By GENE H. McINTYRE
I have read widely, as many an Oregonian have, about the long, arduous and dedicated work of several Americans that came before us and got our national monuments, refuges and parks established, it was with alarm that the events at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge unfolded two years ago. Described as an armed, self-described militia group, protesting the sentencing of father-son ranchers in Burns, Oregon, for burning federal land, they seized control of the eastern Oregon refuge for 41 days.
That group of outlaws substantially wrecked the buildings and equipment there and, besides protesting over the incarceration of father-son for criminal actions, clearly wanted to take our Refuge away from decades-long protection by the federal government as a sanctuary for bird and beast in order to declare the Refuge for personal use and personal profit from all manner of personal and private development. Some of these people were already under law-breaking status by the federal government for tax evasion in the state of Nevada where, for all intents and purposes, they used federal land there as though their private property.
Bundy family members and followers were brought to federal court in Oregon but had the charges against them dismissed as have had the federal charges against the father, Cliven Bundy, dismissed in Nevada. These outcomes predict more trouble for all of us who want the federal lands set aside as sanctuaries for Americans to visit and view and essentially have now given Bundy look-alikes to believe they can do as they please with public property while the average American who cares should be on notice that the next round with these law-breakers is about to get underway, and predictably, with Trump Administration help.
One of Oregon’s newspapers, The Daily Astorian, through its editorial board, has commented that “Most Americans have little sympathy for Bundy, his family and supporters. He might like to think himself a folk hero, but his hidebound refusal to abide by longstanding cattle-grazing rules placed innocent lives in danger, degraded public lands around his ranch and made a mockery of the law.” However, the reader may have noticed, as did I, that government attorney ineptness failed to obey the rules of evidence in the Oregon and Nevada prosecution efforts.
The judge in the Nevada case, the honorable Gloria Navarro, decided the holding back of evidence useful to the defense bungled their case and thereby ended it. Hence, the government prosecutors, stumbling around like cowboys in from a cattle drive for a night on the town, demonstrated an inability to herd things to convictions. Replacements, trained and experienced to get the job done, as a new set of federal of prosecutors, should be appointed to re-try, with success, these lawless types.
Unfortunate for those of us who do not want a repeat of the Malheur take-over and the subverting of rangeland actions by the Bundy ranch in Nevada, President Trump and his Secretaries of Energy Rick Perry, and Interior, Ryan Zinke, Environmental Protection Agency directory Scott Pruitt, who seek to convert public lands to private purchase and use, those of us who want monuments, refuges and parks protected will not be in any likely way see a saving of federal lands before January, 2021. Those of us who want the land that belongs to all Americans for posterity must fight for public lands protection because those among us who will exploit for profit are pals of Trump and have his ear.
Another chapter in this saga is currently underway by the family of the law-breaking occupier who died in a shootout with federal and state law enforcement officers. Meanwhile, preliminary costs to American taxpayers for FBI and state police, the wreckage by occupiers, the loss of work by fish and wildlife employees, the damage to businesses, et cetra in the area now adds up by available figures to something around $6,000,000. The family suing seeks $5,000,000. Wouldn’t that be something if our fellow Americans award the amount wanted, thereby essentially forcing us to condone and financially reward criminal behavior.
(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)