, saying "my only desire is to be home with family and take care of my wife and children." Beckerman said Joseph O'Shaughnessy doesn't have to remain in custody, noting that he didn't spend his nights at the refuge. Federal prosecutors objected, however, and he'll stay in jail pending a Tuesday hearing. Beckerman also said she might also release citizen journalist Peter Santilli. But she said it's a close call and wasn't ready to make an immediate decision. Shawna Cox, the only woman arrested in connection with the refuge standoff, will be allowed to go home but only after the armed occupation ends. Four holdouts still are occupying Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Ammon Bundy's lawyer, Lissa Casey, says her client is not aligned with those remaining at the refuge and wants to go back to his family in Idaho. Casey said of Bundy: "He is done in Harney County; his message has been sent."...more

Ammon Bundy Tells Oregon Court He Wants to ‘Preserve Freedom’

Ammon Bundy, the leader of the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, told a judge here on Friday that his actions were intended to “preserve freedom.” The first of 10 defendants arrested in the siege to appear before Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman for a detention hearing in federal court, Mr. Ammon said, “I respect the federal court as a place for people to find redress.” “I do love the Constitution,” he said. “It allows us to live in happiness, to live as free people. I do love his country very much. My desire was to preserve freedom for the people.” As he has done twice since his arrest on Tuesday, Mr. Bundy again asked the remaining occupiers — who now number four — to leave the refuge. “I must insist that everyone go home,” he said. “The process is working.” Judge Beckerman ordered Mr. Bundy, his brother Ryan Bundy and three other defendants — Ryan Payne, Jason Patrick and Dylan Anderson — to remain jailed...more

Friday, January 29, 2016

Of myths and militias

By Dawn G. Marsh

The arrest of Ammon Bundy and many of his supporters on Tuesday and Wednesday left one man dead and a handful of protesters still occupying a federal wildlife refuge in rural eastern Oregon. Weeks after they first occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the question remains: What do they want?

Ammon and his brother Ryan Bundy had issued an array of claims and accusations that resonate with many Western land users. Who are the enemies they confront? The federal government, the Bureau of Land Management and even Linda Sue Beck, a biologist at the wildlife refuge whose office they are occupying, draw the ire of the Bundy brothers and their followers.

Declarations of federal tyranny, divine inspiration and potential armed revolution provided a barrage of headlines, media musings and fodder for political analysts and late-night talk-show hosts. But why does this rhetoric sound so familiar and why are so many sympathetic to the message, if not the method? Because it’s based on the myth of the American West — a land of good guys and bad.

To many Americans, the West remains a place of nostalgia, fueled by decades of enthralling tales that reverberate with man’s conquest of an untamed land. It is a “West” occupied by cowboys and Indians, ranchers and pioneers, lawmen and gamblers. It’s rife with guns and violence, where the good guy in the white hat takes a stand against a bad guy in a black hat. It is this imaginary West that infuses the rhetoric and misguided agenda of the Oregon protesters. One idea ties it all together: land rights.

The West, real or imagined, is about land and its claimants. It remains a vast and largely unoccupied geographic space that encompasses a multitude of ecosystems and crosses numerous state and tribal boundaries. Federal lands, like those disputed by the Bundy family, are managed for the benefit of the nation. The Bundy brothers lease the land and must, like all renters, abide by the contract terms. The federal government rents grazing land at a price far below market value. But the Bundy family, including father Cliven Bundy, decided to stop paying the rent.

Ironically, Ammon Bundy’s objective is to reclaim control of “our land” for the local population. When he was asked what it would take to end the occupation, Mr. Bundy responded, “When the people of Harney County are secure enough and confident enough that they can continue to manage their own land and their own rights and resources.”

Yet, it is not their land.

Throughout the 19th century, the juggernaut of U.S. expansion into the continental West was rapid and lucrative for many Americans. It was, however, often ruinous for the environment, and it shattered the Native American societies occupying the territory.

For all you myth-sufferers and nostalgiacs out there, you will be seeing more and more of this.  That's why you need to read, or re-read, Steve Wilmeth's The Lock, published here on Jan. 19th. In one column, you will find a lot useful and accurate information on land laws.  It's been one of the more popular items recently published by The Westerner and has been widely distributed on Facebook.  Then go to the website of the American Lands Council for a treasure trove of information on these important issues.

Los Angeles Times: Repairs are overdue at the national parks

When household budgets are tight, people tend to put off expensive maintenance projects. So a leaky roof gets patched instead of replaced, or paint is left to peel for a season or two or three longer than a homeowner (not to mention the neighbors) would like.

Government agencies do the same thing. And now, after years of putting off less-crucial repairs because of insufficient funding, the National Park Service has an $11.5 billion backlog of deferred maintenance projects — about four times the department’s annual operating budget (and part of a $159 billion overall federal backlog). About half of the parks backlog involves roads and bridges, and the rest covers wastewater treatment plants, buildings, water systems, campgrounds and other facilities.

That’s an astounding amount of work, and while it’s not as popular with park users as habitat restoration, it’s crucial for ensuring public safety and the quality of the parks themselves. Fortunately, Congress’s recent budget nearly doubles the money — to $116.3 million — for projects deemed by the Park Service to be critical for the well-being of visitors and workers, or for environmental restoration. The new five-year highway transportation bill also includes $1.4 billion for roads and bridges in national parks. While the increased spending is good news for the parks and those who visit them, it’s far less than what’s required to address the need.

One would think with this huge backlog that acquisition of additional lands would be halted until the existing federal estate was properly equipped.  Nope.  The Republican Congress just doubled the amount of funds for land acquisition.

Udall, Heinrich, Luján Announce Selection Of Valles Caldera, Bandelier For National Park Service Centennial Challenge Project

Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján announced that the Valles Caldera National Preserve and Bandelier National Monument have been selected to participate in the National Park Service Centennial Challenge Project. The National Park Service (NPS) has selected 69 projects at 63 parks nationwide to highlight during its centennial celebration this year. As part of their selection, the Valles Caldera and Bandelier National Monument will receive $20,000 to conduct forest restoration monitoring with local youth. Partner organizations will contribute an additional $28,000 to the project, including the National Park Foundation, Los Amigos de Valles Caldera, Caldera Action and the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation. The new funding will help expand Valles Caldera’s successful youth forest restoration program to Bandelier. Part of the Every Kid in a Park initiative, the program engages local Tribal youth in resource preservation and restoration efforts occurring on the land they consider sacred...more

Native Americans wanted the Valles Caldera lands turned over to themselves, but Udall & Heinrich insisted on the lands going to the Park Service. So what could be done for the unhappy Native Americans? Why have their youth work on some piddly restoration projects. Now you know why the Valles Caldera was "selected".

