Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Oregon standoff leaders urge local ranchers to defy feds on grazing fees
The occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge took their crusade to end federal land ownership to a new level Monday, imploring local ranchers to tear up their government grazing contracts.
Standing before a crowd of about 30 in the dining room of a high desert hot springs resort, the leaders of the armed standoff urged those gathered to "lay claim" to the area's federal lands.
The federal government owns about three-quarters of Harney County, renting much of it out to ranchers who pay a fee to run cattle there.
"If you want to clear yourself from this unconstitutional mess and claim the rights that you already own and use them the way you should, then you need to take that contract and you need to tear it up and you need to tell them that you're never signing another one again," said Ryan Bundy, one of the leaders of the takeover with his younger brother, Ammon Bundy.
...Now, the protesters are going a step further, asking local ranchers to sign their names to documents rejecting the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's authority.
"When you commit to stand, I promise you the angel of heaven will stand with you," occupation spokesman Robert "LaVoy" Finicum told the crowd.
Finicum announced earlier in the day that the protesters had recruited two ranchers – one from Oregon and one from New Mexico -- to stop paying grazing fees, but he and the other occupation leaders spent more than three hours in Crane trying to convince more people to join the cause.
The signing ceremony – now set for Saturday -- is "a once in a lifetime opportunity," Ammon Bundy said. The next time such an opportunity arises, he said: "It'll be war."
"The opportunity is now. The place is Harney County. And you are the people," he said.