By Clint Siegner
Oregon Governor, Kate Brown, sat in her office January 20th and drafted a letter to the US Attorney General and the Director of the FBI. She wrote negotiations with the “radicals” occupying the Malheur Refuge have failed and insisted on a “swift resolution to this matter.” Harney County Judge Steve Grasty made similar demands as the protest at the refuge continued. On January 26th, they got what they asked for.
Authorities, including the FBI, ambushed and arrested Ammon Bundy along with a number of other protesters on their way to a public meeting in neighboring Grant County. They shot LaVoy Finicum dead. Witnesses say he was not holding a weapon.
Awful. Judge Grasty and Governor Brown were certainly aware of what might happen should the FBI decide negotiations have failed. Few have forgotten the stand-offs at Waco and Ruby Ridge and that “swift” federal action often means people die. In many cases, indiscriminately.
It’s ironic, but the behavior of the local judge and the State Governor goes a long way to make the refuge protesters’ case for them. Blind devotion to federal authority is terribly dangerous to lives and liberty.
The protest in Harney County will certainly not be the last when it comes to federal overreach. Here is hoping people find reason next time, before demanding dangerous federal intervention.
To that end, it is time to dispel a few myths about what is going on.
Myth #1: The armed people at the Refuge were threatening violence.
You wouldn’t know it by watching TV news, or reading Governor Brown’s hysteric letter, but the Malheur Refuge wasn’t an armed compound full of violent people. To find that, you needed to drive by the airport in Burns, OR, where federal agents staged behind fences and a flood-lit perimeter, with military vehicles, equipment, and weapons.
Yes, the occupants at the Refuge were armed and they reserved the right to defend themselves. The difference between them and any other citizen claiming their 2nd amendment right, is that they did so from inside public, and previously unoccupied, federal buildings.
They got very little credit for doing virtually everything possible to minimize threats and interruptions to the local community. They could scarcely have chosen a more remote location and they moved in when they knew not a soul was around.
The facility was operated more like an open house than a compound. Locals could, and did, pour in there to see what the stand-off was all about. Many were sympathetic enough to bring food and supplies with them. The protesters invited anyone who wanted to show up and have an honest conversation.
For Oregonians, the much larger threat is their high officials writing letters and urging the feds to “swift” action.
Myth #2: Only nutty, right wing militias from outside would stoop to such tactics.
The system is broken. Petitioning Congress, where the vast majority of representatives cater to entirely different interests, or using the court system where unaccountable federal judges define the limits (if any) of federal power, is not working. So people should expect more unconventional means when it comes to protest.
Governor Brown and Judge Grasty must know the protest in Harney County included a number of State and local residents. There were plenty of community people sympathetic enough with the protest to bring food and supplies, as mentioned above. The storeroom literally overflowed, and locally grown beef was kept frozen in a snow bank outside for lack of freezer space.
If they had visited the refuge, they would have found people there ready to talk calmly, rationally and intelligently about the issues. Tragically they felt there had been too much talking already. Now one of the most calm and rational leaders in the group is dead.
Federal supremacists like to marginalize anyone advocating for local control as radical and dangerous. They want you to believe these people are motivated by crazy ideology and sprang out of nowhere.
They don’t talk much about history. These issues on display in Harney County have been simmering for decades. The Sagebrush Rebellion made headlines in the 1970’s and 80’s. There is an entire movement of smart folks stretching all the way back to the nation’s founding who question the legitimacy of federal control over public lands.
Given just how economically devastating the BLM and Forest Service management has been for rural communities all over Oregon, Brown and Grasty should be asking some questions too.
Myth #3: Anyone opposed to Federal control of lands hates conservation.
Governor Brown and Judge Grasty share the same irrational philosophy forwarded by many of the prominent national conservation organizations: the best way to protect public lands is to put unelected bureaucrats headquartered thousands of miles away in charge. That position is hard to fathom. So many conservatives see the value in “buying local” when it comes to food, services, you name it. Local is great, except when it comes to government?
It is a bit reminiscent of war. The propaganda department is busy dehumanizing the enemy. Branding ranchers and loggers as if they are all foolish and blinded by greed. And local citizens as if they are too inept to stand up to them and govern responsibly.
The truth is there are wise people who care for the environment living right there in Harney County. Included among them are cattle ranchers and forestry professionals. Many of these folks simply believe management decision making would be better if it was done much closer to home.
Myth #4: Ranchers just want a free ride.
It would be far more accurate to say ranchers want fair, not free. Many western ranches have a federal grazing permit attached to them. This permit has economic value, similar to medallions that taxicab operators buy in order to run their business. Most of the time ranchers acquire the permit when they buy a ranch, though they can buy and sell them independently as well. The permit’s value is significant. The point is, cattlemen pay big money up front for access to the grass.
On top of that, they pay grazing fees annually. Some argue the fees are unfairly set way below the market rate to rent private pasture. But these people don’t account for ranchers providing their own veterinary services, maintaining fences and water systems, delivering salt and other feed supplements and moving their own cattle from place to place. Together with the large up-front cost of purchasing the grazing rights, these are key differences versus renting private pasture.
In any event, practically no rancher is complaining about the dollars involved.
They object to paying federal agencies who have a long history of treating them like tenant farmers and disrespecting legitimate property rights. Most support the idea of paying fees locally, and getting more accountable range management in return.
Myth #5: The Federal Government’s prerogative to own and manage the majority of lands in Oregon is beyond question.
Now we get to the very crux of the matter. Everyone raised in the US is taught federal laws are supreme. What’s more, we learn the US Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter on whether or not a law is constitutional. When nine (or fewer) judges, that practically no one has ever met, issue a ruling the matter is settled once and for all. Those arguing for state and local control of lands had their day in court. They lost. Case closed.
Not so fast. What we were all taught is nonsense. No surprise given school curriculums are largely designed by the federal agencies. In fact, the States (capital S) are sovereign. The Federal Government, including the nine almost wholly unaccountable justices serving on the high court, are not the supreme authority. State governments have the power-make that the sacred duty-to nullify unconstitutional laws and defend the liberty of citizens.
The kicker is that Governor Brown herself already acknowledged this truth in another context. She signed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana last summer, in complete disregard of federal laws. She didn’t send a letter to Washington begging for federal storm troopers to batter the doors in at pot dispensaries. To the contrary, she determined Oregon’s authority trumps federal dictates and acted accordingly.
What a “radical.” May she and Judge Grasty find that spirit of independence before calling on the FBI to crush the next protest.
About the Author
Clint Siegner is a Director at Money Metals Exchange, an national precious metals dealer specializing in bullion coins, rounds and bars located in Eagle, Idaho. He is passionate about personal liberty, limited government, and honest money and writes regularly on those subjects.
Re-published on seekingredress with the author’s permission