Where private land meets public interest

...Yet it’s increasingly tough for ranchers like Shahan to hang onto land that’s been in their families for generations. And it’s even harder if they want to be environmentally friendly: In Colorado, New Mexico and other Western states, private land managed for conservation purposes might be taxed at a higher rate than agricultural or residential land, explains Lesli Allison, director of the nonprofit Western Landowners Alliance. Plus, individual landowners often struggle to communicate their needs to land managers and policymakers. In 2010, a group of landowners on the Colorado-New Mexico border came together over those very problems. They disagreed with the way migratory elk were being managed across borders, but didn’t have much say in the matter. Being organized would give them a stronger collective voice, but even that was controversial: Some ranchers were suspicious of the Western Environmental Law Center, which had offered to help. Eventually, with the help of a young woman named Monique DiGiorgio — one of the few environmentalists who seemed to understand them — they formed the Chama Peak Land Alliance. DiGiorgio, now the executive director, is helping the landowners preserve and protect open spaces and ensure that the Colorado-New Mexico borderlands are managed not as a hodgepodge of private, state, federal and tribal interests, but as a whole, intact ecosystem. Together, Chama Peak’s members own a whopping 250,000 acres — roughly half the private land in the area. With outsized land ownership comes outsized influence. So far, the group has successfully deferred Bureau of Land Management oil and gas leases near community drinking water sources, restored miles of riparian habitat, implemented water-quality monitoring and mapped the forests most at risk for high-intensity fires. Its members have also been vocal opponents of a controversial ski development on Wolf Creek Pass. In the process, they’re showing that private-land conservation can be at least as effective as public-land management, and requires a lot less red tape. “When we think about wild, we think about public lands,” DiGiorgio says. “But these private landowners are managing some of the most intact, wild spaces we have left.”...more

Groups sue Kaibab forest over plan for big game retrieval

Environmental groups are suing the U.S. Forest Service over a plan that lets hunters drive off designated roads to retrieve elk and bison. Each of the ranger districts in the Kaibab National Forest allow hunters to venture a mile off the road in their vehicles to pick up big game during hunting season. Forest officials encourage hunters to use the most direct route that would limit disturbance. The environmental groups say the off-road travel harms wildlife habitat and cultural resources. They also argue that it can spread invasive and noxious weeds. They asked a judge in a lawsuit filed this week in U.S. District Court in Arizona to force forest officials to do more rigorous environmental reviews. Kaibab forest spokeswoman Jackie Banks declined comment, citing pending litigation.

Judge refuses to stop gravel mining near Roosevelt ranch

A federal judge says he won't stop a gravel mine operation near Theodore Roosevelt's historic western North Dakota ranch. The U.S. Forest Service a year ago said it had found no significant impact with the project in western North Dakota and issued a permit to Montana businessman and mineral rights holder Roger Lothspeich. He'd been trying to get permission to mine gravel at the site for more than six years. The National Parks Conservation Association in December asked for an injunction while it sues the Forest Service for allegedly failing to conduct a proper environmental assessment. The Bismarck Tribune reports that U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta declined, saying he couldn't find irreparable harm in allowing the first 5 acres of gravel to be mined.

Ammon Bundy Again Tells Oregon Occupiers to Surrender

The leader of an armed occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge on Thursday again called for remaining protesters to turn themselves in to authorities. Ammon Bundy, who was arrested along with seven others Tuesday, made the statement through his attorneys. “My message still remains: turn yourselves in. Do not use physical force. Use the national platform that we have to continue defend liberty through our constitutional rights in an Article III court, with an Article III judge,” Bundy said in the statement.  Time

Bundy's Attorneys Set Up Legal Defense Fund Page

Money donated will be placed into an attorney trust account for Ammon Bundy's representation. It his Ammon's hope that his attorneys can do the work that is important to the cause on his behalf. A rising tide lifts all ships.

Judge To Decide Friday Whether To Release Bundy, Other Militants

A detention hearing is scheduled Friday at the federal courthouse in Portland for the arrested militants who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Ammon and Ryan Bundy, along with Ryan Payne and seven other militants, have been at a jail in Portland since they were arrested earlier this week. At their initial court appearances, most of the militants’ defense lawyers asked that their clients be released from detention. But federal prosecutors have countered that the former armed occupiers pose a flight risk and could return to the ongoing occupation at the refuge. For now, Judge Stacie Beckerman has agreed with prosecutors. “I’m not going to release anybody from custody, but I’ll entertain it tomorrow,” she said from the bench Thursday. Many of the arrested militants have little or no criminal history, defense lawyers have argued.  OPB

Four holdouts remain at Oregon refuge

A handful of armed protesters remain holed up in a federal wildlife refuge in the US state of Oregon, surrounded by police and federal agents, despite impassioned pleas from their jailed leader for them to stand down after the death of an activist. One of the holdouts at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, David Fry, said in a YouTube message on Thursday that their number had dwindled to four following the departure of another occupier on Wednesday night. Fry said the small group had been in contact with the FBI, which had pledged not to arrest anyone not subject to a federal warrant. "(But) it turns out that if you do leave they end up charging you later, they're pressing charges on everybody who was here, it sounds like," he said. "That's like five years of prison sentence, it's a felony. So of course if you get a felony you can't vote any more and they take your guns away."...more

Bundy Donut, Says 'Welcome To Portland'

Voodoo Doughnut has a sweet and doughy message for Ammon Bundy: “Welcome to Portland.” The popular Portland-based bakery created the special treat after Bundy’s arrest on Tuesday. Voodoo Doughnut’s co-owner Kenneth Pogson said the Bundy-themed baked good had been his idea. “We're trying to avoid politics,” he told The Oregonian, “but this whole thing seemed like such a big deal -- with them taking public property, armed to the teeth, making a stand that they thought everyone would join. It was a debacle that was on everyone's mind, left or right.” He added that the doughnut had been created as “more of a commentary on contemporary culture and the so-called patriot movement giving Oregon a bad name” than as a jibe to the militants themselves. There was also no intention, he said, of diminishing the death of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, a spokesperson for the militants who died during a confrontation with law enforcement on Tuesday...more

FBI releases video of shooting death of Oregon protester

In an unexpected move, the FBI released video Thursday of state police officers fatally shooting one of the armed Oregon protesters who took over a remote wildlife refuge as a sign of protest against government land-grabbing and over-reaching. "I want to caution you that the video does show the shooting death of LaVoy Finicum," said Greg Bretzing, the special agent in charge of the FBI field office in Portland. "We realize that viewing that piece of the video will be upsetting to some people, but we feel that it is necessary to show the whole thing unedited in the interest of transparency." He said it was "incumbent" on law enforcement to show the video of Finicum, who he said behaved recklessly and made a motion toward a gun in his coat pocket. Supporters of the militants who took over the refuge had claimed Finicum, a rancher from Arizona who came to Oregon to support the protesters, was gunned down in cold blood. Some posts on social media have called his death an anti-government rallying cry. The FBI released the video to allay public concerns over "inflammatory" accounts of the shooting, Bretzing said.Bretzing said Finicum eventually pulled the truck over and was ordered by officers to surrender. "Finicum leaves the truck and steps through the snow," Bretzing said. "Agents and troopers on scene had information that Finicum and others would be armed. On at least two occasions, Finicum reaches his right hand toward a pocket on the left inside portion of his jacket. He did have a loaded 9 mm semi-automatic handgun in that pocket. At this time, OSP troopers shot Finicum."...more

Here's the video via USA Today:

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1552

Porter Wagoner's 1961 recording of My Name Is Mud is our selection today.  The tune was on his LP album A Slice Of Life.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

U.S. wildfire plan seen as biggest land policy change in decades

A year after Interior Secretary Sally Jewell shifted the national approach to fighting wildfires across a wide swath of sagebrush country in the West, her strategy is turning out to be one of the most significant federal land policy changes in some 80 years, public land experts, outdoor enthusiasts and scientists say. The five-page order she issued last January directed federal resources for the first time to fight massive blazes in open sagebrush steppe habitat that supports cattle ranching, recreation and some 350 species of wildlife, including the imperiled sage grouse. “It is one of the most imperiled ecosystems in the United States,” said Janice Schneider, the Interior Department’s assistant secretary for Land and Minerals Management. Firefighting officials say Jewell’s order led more of the nation’s firefighting resources to respond to blazes in Great Basin sagebrush steppe last year, when the U.S. experienced one of its worst wildfire seasons, with nearly 16,000 square miles burned. Experts say her strategy helped extinguish several smaller fires, though one giant blaze scorched sagebrush steppe in portions of Idaho and Oregon. Many ranchers have embraced the order despite wariness and sometimes anger with federal oversight, displayed in the armed occupation of a federal wildlife preserve in Oregon. The small group who took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge more than three weeks ago says the government has no authority to enforce federal grazing contracts with ranchers. Ranchers backing Jewell’s order have formed Rangeland Fire Protections Associations, teaming up with federal firefighters to stop small fires from exploding and charring forage needed by cattle. The order led to the biggest change for sagebrush steppe since the Taylor Grazing Act of the 1930s, which sought to stop overgrazing on public lands, said U.S. Geological Survey research ecologist Matt Germino, who specializes in sagebrush ecosystems. “The initiatives that are underway — preserving the good habitat and restoring the bad habitat — that’s unprecedented,” he said...more

