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The Bundys and Rancher Anger



As I’ve been saying repeatedly, while the Bundys are evil and their followers in taking over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are lunatics, they are tapping into real anger in the western ranch country. We can easily say that anger is not justified since it doesn’t have to remain our national priority to rent out grazing land at incredibly low prices to environmentally detrimental industries. But they are angry nonetheless, seeing themselves and their economic future slipping away in a globalized, urbanized, and racially diverse America that doesn’t value their method of production in the way it once did. Of course, it’s far easier to blame the federal government than complex forces, although they are more than happy to blame Portland and Eugene and Boise and Las Vegas liberals too. And yes, there are plenty of people in Burns who want the Bundys out of their hair.

But there are plenty of ranchers who are interested in their message.

Some ranchers were more receptive to the Bundys’ message. They spoke of their frustration with the environmental regulations on BLM land, and their belief that the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge wants to grow by acquiring ranches.

Buck Taylor runs cattle on about 200,000 acres of land, including private land, BLM allotments and land in the refuge.

After listening to the presentation, Taylor said he was considering the Bundys’ proposition, but thought there should be more meetings to discuss it.

“I am drinking the Kool Aid,” he said. “I haven’t swallowed it yet. I am open to the idea.”

Duane Schrock, who ranches on private land near Crane, Oregon, also walked away with a positive impression.

“It was good; very informational,” he said. “People need to be educated. If they’re not educated, they’re not going to know what’s going on.”

Schrock is a member of the Harney County Committee of Safety, a group that supports the militants’ proposals. Bundy and Payne helped establish the committee before the occupation began Jan. 2.

After the meeting, Franklin, the rancher who’d spoken against the proposition, said he was ready for the Bundys to go. He said he has relatives who work for the BLM, and he was struggling to keep his family calm.

“I know that the refuge is never going to be in private hands,” he said. “Are they going to Yosemite? Are they going to Yellowstone? Where else are they going to do this?”

If it wasn’t for the utterly lawless nature of the Bundy’s actions, there would be even more support. Obviously not all ranchers are completely nuts and willing to violate the law. But they almost all want more access for their cattle and see the refuge as federal land that should belong to them, not a bunch of birds and pronghorn.

It’s also worth noting that for all the dildos and lube and making fun of the Bundys, there are real people whose lives are being harmed here–the workers at the Malheur:

In the days since the refuge was taken over Jan. 2, employees have regularly spoken to each other. They say they’re angry, even devastated, about being displaced.

“Some have children that are school aged, some don’t. But regardless, to have an entire upheaval of the entire family unit is very disruptive psychologically for all of our families,” the current refuge employee told OPB.

But talking helps, the employee said, noting there’s “therapeutic” value in sharing frustrations.

The refuge employees are still getting paid as the occupation stretches into its third week. Some workers are able to do their jobs remotely. For others, the agency has found temporary work in other locations.

For the federal employees who have stuck around, law enforcement said recently that the threats from militants have continued.

“That loss of a sense of safety,” the refuge employee said, “we don’t realize how core and how important that is until that’s been compromised and it definitely has in this situation.”

At least in Oregon, there are increasing calls to get tough with the Bundys. The Oregonian:

A sustained tolerance for the occupation at this point won’t do. Measured but aggressive actions should be taken, among them cutting off power to the refuge headquarters and engaging armed ranchers arriving to join in Finicum’s signing ceremony, now set for Saturday – itself a potential civic disruption that legally warrants investigative action. Among other things, continued tolerance would likely be the encouragement Finicum and Bundy need for their standoff to metastasize among the errant across the American West, with Oregon the unwitting epicenter. A heavy-handed crackdown by law enforcement is discouraged, meanwhile, as it would likely trigger bloodshed, creating martyrs among the occupiers and dooming essential public discourse about the role of public lands and the right of all Americans to enjoy them.

Is there a middle ground in this mess? The occupiers say no, and their actions prove it. They have, after all, mugged democracy. The occupation can thus be named: an unconstitutional taking from the people. It is unlikely Finicum or Bundy would grasp this fact. Despite their rhetoric, they are not giving anything back to Harney County residents, who know theft when they see it.

Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward should immediately post at refuge headquarters a notice that utilities will be shut off on a specified day of eviction. The occupiers should know, as they grow cold, their thuggery will not be withstood.

And Governor Kate Brown, who wrote President Obama:

“I conveyed the harm that is being done to the citizens of Harney County by the occupation, and the necessity that this unlawful occupation end peacefully and without further delay from federal law enforcement,” she wrote of an earlier conversation with FBI Director James B. Comey. “On behalf of all Oregonians, I appreciate your consideration of our desire to see this situation come to a close, and I thank you for your timely attention to this matter.”

It does appear as if something is happening, as Bundy visited the FBI headquaters set up to deal with this situation. Hopefully they told him of the consequences he is going to face. If these people aren’t arrested, tried, and convicted for their many violations of federal law, you can pretty much forget government control over the rural West. There is potential for real long-term disaster here for those of us who care about the public lands. The government needs to end this occupation and bring Bundy and his band of raving idiots to justice.

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