The Owyhee Canyonlands Debate

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Katie Aguilera

On Monday, May 23rd, I spent a good part of the day at the Oregon state capitol in Salem attending the House Interim Committee on Rural Communities, Land Use, and Water informational hearing regarding the Owyhee Canyonlands Monument proposal.  It was a very well attended meeting, with  the main hearing room and an overflow room filled to capacity.  This is a pretty important topic here in Oregon right now, in the aftermath of the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge earlier this year which brought national attention to a number of issues.  Not the least of which is the debate over who should control public lands, the states those lands are contained within, or the federal government.

The Owyhee Canyonlands Monument proposal seeks to add an additional layer of permanent protection to 2.5 million acres in southeast Oregon by having the area declared a national monument by the President through the use of the Antiquities Act of 1906. According to this report written for Congress by the Congressional Research Service, the Antiquities Act “authorizes the President to create national monuments on federal lands that contain historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest.”

The canyonlands are located in Malheur County, Oregon’s second largest county. This area is incredible, and certainly unique as one of the largest roadless areas in the lower 48 states.  It is very remote, rugged and beautiful, home to petroglyphs, plant species found nowhere else, and vast habitat for a wealth of wildlife.  It is also home to one of my favorite rivers to float, the Owyhee.

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There is no doubt the Owyhee Canyonlands are a special place cherished by anyone who has explored them, and especially by those who live in the area.  That fact was made very clear by all who spoke before the House Committee during the meeting.  It seems that everyone agrees there needs to be some level of protection for these lands, and there have been numerous plans and discussions over the years about implementing various forms of protection.  Also, as was pointed out at the meeting, as well as here on a website formed by some of the opponents to the monument, 100% of the 2.5 million acres are already public and protected.

Richard C. Niederhof, professor emeritus of Central Oregon Community College, in a letter to the Bend Bulletin, puts it this way:

The Owyhee River canyon is already protected from rim to rim. Congress has already designated 120 miles of the Owyhee River in Oregon as a wild river component of the National Wild and Scenic River System, extending from the Oregon-Idaho border to the Owyhee Reservoir, excluding only 14 miles of non-canyon river near Rome.

Furthermore, the actual canyon lands, river and all significant canyon tributaries make up only 9 percent of the 2.5 million acres in the proposal. Therefore, the primary “selling point” of “saving of the canyon lands” is unjustified and deceptive.

So why, if this land is already protected, is this now an issue so hotly contested and up for discussion in a House Committee meeting?

The real debate, as Rep. Sherrie Sprenger stated very clearly during the meeting, seems to be about control.  This is the very debate that is sparking growing frustration, anger, and even violence throughout the western states.  Who should control and manage these lands, the federal government, or the states?  And the push for monument status for the Owyhee Canyonlands demonstrates exactly why this has become such a hot debate.

Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), a Bend based organization that works to “protect, defend, and restore Oregon’s high desert” and Keen Footwear company have proposed the establishment of the monument.  They cite a poll that suggests as much as 70% of Oregonians support the proposal, 66% in the district where the canyonlands are located.

However, Malheur County residents voted no in an advisory vote on the monument proposal in March of this year.  This was a single-action ballot, the monument proposal the only issue on it, and according to Elias Eiguren, a Malheur county rancher who spoke at the meeting, 54% of Malheur county voters participated in the vote.  90% of those participants voted no on the monument proposal.

According to this Oregon Business article, a poll they conducted showed that 54% of Oregonians supported the monument (vs. the 70% in the poll ONDA promotes), and the article makes the point that this is largely a divide between urban and rural residents.  The majority of the people who are most likely to be affected by the monument designation, and possible resulting legislation over use of the area, do not support the proposal.  So why the push now, as President Obama nears the end of his term, and the local areas are still reeling from the divisive effects of the Malheur Refuge take-over?

Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe spoke of the very real sensitivity in the area after the refuge occupation.  He clearly stated his concern that outsiders would come in with their own agenda if the area is declared a monument, and stated his belief that public safety will be at risk.  More than one member of the committee also questioned the timing of this proposal.