Utah ranchers renounce federal control of their lands at gathering

Amid escalating tensions over federal land management, eight Utah ranchers on Saturday pledged to disavow their contracts regulating their use of public land to graze their cattle. The men made their declarations at a "property rights" workshop in Cedar City, just days before the illegal occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge took a tragic turn with the death of Arizona rancher Robert "LaVoy" Finicum on Tuesday. On Saturday some of these ranchers agreed to sign notices of "withdrawal of consent" to be governed, in essence rejecting the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service's authority to regulate use of their grazing allotments. "This is as an act of civil disobedience in response to a long trail of abuses," said Todd Macfarlane, a Kanosh attorney who had helped organize the Cedar City event and follow-up gatherings in Idaho and Montana. "They aren't going to go out and plunder the land and the resources. They are saying, 'We are exercising our liberty to exercise personal choice for our ranch and do it responsibly.' " These ranchers recognize they have "a right" to pay grazing fees, which they will deposit in escrow accounts until the ownership of Utah's public lands is resolved, Macfarlane said. The chief speaker at these events is Angus McIntosh, a former rancher and an adjunct professor of agriculture at Texas A&M University. Another planned speaker, Utah rancher Jon Pratt, took part in the Oregon standoff. The meetings are hosted by the Utah group National Federal Lands Conference, which opposes environmental regulations and champions property rights. "We are giving [attendees] tools for them to understand what their rights are," said Macfarlane. The "withdrawal of consent" action was inspired in part by the re-incarceration of Oregon ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond, according to Macfarlane. Other ranchers at Saturday's gathering were not comfortable making such a pledge, he said, but many did agree to sign "a redress of grievances" outlining a generic list of complaints that ranchers have with federal agencies...more

3 more arrested at Oregon wildlife refuge

Hours after the jailed leader of an armed anti-government group urged remaining militants to abandon the Oregon wildlife refuge they have occupied for more than three weeks, the FBI said they arrested three more suspects at one of the checkpoints they've established near the refuge. The FBI and Oregon State Police said in a statement that 45-year-old Duane Leo Ehmer of Irrigon, Oregon, and 34-year-old Dylan Wade Anderson of Provo, Utah, turned themselves in around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. And 43-year-old Jason S. Patrick of Bonaire, Georgia, did the same a few hours later. The men were described as being in contact with the FBI and officials said the men surrendered to agents on a road near the refuge. It was unclear whether the rest of the remnant of Bundy's followers still holed up at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge south of Burns was ready to heed his advice. While some left it was believed perhaps a half-dozen remained late Wednesday, apparently sitting around a campfire.  Authorities refused to release any details about the encounter or even to verify that it was Finicum who was killed. Also on Wednesday, a federal judge in Portland unsealed a criminal complaint that said the armed group had explosives and night-vision goggles and that they were prepared to fight at the refuge or in the nearby town of Burns. Someone told authorities about the equipment on Jan. 2, when the group took over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, according to the document. Bundy and the seven others are charged with felony counts of "conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from their official duties through the use of force, intimidation, or threats." The criminal complaint stresses that point. It states that the 16 employees at the wildlife refuge "have been prevented from reporting to work because of threats of violence posed by the defendants and others occupying the property." FBI agent Greg Bretzing said people could leave through checkpoints "where they will be identified." FBI officials said Wednesday night, in addition to the three men arrested, five people left the refuge through the checkpoints and were released without arrest...more

Hands up, just shoot!

by Jeff Knox

The occupation of a remote wildlife refuge turned violent yesterday when federal agents stopped two vehicles carrying protesters to a town hall meeting in John Day, Oregon. Victoria Sharp, a passenger in one of those vehicles, has reported that federal agents opened fire on the group without provocation after conflicting and confusing demands for the protesters to surrender. Sharp reported that shots were first fired at Ryan Payne as he complied with orders to show his hands out of the window of the vehicle in which she was riding, but that the shots missed. Payne was calling for police to not shoot, as there were women in the vehicle, and exited the vehicle, asking that the women be allowed out.

At this point, LaVoy Finicum, one of the spokesmen for the occupiers, who was driving the vehicle in which Ms. Sharp was riding, yelled out the window that they were going to go talk to the sheriff (at the meeting in John Day), or that agents could just shoot him. He told the passengers to get down, and drove forward, precipitating heavy gunfire from the agents, and crashing the vehicle into a snowbank.

Sharp said that Finicum then exited the vehicle, hands in the air, yelling, “Just shoot me then!” A volley of shots rang out, and Finicum fell to his back, hands still over his head, and was shot several more times on the ground, Sharp said.

According to Sharp, agents continued shooting at the car, striking Ryan Bundy in the shoulder as he shielded her on the floorboard, and deploying tear gas before finally taking the rest of the group into custody. She also claims that none of the protesters fired a shot or even touched a gun during the encounter.

The full audio of Victoria Sharp’s account is posted on YouTube, and comes across as very credible.

Another report suggested that Finicum "charged" at police after exiting the vehicle but does not dispute the claim that his hands were in the air. Cliven Bundy, father of Ammon and Ryan Bundy, leaders of the occupation who were both taken into custody during the incident, has further charged that, not only were Finicum's hands in the air, but he was not armed at the time.

In interviews during the occupation protest, Finicum, a soft-spoken rancher and father of 11 from Arizona, had insisted that he would rather be killed than "put in a cement box" prison. He said that some things were more important than life, and that freedom was one of those things.

...The death of LaVoy Finicum is a needless tragedy.

Federal authorities had wisely been taking a hands-off approach to the occupation, denying Bundy and his friends the opportunity for the tense stand-off they seemed to be seeking. Unfortunately, politicians like Oregon's Democrat Gov. Kate Brown, took the occupation as a personal affront and were calling for law enforcement to take more aggressive action to put a stop to the flagrant defiance of federal authority. The result is a martyr for the fringe and escalation of the situation from a nuisance to a volatile and dangerous level. The strategy was clearly to "remove the head of the snake" by capturing the leaders of the occupation, but what if those leaders were the cooler heads that were keeping the protest calm and peaceful?

With the death of Finicum, in circumstances that some are calling murder, a fuse has been lit, and unless authorities can and do quickly produce evidence that their actions were clearly justified, this could blow up in a very ugly way. And it all could have been easily avoided.

