Sunday, January 3, 2016

Anti-fed seizure of federal wildlife refuge one of today's big headlines, dateline: Burns, Oregon

I awakened this morning to a story, dateline Burns, Oregon, population 2,806, on By his afternoon it had become the top story—at least among domestic news.  The headline for Kirk Johnson and Julie Turkewitz's report this evening is "Armed Group Vows to Hold Federal Wildlife Office in Oregon 'For Years.'"  The lede follows:
An armed antigovernment group vowed Sunday to continue to occupy a federal wildlife refuge building in rural Oregon indefinitely, in protest of the government’s treatment of two local ranchers. 
Federal officials said that they were monitoring the takeover, but there did not appear to be an imminent plan to confront the protesters.
Burns is one of two population centers in sparsely populated Harney County, in the eastern part of the state.  Oregon law enforcement officials said today:
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.
Ammon Bundy, a Montana rancher, appeared to be the leader of the group.  Bundy's father is Cliven Bundy, who "became a symbol of antigovernment sentiment in 2014" when he "inspired a standoff between local militias and federal officials seeking to confiscate cattle grazing illegally on federal land for more than a decade."  A statement captured on video today showed Mr. Bundy stating that the group was prepared to be out here for as long as need be” and would leave only when the people of Harney County “can use these lands as free men.
We’re out here because the people have been abused long enough really. Their lands and their resources have been taken from them to the point where it’s putting them literally in poverty, and this facility has been a tool in doing that. It is the people’s facility, owned by the people.
In a separate statement posted on Facebook, Bundy said:
We’re out here because the people have been abused long enough.
Bundy called the prosecution of the Hammonds, the two Oregon ranchers convicted of arson, “a symptom of a very huge, egregious problem” that he described as a battle over land and resources between the federal government and “the American people.”
The people cannot survive without their land.  We cannot have the government restricting the use of that to the point that it puts us in poverty.
Mr. Bundy described the federal building as “the people’s facility, owned by the people” and said his group was occupying it to take “a hard stand against this overreach, this taking of the people’s land and resources.”
We pose no threat to anybody.  There is no person that is physically harmed by what we are doing. 
Bundy added that if law enforcement officials “bring physical harm to us, they will be doing it only for a facility or a building.”
Harney County's population is 7,126, with a poverty rate of 18%.  It's 88% non-Hispanic white population and its population density is 0.7 per square mile.  In terms of land area, Harney County is one of the 10 largest counties in the nation and the largest in Oregon.  

Here is a just-posted follow up piece in the NYTimes on what we know. 

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