When asked about this, Brent Fenty, Executive Director of  ONDA, reminded the committee that permanent protections for lands such as the Steens Mountain area were not agreed upon until the possibility of monument designation was discussed for them.  As if to suggest that the monument proposal is a way to force the establishment of permanent protection.  It is a tactic reminiscent to the use of litigation to force legislation by groups like ONDA, often referred to as sue and settle.  Exactly the sort of tactics that increasingly lead to management policies that hurt local residents and economies.  This leaves local people feeling unheard and irrelevant in the process, resulting in mistrust, frustration, and anger.

The reality is, the Owyhee Canyonlands are worth protecting, and the local people living and working in the area have done a good job for over 100 years of doing just that.  They deserve to have a say in how the lands are protected and managed, and asking for a monument designation completely disregards that.  It is time that people on both sides of debates such as this one stop allowing special interest groups to drive the decision-making that effects us all and instead return the decision making to the local level.

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What’s The Beef, Part Two: How Lawsuits Shape Land Management Policies

Range management is more a result of lawsuit than science…Special interest groups sue the land management agencies and they agree to settle on terms that do not benefit the general public and are almost never disclosed…

Victor Iverson in Deseret News, January 22, 2016

When protesters occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County on January 2nd, 2016, I had no idea where the story would lead me.  I’ve written before about being open to opposing viewpoints and ideas, and questioning one’s own opinions.  This story has certainly had me questioning mine, in many ways.  One of those is my feelings and opinions on the ways we go about preserving and protecting our wild lands and wild life.

I love rivers.  I have spent years paddling on them, hiking beside them, swimming in them, finding peace sitting next to them.  And there are a few that are especially precious to me, right in the middle of my favorite place I’ve been to so far, the Kalmiopsis wilderness in Southwestern Oregon.  These rivers, and this area, are the scene of another land use debate, and I side with saving the rivers, and the land.  Because I love them, they are home, and, well, I am not a nickel miner.  Another one of my favorites is the incredibly remote and beautiful Owyhee River, yet another place that is contested, and again I view that issue from the perspective of one who wants to preserve the river and canyon.  Again, I’m not a miner, or a rancher.

If you love the lands, the wild places of our world, and you are upset over the occupation of the Malheur refuge because you see it as an attack on your right to public lands, I can understand.  If you believe that ranchers are subsidized with low grazing fees and are still demanding more hand-outs from the government by grabbing land, well, then I would ask you to take a step back and consider some things.  Take some time to consider their side of the story.  Because you may realize that the reasons they are angry isn’t all that different from the reasons you are angry.

Sue and Settle

Back in the heyday of clear-cutting, over-grazing, strip-mining, etc, when a generation of passionate environmentalists were inspired by Hayduke and his Monkey Wrench Gang, it seemed that the only way to bring attention to the problems of over-use and degradation of lands was with aggressive, sometimes dangerous, protest actions.  From removing survey stakes and tree spiking to bombings and arson labeled as eco-terrorism, considered one of the greatest threats of terrorism in the United States, environmentalists wanted to be heard.  In desperation to save what they loved, they demanded change in the only ways they felt were left to them.  But then another way was found to effect change in land use policies.

We decided, let’s just sue instead.  It got settled with the Service agreeing to do a wolf study, which led to reintroduction.

That was the moment when we looked at it and said, ‘Wow.’  The environmental movement spent a decade going to meetings and demanding action and getting nothing done.  They were asking powerful people for something from a position of no power.  We realized that we can bypass the officials and sue, and that we can get things done in court.

Kieran Suckling of the Center For Biological Diversity in an interview with High Country News

The use of lawsuits to force the agency overseeing the land or wildlife in question to act has proven to be effective.  And it has been steadily increasing.  When the agency agrees to reach a settlement in these lawsuits, the terms are negotiated behind closed doors, outside of the public’s view, away from the public’s input.  It is referred to as ‘sue and settle.’  Here is a short definition from a report from the US Chamber of Commerce:

“Sue and Settle” refers to when a federal agency agrees to a settlement agreement, in a lawsuit from special interest groups, to create priorities and rules outside of the normal rulemaking process.  The agency intentionally relinquishes statutory discretion by committing to timelines and priorities that often realign agency duties.  These settlement agreements are negotiated behind closed doors with no participation from the public or affected parties.