Realistically, what harm were the protesters doing? They were occupying buildings of a remote wildlife refuge in a sparsely populated area of the country in the dead of winter. They were making no threats, harming no one, and getting less and less attention from an unsympathetic media. They were not supported by any national or state militia organizations, and their whole agenda had pretty well fizzled.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1551

It's Country Roots today and we have the Kessinger Brothers performing Old Jake Gillie.  The tune was recorded in NYC on Feb 4, 1929 and is available on Volume 1 of their Document Records collection.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ammon Bundy, via attorney, tells refuge militants to go home

Ammon Bundy is calling on those who remain at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to go home and "please stand down," his attorney said Wednesday on the steps of the federal courthouse in downtown Portland. The message came moments after Bundy and six others were arraigned, one by one, on the ninth floor of courthouse on Southwest Third Avenue. The whole process took about 90 minutes as more than 60 people arrived to watch the proceedings. Approximately 20 people couldn't fit.  Here's the full statement read by Mike Arnold, Bundy's attorney:

"First I want to address my beloved friend, [Robert] Levoy Finnicum. Levoy is one of the greatest men and greatest patriots I've ever seen. His love for this country ran deep through the blood he gave yesterday. And I mourn for him and I mourn for his family. I'm praying fervently for you in every prayer. We'll have more to say later, but right now I'm asking the federal government to allow the people at the refuge to go home without being prosecuted.
To those remaining at the refuge, I love you. Let us take this fight from here. Please stand down. Please stand down. Go home and hug your families. This fight is ours for now in the courts. Please go home.
Being in the system we're going to take this opportunity to answer the questions on article 1 section 8 clause 17 of the United States Constitution regarding the rights of statehood and the limits on federal property ownership. Thank you, and God bless America."...more

Liberal Activists, Mainstream Media, Law Enforcement Bear Partial Blame for Showdown in Oregon that Led to Death of LaVoy Finicum

WASHINGTON, DC - Left-wing activists and news outlets that only partially cover their activities are in part to blame for the confrontation in Oregon that led to the death of LaVoy Finicum, says the National Center for Public Policy Research.

That's because left-wing organizations often use civil disobedience without consequences, which leads the public to believe law-breaking in pursuit of political or public policy goals can take place without serious consequences.

Parts of the news media are complicit because they cover stories in ways that help the left-wing organizations achieve their goals.

Kieran Suckling, the executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, a left-wing green group, was repeatedly covered in the news media criticizing those occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (for example, here, here, here, here, here). No story we found mentioned that Suckling has been found guilty in court (here, here) for occupying private property and refusing to leave as part of a political protest, or that he has been arrested (and even bragged about it by issuing a press release) for civil disobedience as recently as 2014.

"In yet another case of 'do as I say, not as I do,' the environmental left is protesting civil disobedience by citizens while it practices and/or condones civil disobedience itself," said David Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research.

"Kieran Suckling, the executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, a left-wing green group that sues the government while expecting the taxpayers to pay its legal bills, has gone to Oregon to protest the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Yet he has been found guilty of much the same offense. Occupying another's property without their permission in the name of a political cause is either wrong or it isn't. It isn't okay when the environmental movement does it and wrong for everyone else. Kieran Suckling is much like the Bundys; he may disagree on policy but he's used the same technique," Ridenour added. "Kieran Suckling should be laughed out of Oregon for his hypocrisy. So should any news reporter who writes about the Center for Biological Diversity's statements about the occupation at the wildlife refuge without covering Mr. Suckling's past conviction in a court of law for similar activities."

Parts of law enforcement also share partial blame, the group says.

"Kieran Suckling is far from the only leftist to be arrested for civil disobedience," said Amy Ridenour, chairman of the National Center for Public Policy Research. "Most liberal activists who commit civil disobedience are never charged, or get merely a tiny slap on the wrist. The news media runs pictures of left-wing activists getting arrested for their cause of the day knowing full well the charges will be dropped, but the media never tells the public the arrests are all-but-fake. Quite often all this is arranged in advance. The public is impressed by this false dedication. But people who pay attention know those arrested rarely face any penalties. Is it any wonder some have gone on to assume civil disobedience is a perfectly safe and consequence-free thing to do?"

"Law enforcement shouldn't make essentially fake arrests so activists can look good on camera, and government officials who get arrested on purpose should be fired," Amy Ridenour added. "A high-ranked member of the Bush and Obama Administrations, James Hansen, who ran NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies before he retired, was repeatedly and intentionally arrested - in violation of the law as well as federal ethics rules -- while serving in the executive branch, the part of the government that is tasked with enforcing laws. He was never fired. When even high-ranking members of the law enforcement branch of government break the law to get attention for their pet causes, sanity has broken down. Until we restore sanity, expect to see more civil disobedience. And because law enforcement treats some civil disobedience as worse than others, and enforces the law against some while dropping charges against others, expect to see more deaths like the one in Oregon yesterday."

The National Center for Public Policy Research last commented on the Oregon situation in a press release here. It neither endorses nor participates in acts of civil disobedience, and it has not endorsed the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.


FBI says occupiers had 'ample' time to leave

Oregon FBI Special Agent in Charge Greg Bretzing told reporters during a press conference Wednesday morning in Burns that the occupiers at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge had "ample" time to leave peacefully. Bretzing was joined by U.S. Attorney Bill Williams and Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward during the press conference, held on the 26th day of the standoff with the occupiers. They expressed disappointment that a traffic stop on protesters had turned deadly Tuesday. "It didn't have to happen," Ward told reporters gathered at the Harney County Chamber of Commerce. "We all make choices in life. Sometimes our choices go bad." Bretzing said the FBI, state police and the Harney County Sheriff's Office had taken a "very deliberate and measured response" to the protesters who took hold of the refuge on Jan. 2. The occupiers there, he said, were given the opportunity to air their grievances. They had the chance to leave and return to their families, Bretzing said. "Instead, these individuals have chosen to threaten and intimidate the America that they profess to love," he said. During the news conference, officials did not provide additional details about the traffic stops or what prompted the shooting, citing the ongoing investigation. They also did not confirm that Finicum was the one who was killed during the confrontation. His daughter told The Oregonian/OregonLive Tuesday that her father had died defending his beliefs. They also did not take any questions from reporters. Bretzing and Ward both stressed that there could have been another outcome. "Let me be clear: It is fully and unequivocally the behavior and the choices made by the armed occupiers that have led us to where we are today," Bretzing said in a statement, released by the FBI. "And, as the FBI and our partners have demonstrated, actions are not without consequences." Authorities reiterated that the occupation has been disruptive to the Harney County community and said they are committed to restoring normalcy for residents there. Ward said he had been working on a resolution to the problem since November, when several of the people involved in the occupation came to the sheriff's office. "They had ultimatums that I couldn't meet," he said. "I'm here to uphold the law."...more

Feds signal time may be running out after Oregon standoff arrests

A day after the spokesperson for an armed militia occupying an Oregon wildlife refuge was shot and killed during a traffic stop, the county’s sheriff lamented “there doesn’t have to be bloodshed in our community” and said he was “disappointed” that the incident “ended badly.” “We all make choices in life,” an emotional Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward said during a Wednesday news conference. “Sometimes our choices go bad.” “We don’t arm up and rebel,” he said. “We work through the appropriate channels. This can’t happen anymore. It can’t happen in America. And this can’t happen in Harney County.” The events surrounding Finicum’s death remain unclear, and officials did nothing to clarify the incident on Wednesday, taking no questions during the news conference. FBI special agent in charge Greg Bretzing placed the blame for the deteriorating situation squarely on the protesters. “It is the actions and choices of the armed occupiers of the refuge that have led us to where we are today,” Bretzing said. He added: “Actions are not without consequences." An unknown number of protesters remained at the refuge Wednesday, but members of the media began leaving after the FBI reportedly told some journalists the Bureau couldn't offer "protection." KTVZ reporter Lauren Martinez tweeted a video of her leaving the compound area with the ominous note "@FBI warns media no protection." Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter John Sepulvado tweeted ".@OPB was told by FBI that we were on our own -- essentially stuff is going down and we need to move." Earlier in the day, Jason Patrick, one of the leaders of the crew remaining at the outpost, said he could see an armored convoy and a number of law enforcement officers gathered from his perch in the compound. "Sounds like the definition of peaceful resolution is either forcefully kidnapping me or death," Patrick told USA Today. "A peaceful resolution is not dead people."...more

What happens next at Oregon wildlife refuge after Bundy arrests?

