I’m a veteran law enforcement officer who saw all kinds of problems with the so-called militia occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural Oregon.
Dwight and Steven Hammond are the father and son previously accused of child abuse (including punishing the family minor already known to self-harm) and set fires on federal land (one to cover up their illegal poaching of deer and another, in violation of a burn ban, which endangered volunteer firefighters). These are the individuals the Bundys claim they’re protecting, but the Hammond attorney says the Bundys and their hangers-on don’t even speak for the ranchers.
I am also a past Master Gardener, a TreeKeeper, and member of the American Bird Conservancy who knows this refuge, one of the first in the country (courtesy of Republican President Theodore Roosevelt), is an important rest stop for migrating birds.
The building the Bundy boys and their followers were sheltering in is a New-Deal-taxpayer-funded building near Burns, Oregon. The refuge was established almost a century ago, and is used annually by millions of birds on the Pacific Flyway.
The Bundys’ ranching operations would collapse without the support they gladly accept (“demand”, more likely) from the government, like their Small Business Association loan, the low-price leases and grazing fees, and Uncle Sam’s killing of apex predators that ranchers feel unduly endanger their cattle. That would be foxes, coyotes, bear, and mountain lions, which are necessary in ecosystems and whose ancestors here predate ranchers by millennia. And the very first people on this continent were the Native Americans – why didn’t the Bundys speak up for them instead, or also?
Why didn’t they choose to occupy a prison, or seat of legislative power? Because they know they haven’t enough supporters, firepower, or perhaps intestinal fortitude, they picked on an entity they perceive to be weak. Peaceful people who have differences of opinions with others will sit down and discuss their grievances, and won’t feel a need to flaunt whatever weapons they might possess.
In this and any future deliberate disruptions by those who threaten public employees and operations, the government should immediately institute grazing fees equivalent to what private landowners get and call in all the loans it made in a spirit of trust and understanding. Anything less permits these hypocrites the perception of increased and undue power, robs birds and everything related of safe haven, and slaps taxpayers in the face.