Here is another from the Washington Examiner:

Here’s how the process works: First, the private environmental group sues the EPA in federal court seeking to force it to issue new regulations by a date certain. Then agency and group officials meet behind closed doors to hammer out a deal. Typically in the deal, the government agrees to do whatever the activists want. The last step occurs when the judge issues a consent decree that makes the deal the law of the land. No messy congressional hearings. No public comment period. No opportunity for anybody outside the privileged few to know how government regulatory policy is being shaped until it’s too late.

This means that the very people affected by the policies and actions agreed upon are left out of the decision making process, they are not a part of the equation.  Until it costs them their livelihood, or until they are the local officials in charge of enforcing the policies, often at the expense of their neighbors and even families.  Add to that the issues of water rights, reductions in land use, and devastating wildfires that threaten homes and livestock that are the result of federal mismanagement.  Now can you begin to see where some of the anger comes from?

Beaver County Commissioner Tammy Pearson described struggling ranchers held hostage by the proliferation of wild horses that are ruining a drought-striken range for cattle, wildlife and other uses.

Pearson, a rancher herself, said the situation is dire.

“Producers have exhausted their financial reserves, have lost their faith in federal agencies and have been backed into a corner by those agencies and so-called environmentalists and advocacy groups,” she said. “This grief has caused the uprisings that we see in Nevada, Oregon, and quite possibly in Utah.”

Deseret News, January 22, 2016

It shouldn’t be surprising either that mistrust in the Federal government has only increased alongside these sue and settle, closed door agreements that increasingly shape policies.  It is reminiscent of the mistrust environmentalists felt towards federal agencies and wealthy land owners and corporations in the days of Hayduke.

Another thing to keep in mind is that these lawsuits cost money.  Karen Budd-Falen, an attorney with a long history in land use law who works to protect property rights, and to bring attention to the use of the legal system to effect environmental policy, has been attempting to find out just how much they cost for years. “I was floored to learn that the federal government couldn’t tell me (after multiple Freedom of Information Act requests) how many times they had been sued and how much money they had paid,” said Budd-Falen in this article from The Dalles Chronicle from May of 2014.  The article goes on to quote her claim that environmental groups received settlements of more than $4.7 billion as a result of more than 15,000 suits filed in a six year period in the 2000’s.

According to another article from The Dalles Chronicle published two days later, John Buse, legal director for the Center for Biological Diversity, disputed the claim.  He also disagreed with a figure of $52, 518,628.00 total payouts for 489 cases filed between January 2009 to April 2012 that was revealed in a U.S. Department of Justice report provided to the House Natural Resources Committee.  Buse stated, “although that report appears to cover a little over a three year period, we believe it actually covers more than 20 years.”  He said that the figure included cases from the past that were still open.

Budd-Falen also points out that,

Unlike lawyers who seek redress of grievances on behalf of veterans, senior citizens and the disabled, the fees that an environmental attorney can recoup are not capped, according to Budd-Falen.

“Attorneys suing most agencies can recover $200 per hour in fees if they prevail but environmental lawyers are often awarded $750 per hour or more,” she said…

…“There are lawyers across the nation that make their total living from suing the government.”

That article goes on with this:

Dustin Van Liew, executive director of the Public Lands Council, which is affiliated with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, believes the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, the two agencies that oversee public grazing, are also trying to pre-empt lawsuits by using administrative powers to appease environmentalists.

For example, he said the bureau has cut 30-50 percent of livestock grazing in Owhyee County, Idaho, by placing restrictions on permits. He said the agency is making those decisions without a scientific review of any issues that environmentalists raise or attempt to work out a mitigation plan with ranchers, if that is necessary.

“We believe they are not making decisions based on what’s happening on the ground,” he said.

It would make sense, in order to limit the money being paid out in these settlements, for agencies to do just that.  And that only adds to the list of grievances of ranchers and loggers, etc.  It adds to their mistrust of these agencies and their employees, as it appears to be collusion with environmental organizations.