Are protesters still at the wildlife refuge?
Yes, it appears so, though it's unclear how many. Numbers have fluctuated since the occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters began in early January.  CNN's Sara Sidner, who visited the refuge earlier this month, said she saw dozens of people there, mostly men. After Tuesday's arrests, the usually outspoken group didn't specify how many remain. Gov. Kate Brown called for patience while officials work toward a "swift and peaceful resolution."
What do the occupiers plan to do next?
Occupiers who remained Wednesday morning told journalist John Sepulvado -- reporting from inside the refuge but outside the headquarters -- that they planned to stay and were prepared to die. "I just spoke to the new leaders -- including Jason Patrick -- They say that 5-6 (people) had a meeting, and by consensus they decided to stay," Sepulvado wrote Wednesday morning on Twitter. Ammon Bundy, son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, had said he and others were prepared to stay in the building for days, weeks or months if necessary. They have enough food and other supplies, he said, to see them through for a long time. The younger Bundy repeatedly warned that the armed occupiers don't intend to harm anyone but said that if law enforcement or others try to force them from the building, they would defend themselves.
On Tuesday, the group said on its unverified Facebook page that it was "at a heightened level of alert" and asked for prayers.
What happens next?
That depends on whether the rest of the occupiers leave. Keeping an eye on them apparently hasn't been cheap. The price tag on the occupation so far is costing Oregon about $100,000 a week, the governor said. She wants reimbursement from the federal government for those mounting costs. Then there's the legal process. All eight people arrested Tuesday face a federal felony charge relating to their occupation of the refuge: conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats, authorities said. It's unclear when they'll make their first court appearances. Also unclear is how exactly the arrests unfolded, and who fired first.
"The situation in Harney County continues to be the subject of a federal investigation that is in progress. My highest priority is the safety of all Oregonians and their communities," the governor said in a statement...more

Cliven Bundy: Oregon standoff a ‘wake up call’;

Cliven Bundy, the patriarch of the Bundy family, said Tuesday the arrests of his two sons and a shootout between federal authorities and armed militia members who had been occupying an Oregon wildlife refuge was a “wake up call.” “This will be a wake up call to America,” Mr. Bundysaid in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “This whole battle is over a constitutional issue where the federal government has no rights within the state or at least rights in a sovereign state.” He added that the situation was a “total disaster to be happening in America where we have I’m guessing federal people killing innocent people.” “Isn’t it a wonderful country we live in?” Cliven Bundy said sarcastically in reference to Mr. Finicum’s death, the Los Angeles Times reported. “We believe that those federal people shouldn’t even be there in that state, and be in that county and have anything to do with this issue. … I have some sons and other people there trying to protect our rights and liberties and freedoms, and now we’ve got one killed, and all I can say is, he’s sacrificed for a good purpose,” Mr. Bundy said, the Los Angeles Times reported. He also told the Review-Journal that his sons were in Oregon to “do good. No harm was intended. They would never threaten anybody.”...more

Militias Get Reinforcements After Bundys Get Busted

...It appears the Bundy clan knew arrest or worse was becoming more inevitable when Ammon’s deputies started going home to say goodbye to their families. Ritzheimer was in Arizona and said he was planning to see his wife and children before heading back north. At least two refuge occupants have traveled to Utah and back already. Back in Oregon, the arrests have only escalated tensions. Brandon Curtiss, president of the Idaho Three Percenter militia that has patrolled Burns and provided security for the occupiers at the refuge said no one’s leaving. “We’re still going to maintain our same position, the community has asked us to stay, and we’re trying to be there the best we can for support and to continue our investigation,” Curtiss told The Daily Beast on Wednesday morning. In fact, a clarion call has gone out from Oregon to militia groups and they’re heeding it. Locals told The Daily Beast they saw truckloads of new faces coming in overnight. It appears the Bundy clan knew arrest or worse was becoming more inevitable when Ammon’s deputies started going home to say goodbye to their families. Ritzheimer was in Arizona and said he was planning to see his wife and children before heading back north. At least two refuge occupants have traveled to Utah and back already. Back in Oregon, the arrests have only escalated tensions. Brandon Curtiss, president of the Idaho Three Percenter militia that has patrolled Burns and provided security for the occupiers at the refuge said no one’s leaving. “We’re still going to maintain our same position, the community has asked us to stay, and we’re trying to be there the best we can for support and to continue our investigation,” Curtiss told The Daily Beast on Wednesday morning. In fact, a clarion call has gone out from Oregon to militia groups and they’re heeding it. Locals told The Daily Beast they saw truckloads of new faces coming in overnight...more

FBI tells Oregon refuge occupiers to leave as authorities set up roadblocks

Law enforcement officers set up roadblocks Tuesday night around the headquarters of the occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge hours after one of the takeover's top spokesmen was killed and other leaders were arrested on a highway out of town.  FBI officials told those still at the compound, about 30 miles southeast of Burns, that they were free to leave and should do so. By midnight, few people appeared to have taken up the offer and the lights were still on. Only a few people had left, said Gary Hunt, who arrived Sunday from California to support the occupation. "The rest have decided they're going to hold their ground," he said. Hunt -- a board member of Operation Mutual Defense, a network of militias and patriot sympathizers – left the headquarters late Tuesday and talked to The Oregonian/OregonLive while parked six miles from the refuge. Among those still there was Ammon Bundy's wife, Lisa. She told those at the compound that she took a call from her husband after his arrest and he described some of what happened. Hunt said there was confusion among those remaining at the compound and he wasn't certain who was providing leadership. The protesters anticipate that law enforcement will take action against them, he said. "They've got their observers out," he said. In recent days, it looked as if about 40 people were staying in the buildings, including women and children...more

Deceased Militant LaVoy Finicum: Rancher, Patriarch, Bundy Believer

Robert LaVoy Finicum, who died Tuesday in a confrontation with FBI and state police on the highway between Burns and John Day, was a man whose life was transformed by the 2014 standoff between Cliven Bundy and federal officials in Nevada. At the occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Finicum stood out as one of the few ranchers in a crowd of army vets and anti-government activists. Finicum quickly emerged as a key surrogate for occupation leader Ammon Bundy and a spokesman for the militants. “You don’t stand here, unless you believe in your heart of hearts what you’re doing is true. You’re going to have to weather the storm of intense persecution, and criticism and demonization,” he said in an interview last week. “You don’t draw a line in the sand unless you’re willing to go all the way.” Finicum participated in many of the militants’ activities, helping remove a fence at the edge of the refuge and taking down cameras — allegedly used for surveillance, according to the militants — from a nearby power station. At the refuge, Finicum wore a cream colored cowboy hat, eyeglasses and a gun belt. At times, he smiled and spoke softly. From behind the wheel of his quad cab pickup, he said he didn’t much care for country music and preferred British pop star Adele. In his youth, he said he’d worked as a property manager in the Portland area. Finicum spoke about the possibility of a war between the people of the United States and its government, and wrote an apocalyptic novel, available on Amazon, titled “Only By Blood and Suffering.” He urged reporters to consider setting aside enough food and water to last six months. Before 2014, Finnicum had never met Cliven Bundy face-to-face, though his cattle grazed on thousands of acres in Mojave County, Arizona, not far from the Bundy’s ranch. He came to visit the Bundys the day before the standoff started. “I said Cliven, don’t let them take your cows,” Finicum recalled in an interview with OPB. “He says saddle up your horse and be here early in the morning. I was the first cowboy to show up in the dark.” In fall 2015, Finicum followed in Bundy’s footsteps and chose to stop complying with his lease contract with the Bureau of Land Management, in spite of a long positive relationship with the agency. “The people I deal with in Arizona, they’re great, they’re wonderful,” he told OPB. “It’s not whether they do good, or bad, it’s should they have the power?”...more

