Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The new Malheur occupants: Grazing cattle

Now that the focus has shifted to the upcoming trials of the outlaws who took over Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge offices last January, we might recall that the actual, physical occupation lasted for a total of 41 days. In many ways, however, it never ended, and there is every reason to conclude that the occupiers won. The refuge’s headquarters are still closed, federal cops guard the area, and no one answers the phone. At least six staff members have left, including the fisheries expert and the ecologist. They have not been replaced. Meanwhile, all is not quiet on this Western front. Some or all of the 13 ranchers with grazing privileges on the refuge were going full-bore when my students and I drove north along the refuge on Aug. 12. Thousands of acres of the Blitzen Valley part of the refuge had been mowed. Three huge double-flatbed trailered semis passed us going south, ready to welcome on board the valuable hay bales. Ranchers apparently pay with “in kind services,” which in this case means that the hay is paid for by mowing, baling and hauling it off. Because the mowing is considered beneficial to wildlife, it is considered a “service’ to the refuge and to wildlife, so little or no cash changes hands. So ubiquitous was the haying activity I saw that it is hard to believe that it had only been going on for two days...more

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