Kieran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity, in the interview with High Desert News linked above, has this to say about the use of lawsuits:

They are one tool in a larger campaign, but we use lawsuits to help shift the balance of power from industry and government agencies, toward protecting endangered species. That plays out on many levels. At its simplest, by obtaining an injunction to shut down logging or prevent the filling of a dam, the power shifts to our hands. The Forest Service needs our agreement to get back to work, and we are in the position of being able to powerfully negotiate the terms of releasing the injunction.
New injunctions, new species listings and new bad press take a terrible toll on agency morale. When we stop the same timber sale three or four times running, the timber planners want to tear their hair out. They feel like their careers are being mocked and destroyed — and they are. So they become much more willing to play by our rules and at least get something done. Psychological warfare is a very underappreciated aspect of environmental campaigning.

I would argue that what may have been a useful and sometimes justifiable tool has been corrupted and turned into an industry.  And it prevents communities on the local level, people from all sides of an issue, from coming together to work out solutions that probably won’t make everyone completely happy, but will at least keep people working while preserving lands and wildlife.  As a result, we are seeing more and more aggressive and sometimes violent acts of protest coming from the people who rely on land use.  From bulldozing fences and turning cattle loose to graze without paying grazing fees, to occupying wildlife refuges.

The reality is, as long as the balance of power keeps shifting back and forth between huge, special interest lobby groups and wealthy power players on both sides of this issue, we on the ground with our passionate desires to save what we love, will be forced apart.  We will continue to fight it out by enforcing increasingly over-bearing restrictions, and resorting to increasingly aggressive guerrilla tactics.

“In a lot of ways, the forest service and grazing community have more in common than not.  Anyone whose livelihood comes from the land understands that we have to keep the land healthy to sustain production.”

Laura Pramuk, public affairs officer for the forest service, said in The Dalles Chronicle in May, 2014

 Read What’s the Beef Part One: The Anger Over Federal Land Management here.

 

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What’s The Beef? Part One: The Anger Over Federal Land Management

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Katie Aguilera

The land out here is vast, in some places stretching as far as the eye can see in between homes, towns, any signs of humanity.  It is rugged and dry, and holds a sense of emptiness, of loneliness.  But to the observant wanderer, it is in fact a place full of life, from the twisted juniper trees to the strange-colored lichens spreading over the ground.  One can find traces of the animals that have passed through, coyote scat, rabbit tracks, the remnants of a cougar kill up in a tree, huge bird nests up in the craggy cliff bands.  And, of course, the evidence of people, shotgun shells, broken glass, old appliances, and cows.

People seem to have a habit of taking what they have for granted until threatened with its loss.  It is certainly true when it comes to land use.  We have a long history of over-use, it is evident in any industry that involves using or extracting natural resources.  It begins with discovery, then fortunes are made, and more and more people jump on board, and then, the resource begins to run out.  That is the point at which people either destroy the resource altogether, or take steps to protect and manage it.

It is undeniable that humans impact the environment, our proliferation around the world has clearly changed the land.  It is also undeniable that natural resources are required for our survival.  We need food, water, shelter, just like every species.  And this need, and all the times we’ve allowed it to devolve into excessive over-use of resources, along with the desire to protect what we don’t want to lose, has left us with a decades-old, emotional, sometimes violent debate.

Once again, this debate has exploded out of its usual confines of rural America and into the national spotlight with the occupation of the Malheur Wildlife refuge in Harney County.  Ignoring the very basic fact that nature seeks balance, the media is frantically fueling the polarizing rhetoric.  Either you are an angry, spoiled white guy with lots of guns attempting to grab all of the public land, or you are against the occupation and want the spoiled white guys arrested, maybe even bombed with drones.  Few seem willing to pause long enough in the argument to really listen to each other.  Just what is the beef with Federal land management?