‘There has to be retribution’: Bundy family says slain Oregon protester unarmed

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s family condemned the death of an Arizona rancher who they say was unarmed with his hands up when he was shot dead by authorities during an arrest Tuesday of leaders of an armed group that has been occupying a federal wildlife refuge in rural eastern Oregon. Speaking with the Sun late Tuesday, Steve Bundy, Cliven Bundy’s nephew, accused authorities of killing Finicum “in cold blood,” claiming he was defenseless. “We lost a great family friend, a great family man, who was unarmed with his hands up,” Steve Bundy said. “They cold-blood murdered a family man.” In an audio clip posted to Facebook on Tuesday, Cliven Bundy echoed his nephew's message. “(Ammon Bundy) said (Finicum) had his arms in the air, he said he was unarmed, and they shot him cold-blooded.”  Cliven Bundy was not available for further comment Tuesday night, but the family spokesman said the Nevada ranch militia members would seek to avenge Finicum's death “very soon.” “There has to be retribution,” Steve Bundy said. “But we’re not going to ruin the element of surprise.”...more

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Oregon standoff spokesman Robert 'LaVoy' Finicum killed

Oregon standoff spokesman Robert "LaVoy" Finicum was killed and other top leaders of the wildlife refuge occupation were arrested Tuesday after law enforcement officials stopped vehicles about 20 miles north of Burns. Authorities did not release the name of the person who died at the highway stop, but two sources told The Oregonian/Oregonlive that it was Finicum, 55, of Cane Beds, Arizona, one of the cowboy-hat wearing faces of the takeover. Finicum's daughter, Arianna Finicum Brown, also said police confirmed to her mother that he had died. Ryan Bundy, 43, of Bunkerville, Nev., suffered a minor gunshot wound in the confrontation at 4:30 p.m. along U.S. 395. He was treated and released from a local hospital and was in FBI custody, authorities said. Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore said that Ammon Bundy called his wife, Lisa Bundy, from the back of a police car on Tuesday night. Fiore, a vocal supporter of the Bundy family, said that Ammon Bundy told his wife that Finicum was cooperating with police and had put his hands up. Then, Fiore said, Bundy told his wife that he watched police shoot Finicum three times. She said that Ammon Bundy also said Finicum was on the ground when he was shot. Finicum on Monday said in a radio blog interview that he sensed heightened activity from federal law enforcement. "Definitely a lot of saber rousing going on around us,'' Finicum said on America's Freedom The Right to Bear Arms. "I do believe they're positioning themselves. There's definitely a hardening of their postures. They're bringing in more assets. They're doing a lot of saber rattling. ... We're just moving forward.''...more

An updated version of this article is here.

Thousands of Cuban Refugees Crossing the Border

HIDALGO – At least 7,000 Cuban refugees are expected to come to the border in the next coming days. The activity at the Hidalgo International Bridge continues. For 40 years, Jose Angel Rodriguez has made his living driving a cab. He said he’s seeing more Cubans crossing the port of entry. “They get here every night, in the morning, and at night they get here. They go to Laredo, too,” Rodriguez said. Rodriguez remembered taking a few to a hotel or store. It gets busier each week that passes by. Down the road from the bridge were a handful of 15-passenger vans. They had Florida license plates. Giovanni Acosta is one of them. “In Cuba, there’s nothing. There’s no freedom. We came from Cuba because the pressure that we have there,” Giovanni Acosta said. Acosta said he’s waiting for his wife to come to the bridge so he can take her back to Miami. She’s taking the same track as he once did. “I did the same path, like all the Cubans did. I came from Ecuador. I walked for 27 days on the road,” he said. Congressman Henry Cuellar’s office said Cuban refugees are coming to Laredo’s Point of Entry every day and the numbers are increasing. They’re coming from Central America through Mexico to the border...more

Bundys in custody, one militant dead after gunfight near Burns

One militant is dead and the top leaders of the refuge occupation are in police custody after law enforcement officials stopped vehicles Tuesday afternoon about 15 miles north of Burns. Ryan Bundy, 43, of Bunkerville, Nev., suffered a minor gunshot wound and was taken into custody in a highway stop conducted by the FBI and the Oregon State Police. Also arrested were his brother, Ammon Bundy, 40, of Emmett, Idaho, and Ryan W. Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Mont., Brian Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville, Nevada, and Shawna J. Cox, 59, of Kanab, Utah. They were charged with conspiracy to impede federal officers, a felony. The identity of the person killed in the shootout was not released...more

One dead, six arrested in traffic stop. Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Ryan Payne in custody.





Report that Bundy is in custody

Zaitz is the senior investigative reporter for The Oregonian/OregonLive.





Oregon standoff venue changes to Grant County, where counter-protesters await

The armed group holding the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge may find a positive reception from some Grant County officials and residents when occupiers travel to John Day today and hold a meeting. But they'll also have to contend with counter-protesters who feel the militants should stay away. The meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. at the John Day Senior Center, would officially mark the public spread of the occupiers' cause beyond Harney County, where they have held the bird sanctuary since Jan. 2 in protest of the federal government's land-use policies and the imprisonment of two local ranchers. Glenn Palmer, the Grant County sheriff, has met with the militants and endorsed two of their key demands: the dismissal of the FBI from Harney County and the release of Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son, Steven Hammond, from prison. The Hammonds were convicted of arson for starting fires that spread to public land. Palmer often speaks critically of the federal government and is aligned with the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, a national nonprofit that interprets the Constitution to severely limit federal government powers. He has clashed with the U.S. Forest Service over that agency's management of public land in Grant County...more

States appeal to Supreme Court in fight against Obama’s climate rule

Twenty-six states are asking the Supreme Court to block the Obama administration’s landmark climate change rule for power plants. The states, led by West Virginia and Texas, say a lower appeals court was wrong last week to reject their plea to hold the regulation off while the federal court system decides whether it is legal. The appeal shows an attempt to get the high court involved in the litigation much faster than would usually be the case if the states had to wait for the lower court to decide and appeal the ruling. “While we know a stay request to the Supreme Court isn’t typical at this stage of the proceedings, we must pursue this option to mitigate further damage from this rule,” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said in a statement. “Real people are hurting in West Virginia and it’s my job to fight for them.” Without the stay, the states write in their 63-page Supreme Court petition, the regulation “will continue to unlawfully impose massive and irreparable harms upon the sovereign states.”...more

Disease outbreak threatens Sunland Park track

SUNLAND PARK – The brisk-paced daily hustle and bustle that usually engulfs Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino during the live racing season was missing again on Monday. In its place was yellow tape cautioning trainers, owners, jockeys, fans and tourists to stay out of the stables, where an equine virus has spread, forcing the racetrack to shutter racing for at least two weeks. The racing was stopped on Friday. “This has been hard on everyone,” trainer Justin Evans said. “It’s a situation where lots of good, hard-working people may go bankrupt. There is no money coming in from purses, but we still have to pay the bills. We’re hopeful that racing will be back soon, but there is the possibility that this could last for some time. We just want the horses to be safe and secure, that is the most important thing right now.” A two-week hiatus will impact the Sunland Park community, the racetrack and those who work in the horse racing industry. The average payout in purses per day at the track during the four days of live racing each week range from $200,000 to $250,000. Last Saturday, the $65,000 guaranteed Winsham Lad Handicap was canceled and on Sunday the $85,000 Enchantress Stakes was not run. This weekend, two showcase races were on the slate – the Riley Allison Derby ($100,000 added) and the El Paso Times Handicap ($65,000 guaranteed). Neither will run. The Riley Allison Derby was to be a potential prep race for the March 20, $800,000 Sunland Derby, the track’s biggest race of the year. The Sunland Derby is a key prep race for 3-year-old horses on their way to the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the thoroughbred Triple Crown. Now, even that major local race might be in jeopardy...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1550

Ranch Radio's selection today is Webb Pierce's 1953 recording of I'm Walking The Dog

Editorial - Trump tramples core conservative belief in property rights

Margaret Thatcher, when she was British Prime Minister, used a simple formula to describe the economic freedoms due to a properly free people: "A man's right to work as he will, to spend what he earns, to own property, to have the state as servant and not as master." This was, in her view, "the British inheritance."

