Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Malheur Refuge standoff: The ranchers’ story

The standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge captivated the nation for 41 days and 40 nights. De facto militia leader Ammon Bundy staged the armed occupation under the notion of representing the disenfranchised people of Harney County. But is it true? Do the people of Burns feel the United States government is ruling with an iron fist? Gary Marshall, a 7th-generation rancher in Harney County, told KOIN 6 News the militia never spoke for him or for anyone else he can think of that owns property in Burns. “It was not true. [The militia] were just wrong,” said Marshall, “When they came they didn’t understand the situation here.” Marshall owns a little over 11,000 acres of land in Harney County. It’s private property. But for about 6 months a year, he needs to graze his cattle on the surrounding federally-owned land. He pays a fee and has a permit. It’s just one example of how private land ownership and federal land management works. “There has not been a major clash or battle that’s happened,” Marshall said. In all of Oregon there are more than 63 million total acres of land. The federal government owns or manages more than half. At first glance, it’s easy to assume the feds have all the power and can do whatever it pleases. But that’s simply not the case, said Brenda Smith, the chair of the High High Desert Partnership. “It’s not just about the land. It’s about our community, it’s about the social fabric of our challenges that we need to meet. It’s also about the economics of what needs to go on,” said Smith. The High Desert Partnership is a coalition in Harney County of all different people who live and work near (or on) the County’s federal land. It ensures everyone has a seat at the table. In Harney County, 75% of the land is federally owned...more

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