The Oregon militia standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge ended yesterday as Ammon and Ryan Bundy, along with the rest of their group, were arrested. A brief gun battle took place on the road near the refugee as the militia group attempted to travel to the town of John Day, OR, about 100 miles away. There was supposed to be some sort of ′community meeting′, but local and state police along with federal authorities intercepted them. Ryan Bundy was wounded during the gun battle, according to the newspaper, The Oregonian. The militia group′s spokesman, LaVoy Finicum, was killed during the fire fight. For some 24 days, the group had occupied the main office at the refuge, protesting the re-imprisonment of two local ranchers whom had accidentally burned some 127 acres of the land.
This all started on January 2, 2016, when the group, Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, took control of the refuge. They wanted Barack Obama to grant Dwight Hammond, and his son Steven, clemency for two arson charges dating back to 2001 and 2006. The Hammonds were ranchers whose property was next to federal land and they have had a number of run-ins with agents of the Bureau of Land Management going back to the 1990s. Those were mostly issues concerning cattle grazing and hunting on federal land, and the construction of a fence along the property line. In 2012, the Hammonds were tried and convicted on two counts of arson caused when backfires started by the ranchers got out of control and burnt federal land. Four other counts related to other matters were dismissed and they were found not guilty of two other charges.
While federal prosecutors asked that the sentences would be the minimum, mandatory 5 year prison terms, US District Judge Michael Robert Hogan only sentenced the ranchers to serve one year and one day. Prosecutors appealed the sentences as not following federal guidelines and the 9th Circuit court ruled in favor of the law, vacating Judge Hogan′s decision. In October, 2015, the Hammonds were resentenced to serve the rest of the five-year term and were ordered to return to prison on January 4. Many citizens thought this was unfair and even the Oregon Farm Bureau circulated a petition for clemency.
Then entered the Bundy family! You may recall that there was a stand off in Clark County, Nevada early in 2014 when the Bureau of Land Management rounded up cattle on federal land belonging to Cliven Bundy. That dispute started in 1993 over fees for grazing permits, which Bundy refused to pay. In late March of 2014, the BLM and National Park Service finally took action based on a federal court ruling from July, 2013, closing off the land used by Bundy for grazing. A variety of supporters gathered to stop the BLM from rounding up Bundy′s cattle in early April and the standoff became dangerous by April 10. On April 12, a deal had been negotiated by the local sheriff and the situation was defused.
Aside from the Bundy family being involved in both incidents, the larger questions of federal land ownership and use are being weighed. Many believe that such lands belong to the states and they should have a final say in how they are used. With the Oregon militia standoff ended, leaving one dead, one wounded and the rest of the group of occupiers arrested, will this bring an end to future incidents? Probably not. There are plenty of people who are itching for a fight, for a showdown with the federal government. One would hope that as we begin to vote in an election year, cooler heads will prevail. People will vent their frustrations at the ballot box instead of the ammo box. But this is the result of a nation highly divided after decades of Cultural Marxism and Progressive legislation. Something to think about when voting.