A group of armed protesters in Burns, Oregon has occupied a national wildlife refuge, led by armed militiamen. Brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy have chosen to camp out at a federal reserve in Oregon, and have called on others to join them. According to officials, Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher and the family patriarch was illegally grazing cattle on protected land for years. The Bureau of Land Management seized his cattle in 2014, causing the Bundy family to rally armed protesters to the site in protest. There was brief a standoff between protesters and federal officers in which one of the Bundy sons was tased. On April 12, 2014 the Bureau of Land Management was forced to return the cattle to the Bundy family. They have since become activists, traveling around to protest incidents which they see as the government over-regulating lands. Burns, Oregon is their most recent cause.
Burns is a small town about 280 miles southeast of Portland, Oregon. Local ranchers, Dwight Hammond, 73, and Steven Hammond, 46, lit fires on federal land in 2001 and 2006. They said this was an attempt to reduce the growth of invasive plants and to protect their property from wildfires. Three years ago, both were convicted of arson and served time. Dwight served three months and Steven served one year.
This October, however, a federal judge ruled that their terms were not long enough under United States minimum sentencing law. The judge ordered them back to prison for around four years each. This decision instigated the Bundy family to step in and organize the protest which is currently being held at the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
— Gordon R. Friedman (@gordonrfriedman) January 4, 2016
This rift between the government and westerners is part of a long dispute between some ranchers and the federal government over the use of public land. It began in 1970 with the “Sagebrush Rebellion.” 13 states in the west had a significant amount of land controlled by the federal government. Supporters of this movement wanted to have more state and local control over these areas.
The struggle in Burns is a continuation of that movement. Ammon Bundy posted a video on his Facebook page calling for militia members to come help. The caption of the video says “All Patriots it’s time to stand up not stand down! We need your help! Come prepared.”
According to Ryan Bundy, the federal government has been "tromping on people's rights and privileges and properties and livelihoods. I understand the land needs to be used wisely, but that's what we as stewards need to do. A rancher is going to take care of his own ranch."
Dave Ward, the Harney County Sheriff spoke out against the protesters. "These men came to Harney County claiming to be part of militia groups supporting local ranchers, when in reality these men had alternative motives to attempt to overthrow the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States," he said on Sunday.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.