Her thinking, influenced by centuries of English jurisprudence and political philosophy, provides a modern statement of the same rights that America's founders sought to bestow upon their posterity. Thatcher's phrase embodies the conservative view of the role of government and of citizens' rights in a well-functioning and free society.

Property ownership exists in some form in every nation, but it is often informal. Even in the most unfree nations, the powerful elite feel secure about what they own, in part because the property rights of others are theirs to trample.

What distinguishes America from such countries is not its abundance of natural resources or the race of its people, but its scrupulous cultural and legal dedication to protecting everyone's private property rights. This critical application of the rule of law is what allowed a massive middle class to form and grow on a scale unprecedented in history.

...This is why anyone who wants the United States to remain a great country should be concerned that Donald Trump, who is running for the presidency, defends his own use of government to trample other people's property rights as a positive thing. Merely defending eminent domain, a valid legal principle recognized in the U.S. Constitution for obtaining private land for needed public uses, is one thing. But using it for private gain is quite another. And it is not as though Trump used it long ago and now disavows his actions as wrong.

But he has not seen the error of his ways. To this day, Trump defends his own use of state force to trample the property rights of a person less powerful than himself. He views it as a positive good and regrets only that the courts stopped him in one well-known instance.

In 1994, as we have previously noted, Trump tried to use used his connections and wealth to make government his tool for plundering an Atlantic City widow named Vera Coking. He wanted to build a parking garage where her house stood, and so he got a local government agency to force the sale for just 25 percent of what she had previously been offered for it. The agency would then transfer ownership of the property to his company.

Fortunately, Trump lost that case in court.

Oregon standoff: Canceled meeting is latest casualty of online discord

Fears about firearms and blockades that originated on the Internet prompted the cancellation of a public meeting Monday night, the latest example of online threats and information that have stoked discord in this eastern Oregon community. The meeting would have been the third in a series of weekly gatherings organized by Harney County in the wake of the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Last week, frustrations boiled over in the Burns High School gymnasium as takeover leader Ammon Bundy made an appearance and residents started shouting at him, their elected officials and each other. Harney County commission chairman Steve Grasty decided this week to move the meeting to the smaller Harney County Senior Center after school administrators expressed concerns about guns on campus. He reminded residents of the senior center's ban on firearms and said entry would require a ticket because of limited space. County residents could get the tickets on a first-come, first-served basis. Thirty of the 150 tickets would be set aside for "invited guests," Grasty said, including elected officials and the Harney County Committee of Safety, a group formed at Bundy's urging before the Jan. 2 refuge occupation. But online backlash to the arrangement – including, Grasty said, plans to "blockade the doors" and at least one "pointed" call for gun owners to bring their weapons – led Grasty to shelve the meeting...more

Bundy attorney joins public lands debate in Utah

An attorney for the family of Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy joined nearly 100 local ranchers inside the Heritage Theater in Cedar City, Utah, last weekend to discuss problems and potential solutions to the controversial issue of federal management over public lands in Utah. The meeting was a "test-run" of the Western Rangelands Property Rights Workshop to be held in Boise, Idaho, on Saturday, said Todd McFarlane, an attorney for the Bundy family who described the current management system as “broken” during his comments to the group. “Right off the bat today, I want to make a couple things clear,” Pratt said. “Do I agree with everything the Bundys have done? No. Do I agree with House Bill 148 and Ken Ivory? No. But they are doing things — they are standing up and doing what they think is right.” Pratt teared up when he assured the crowd he was not doing the presentations for money. “I love liberty and I love my country — and I love freedom for everyone,” he said. McFarlane recounted the 2014 Bundy standoff. “It’s all about critical mass,” he said. “There is strength in numbers, and if you have a bunch of people there, you are on pretty solid footing — if you have one or two, or half a dozen, the federal government will squish you like a bug. “We are looking for the next wave. The early adapters, the legitimizers, those people who are ready to step up to the plate and help shape grazing and land use policy in the West for the foreseeable future,” McFarlane continued. “If we don’t do it, then the federal government is going to do it.” Angus McIntosh, adjunct professor of agriculture at Texas A&M University, said he became interested in the issue after many years working for the U.S. Forest Service. “These are public lands,” McIntosh said. “By that very definition there are no rights." Ryan Bundy and fellow activist LaVoy Finicum visited Cedar City on Jan. 13 to gather support for the WRPR workshop. Finicum took the time to speak on a local radio show with host Bryan Hyde, then posted a video of the experience once back inside the wildlife refuge in Harney County, Oregon. “Ryan Bundy and myself slipped out of here and went to another state — another county that is being oppressed,” he said in the YouTube video. “They are ready to stand up and ask the federal government to leave their county. We were there to be supportive and encourage that to happen.” Iron County Commissioner David Miller confirmed he was part of the meeting with commissioners from other counties, but said it was a peaceful meeting between ranchers. “Finicum brought up some very important points that I think the citizens would do well to hear about and understand,” Miller said...more

Group continues push for Ochoco protection despite Bundy setback

The group seeking to stave off efforts to open the Ochoco National Forest and surrounding mountains to an extensive trail system for off-road vehicles is pressing on despite divisive opposition that’s apparently grown in recent weeks. Although the 845,000-acre national forest is already managed by federal agencies, a new proposed designation for 312,000 acres within it comes at a time of enhanced focus on the debate on turning over federal public lands to state and local governments to manage. When the Crook County Court on Thursday held a town hall on the proposal to add some wilderness designation and other protection to the Ochocos, the FBI was still trying to end an armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon that has put attention on public land management. Sarah Cuddy, organizer for Oregon Wild’s effort to get Congress to create the Ochoco Mountains National Recreation Area in Crook and Wheeler counties, said the armed standoff has created a noticeable shift in the environmental group’s effort to find support in the community. “There was a change in tone in the conversation after the Malheur issues that started a few weeks ago,” Cuddy said Friday. “The conversation has become just a lot more polarized and divisive.” Several hundred people showed up to a meeting on the Ochoco national recreation area proposal Thursday night in Prineville, many of whom spoke against Oregon Wild’s proposal, Bartlett said. The proposal would add around 25,000 acres of wilderness protection. It would freeze the trail system that’s in place and prevent new trails for motorized users...more

Nice try, attempting to paint opponents of Wilderness as Bundy supporters.  Doubt if it will work, but others should be prepared for this tactic.

