Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Armed protesters: Occupation about who controls the land in the West

Armed protesters at Oregon's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge say government interference is the reason why the area's rural economies have struggled in recent years, Kirk Johnson and Jack Healy report for The New York Times. They say the federal government should hand control of the land over to ranchers and local governments, much like it was 100 years ago when the West was taking shape. (Wikipedia map: Harney County, Oregon)

Ammon Bundy, the leader of the occupation group said at a news conference Tuesday, “It is our goal to get the logger back to logging, to get the rancher back to ranching, to get the miner back to mining, the farmer back to farming—and to jump-start this economy in Harney County."

But not everyone involved in the protest seems to be on the same page, Johnson and Healy write. "The participants surrounding Mr. Bundy appear to have in common a reverence for the United States Constitution, which many quote from at length or brandish in paper form from a pocket to cite. But after that, their paths diverge into a tangle of other causes, beliefs and motivations, with some more focused on personal liberty, others wanting to talk about economic harm to the agricultural heritage or tradition of the West—which they say comes from government overreach in control of natural resources like the grass that grows on public lands."

"Last year, a yearslong dispute between Mr. Bundy’s father Cliven and federal officials over his illegal grazing on public lands erupted into a tense, armed confrontation," Johnson and Healy write. "And Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan and his followers—who are now in their fourth day of protest at the federally owned sanctuary—echo the terms and tenets of that conflict: who controls the land in the West." (Read more)

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