The situation in Harney County presents a good starting place to look at this question because there is a long history of problems there.  Anyone who has paid any attention to the story of the refuge occupation knows that it began with a protest rally in support of Dwight and Steven Hammond, who were sentenced for arson under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act for starting two fires on their land that spread to BLM land, burning a total of 140 acres.  The group occupying the refuge want the Hammonds freed from prison, among other things.  The Hammonds’ battle with the BLM has been going on for decades, long before they lit the two fires that got them branded as terrorist arsons.  And they aren’t alone.

Water

Many from the area claim that there have been numerous attempts to get ranchers off of their private lands over the years.  According to Ammon Bundy, some of those attempts included reducing the number of grazing permits from 53 to 21, raising grazing fees, and even deliberately flooding Malheur, Harney and Mud Lakes to force ranchers from the lands around the lakes.  The lakes did flood in the early eighties, causing an estimated $32 million in damage in 1984.  According to The New York Times:

‘Twenty-seven families have been flooded out as the lakes’ level has risen about 12 feet over the last three years,’ said William H. Beal, Harney County’s water master.

I haven’t found any evidence to support Bundy’s claim that the US Fish and Wildlife Service deliberately flooded the lakes somehow, but the solution sought by the ranchers to make a flood-relief canal to lower the levels in the lakes was ultimately dismissed.  Again from the above New York Times article:

Harney County officials want to deepen and widen the old waterway to the Malheur River and use it as a flood-relief canal, timing the releases to minimize flood danger downstream.  Mr. Beal said the canal would cost $8 million to $12 million.

The Army Corps of Engineers said two years ago that the economic benefits would far outweigh the cost of the canal.

In the end, after another study by the Army Corps of Engineers, in a reversal from their previous statement, the canal was ruled out as its benefits would not outweigh the costs of construction, or possible detrimental effects on the river from the influx of lake waters.  This study goes into much more detail about the different ideas for mitigating the flood damage and resolving the problem.  I can see why local residents might feel as though their needs, and solution ideas, were disregarded, and perhaps that has led to Ammon’s claim.

As for the Hammonds, Ammon Bundy writes this:

In the early 1990’s the Hammonds filed on a livestock water source and obtained a deed for the water right from the State of Oregon. When the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) found out that the Hammonds obtained new water rights near the Malhuer Wildlife Refuge, they were agitated and became belligerent and vindictive towards the Hammonds. The US Fish and Wildlife Service challenged the Hammonds right to the water in an Oregon State Circuit Court.  The court found that the Hammonds legally obtained rights to the water in accordance to State law and therefore the use of the water belongs to the Hammonds.* 
In August 1994 the BLM & FWS illegally began building a fence around the Hammonds water source. Owning the water rights and knowing that their cattle relied on that water source daily the Hammonds tried to stop the building of the fence.
The Hammonds did indeed try to disrupt the building of the fence repeatedly.  It resulted in a hostile showdown, angry threats made towards government employees, and the arrest of Dwight Hammond.  You can read more about that here, I recommend the read.
Land

Grazing fees are a hotly disputed issue.  The low fees charged by the federal government for ranchers to graze their herds on public lands is often described as a subsidy because it is lower than private land owners charge for grazing rights, and it doesn’t cover the costs of managing those lands where the grazing occurs.

Wildlife advocates have long criticized the low price for grazing fees on public lands, calling it an effective subsidy to a fraction of the ranching industry. Generally, grazing fees returns only a fraction of the money the Federal government spends to manage public lands grazing: less than a sixth in 2004, according to the General Accounting Office .

[Read more of that article here on the argument for raising fees.]

According to this:

The Federal grazing fee for 2015 will be $1.69 per animal unit month (AUM) for public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and $1.69 per head month (HM) for lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The 2014 fee was $1.35.