Oregon sheriff backs some demands made by Bundy

An Oregon sheriff has endorsed two of the demands made by an armed group that took over a federal wildlife preserve. Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is in Harney County, where local, state and federal law enforcement have convened to figure out how to deal with the occupation by the activists opposing federal land policy. Federal authorities have taken a hands-off approach so far and say they want a peaceful resolution. Glenn Palmer, the sheriff of nearby Grant County, told The Oregonian that releasing two ranchers from prison and sending the FBI out of the region would "be a start" to ending the occupation. Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe, who has been assisting Harney County officials, says Palmer's position is hampering efforts to end the armed standoff...more

Monday, January 25, 2016

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1549

It's Swingin' Monday and here's Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys with Sally Goodin'.  The tune was recorded in Hollywood on Oct. 31, 1947 and is available on their CD Boot Heel Drag:  The MGM Years.  That's Tommy Duncan on vocal and Joe Holley on fiddle.  The Westerner

Return Hammonds to ranch

It has now been 16 years since Kelli and I launched our crusade to educate the American public about who, how and where their food is produced. No one single attack from any group has set a rage inside of me like the one I witnessed in Burns, Oregon. I thought I had seen the best spinmeisters in the world but they could all take lessons from your federal government.
My infuriation grows because too many in our industry seem to care only about the image ranchers might be getting as a result of the occupation of a federal wildlife refuge by a small group of ranchers who are sick of being trampled on.

I spent hours with Susie Hammond, the wife of 73-year-old Dwight Hammond and mother of Steven Hammond. Dwight and Steven were resentenced to prison after completing their first sentences. Presiding Judge Hogan, who initially sentenced the ranchers, stated that a longer sentence “was cruel and unusual punishment for said crime.”

I have spent time in the past talking about the true injustice of this case so I will not go into that here except to say that the true crime in the Hammond situation is what the government is doing to this family because they want property the Hammonds own. If you think that is an exaggeration, then explain to me why would the government offer to drop all 22 charges if the Hammonds would simply sign over two-thirds of their ranch to the federal government?

How is it that the Department of Justice continues to put out information that in 2001, Steven Hammond’s hunting party poached deer and then set a fire to cover it up when that testimony was never presented in court because the claims were made by a source that was deemed not credible?

This father and son team did indeed light a fire that caused 127 acres of federal land to burn, but it was in the best interest of protecting the resources they were responsible for. Their back burn, which was approved with a telephone call to the BLM, prevented the loss of thousands of acres of private and public land. Don’t forget the Hammonds paid a $400,000 fine, which was equal to cost of fighting every single fire in the county last year.

Many are saying that this is much bigger than the Hammonds and the Bundys and I agree wholeheartedly. What I don’t understand is my friends in the agricultural community who are saying and doing nothing about this injustice. Is it because “that radical Ammon Bundy had to seize a federal wildlife refuge with guns”? What laws have Bundy and his group of occupiers broken?

Did you know that Ammon Bundy walked up the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, opened the door and walked in? It is a facility that is typically vacant all winter. He went in with friends and they stated they would occupy the facility until the Hammonds are released from prison and these public resources are managed by local control. They also stated, “If anyone comes to remove us, we will exercise our Second Amendment rights.” Folks, it was five days until the local sheriff returned Ammon Bundy’s call, and the feds have yet to reach out to seek a resolution, so what is the real agenda of the “lawmen”?

The town of Burns is obviously on edge but you need to know that the Bundy occupation is 30 miles from town. Instead of setting up headquarters in the multiple federal buildings outside of town, the FBI shut down the school, built a barricade around it and closed off several streets so they could hunker down there.

What I have personally witnessed on this trip is the worst side of our federal government that I could have ever imagined. Additionally, I am writing this because within days of reading this, thousands of the best cattlemen and cattlewomen will be gathering in San Diego, California, for the Cattle Industry Convention.

If this violation of basic American rights as food producers does not become the most discussed and most important issue of that gathering, then I suggest the next takeover will not be of federal property, but rather of an organization that has completely lost touch with what is most important to its members. If we can’t take a stand for each other, then what good is this organization?

Finally, I have received hundreds of inquiries in the past month from people who do actually want to do something. I realize that every person in every state has an issue that is top of mind as we all start our new legislative sessions, but I contend that what is currently happening in Harney County, Oregon, is happening in your state, too, and we need to get it fixed and retake state and local control.

While you can contribute to the Hammond family and their ongoing legal fees if you desire, Susie agrees with me that the best answer is contact anybody and everybody who will listen, from county supervisors to U.S. senators, and make sure they understand what happened to the Hammonds and don’t let up until those ranchers are returned home from federal prison.

Join me in signing this petition to get clemency for the Hammonds by going to this White House website before Jan. 27:

Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at, or email Trent at


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Forty miles of dirt road

By Julie Carter

While I’m sure the phrase “forty miles of dirt road” for some will recall its use to describe someone’s “weathered and wisened” face, it is also truly a geographical destination.

Across the cattle guard somewhere, a long way from the pavement is a cowboy’s bride marveling over her practical Christmas gifts and dreading the next oncoming storm because the water pipes are still frozen from the last one.

Ranch wives have different phobias than their city counterparts. No need for the common city phobias such as “claustro” and “agora.” The wide open spaces prevent the former and the latter, said to be caused by social anxiety problems, would require a whole lot more “social” in her life than does actually happen.

The more common phobias experienced by ranch wives include fear of gifts and invitations.

This year’s winner of the “practical Christmas gift” from the cowboy husband was the “new stock tank so she only had to fill it once instead of three times to water the bulls.” It came with an option for a new solar electric fence energizer to better keep the bulls where they belonged. Recent years recall the stellar gift of a new cattle guard so the little wife didn’t have to open and close the gate several times a day on her way to check waters, deliver the mail and other assorted chores requiring driving down the dirt road.

Second place in the “practical gift” category is the 2-year-old colt he had been eyeing for himself but sacrificed his desires to make it her gift. That sacrifice came with the expectation she would break the colt and a start with the practical training in the spring. Oddly, the colt came with a new saddle that fits him but not her.

Big ticket items are as common as her phobia for them. Gifts like the new mud grips for her “personal” feed pickup, or a new battery for it, so that he does not have to come rescue her in the back pasture when the truck dies.

The very thoughtful love of her life has been known to give her new horn wraps for the roping steers because she was always complaining that the old ones were hard to put on and take off. Past years have yielded new shotguns, new hotshots, new fence stretchers and the ever-popular new wood splitting maul in a bright red color for the seasonal touch.

And then there are those “invitations” from her loving partner. 

“Honey, how would you like to go with me to check the grass and new calves all over the ranch?”

While this innocent and thoughtful invitation is a city girl’s dream to be a “cowboy” for a day, the seasoned ranch wife knows that this invite will involve making burritos for the saddlebags, opening 35 gates, tallying up everything seen and making the list of whatever needs to be fixed encountered along this “pleasant” tour. 

It also involves riding that half-broke colt that needs the miles and to date, has not quite grasped the concept of standing still while being mounted. Her cowboy has that pesky bad knee from an old roping injury making gate duty her job forever.

The upside is that a refined skill is learned by the cowboy’s bride. While maybe never actually consciously yearning to be an actress, out of necessity she becomes one of Oscar quality. Expressing enthusiasm for his newly brainstormed project, gratitude for those practical gifts, and excitement for yet another round of “Come go with me. We’ll be right back,” continually improves her smiling techniques.

One early morning the cowboy was lollygagging around, delaying his promise to help her with a project that required his stature and strength. Her encouragement for progress pushed him to the limit. Agitated, he barked at her, "You know I'm a slow starter."

Her reply was a sincere attempt to give him a compliment. “But you're a real quick finisher.” For some reason, he was mad at her for days. Hard to figure.

So goes life behind the cattle guard and down 40 miles of dirt road.

Julie, with first-hand knowledge of behind-the-cattleguard living, can be reached for comment at