Friday, January 08, 2016

BLM's inconsistency when dealing with rule breakers being blamed for armed Oregon standoff

Some are blaming the Bureau of Land Management's inconsistency when dealing with law breakers on federal land for the armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, Jonathan Thompson reports for High Country News. One of the reasons Ammon and Ryan Bundy began the standoff was "to protest what they see as an unjust punishment of a father-son pair of local ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond," who in October were ordered by a judge to "finish a five year required minimum sentence for lighting fires on public land back in 2001 and 2006." (Washington Post graphic: Malheur National Wildlife Refuge)

High Country News, which examined several similar BLM cases that had varying results, found that the Bundys' father, Cliven, has for years grazed cattle illegally on BLM allotment without paying fees and has never been punished "for his role in inciting supporters to threaten federal agents at gunpoint back in May of 2014," Thompson writes.

In 2014, BLM and then no fewer than three federal judges found that Cliven Bundy "was trespassing and ordered him to remove his cows," Thompson writes. "They also determined that he owes anywhere from $300,000 to $1 million in back grazing fees. After Bundy’s continual refusal to remove his cows or pay the money owed, BLM contractors showed up to confiscate his cattle. But a heavily armed group of supporters converged on the ranch, threatening the federal officers at gunpoint. BLM backed down, returned the cattle and left. Bundy—and those 'defending' him—have yet to be prosecuted. The cattle yet roam free."

Bob Abbey, former director of the BLM, told High Country News, “At the end of the day, most people have a common respect for the law, and with Mr. Bundy, he just believes differently, that he’s above the law. The fact that their trespass hasn’t been dealt with in a timely matter reinforced beliefs.” (Read more)

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