An animal unit month is defined as “the use of public lands by one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month.”
It does seem like a good deal.  But the BLM itself says that “the grazing fee is not a cost-recovery fee, but a market-driven fee.”
There are several important reasons for keeping grazing fees low to consider according to this article written in 1992 by William G. Laffer III and John Shanahan.  They point out that grazing on private land typically costs more because the grazing is generally of better quality, and the property owners “provide ranchers with fences, roads, water, and protection for livestock.  Ranchers must provide these services for themselves on public land.”  Public lands are “of poorer quality, more remote, and more difficult to manage and control than private lands.”
Not only that, and perhaps even more important, is the matter of fencing.  It is no small matter.
…if ranchers are priced off federal rangelands, the government would have to build hundreds of thousands of miles of fences to keep cattle from trespassing onto federal land.  In the Eastern states, a cattle owner is responsible for putting a fence around his land to keep his cattle in, and is liable to his neighbors if his cattle escape and trespass onto the neighbors’ land. However, in most Western states, a landowner who fails to put a fence around his own land may not recover for trespass if other people’s cattle come onto his land because the landowner is legally responsible for fencing the cattle out.  Billions for fences.  No one knows precisely how many miles of fencing the federal government would have to build.  Because federal land in most Western states is interspersed with private land in a checkerboard pattern, however, the amount of fencing required would be enormous.  In one grazing district in Wyoming alone, the BLM estimates that it will have to put up 13,222 miles of fencing at a cost of almost $98 million if cattle grazing is discontinued because of excessive fees.
Remember, that was back in 1992, and the estimated cost doesn’t include the cost of surveying the land to determine actual property boundaries.  Of course, a little pressure from the federal government could certainly push states to change their laws to require ‘fencing in.’
As to the argument over whether or not cattle should be grazed at all on public lands, well, I would say that I agree they shouldn’t be allowed everywhere.  Cattle move slowly over the land, remaining in one place until they can no longer find anything to eat, and this causes soil compaction and the destruction of plants.  It is reasonable to believe this is harmful to native species, and there are studies that show how harmful.  From another perspective, however, they can be beneficial too, mowing down potential fuels for wild fires.  But regardless of what you think about the issue, the fact is people eat beef, a lot of beef, and it is no more environmentally responsible to ship our beef from far away lands.  A more reasonable approach is compromise, grazing on some lands, and cattle-free areas too.
Fire

On top of all of that, we can’t forget fire.  It’s no secret that forest fire management policies over the past century have led to dangerous conditions throughout the western United States.  The idea that all forest fires are bad, and must be extinguished immediately has left forests and rangelands loaded with fuel.  When fires start, they burn hotter and longer, causing greater damage to the land, and they are much harder to contain.  In the sweeping sage brush country of eastern Oregon, prescribed burns were used as a means to improve grazing lands and reduce Juniper trees, preventing a build up of fuel and lowering the risk of catastrophic fires.  According to this article by Carrie Stadheim:

[Erin] Maupin, who resigned from the BLM in 1999, said that collaborative burns between private ranchers and the BLM had become popular in the late 1990s because local university extension researchers were recommending it as a means to manage invasive juniper that steal water from grass and other cover

and,

‘In 1999, the BLM started to try to do large scale burn projects.  We started to be successful on the Steens Mountain especially when we started to do it on a large watershed scale as opposed to trying to follow property lines.’

Because private and federal land is intermingled, collaborative burns were much more effective than individual burns that would cover a smaller area, Maupin said.

Like the Hammonds’ fires, these prescribed burns, as well as fires lit as back-burns while fighting wild fires, haven’t always stayed within their intended boundaries.  Again from Stadheim’s article:

During her tenure as a full time BLM employee from 1997-1999, Maupin recalls other fires accidentally spilling over onto BLM land, but only the Hammonds have been charged, arrested and sentenced, she said.  Ranchers might be burning invasive species or maybe weeds in a ditch. ‘They would call and the BLM would go and help put it out and it was no big deal.’

On the flip side, Maupin remembers numerous times that BLM-lit fires jumped to private land.  Neighbors lost significant numbers of cattle in more than one BLM fire that escaped intended containment lines and quickly swallowed up large amounts of private land.  To her knowledge, no ranchers have been compensated for lost livestock or other loss of property such as fences.

Gary Miller, who ranches near Frenchglen, about 35 miles from the Hammonds’ hometown, said that in 2012, the BLM lit numerous backfires that ended up burning his private land, BLM permit, and killing about 65 cows.

Oregon Representative Greg Walden, in a strong statement to the U.S. House of Representatives after the refuge occupation began, had this to say about back-burns started by federal employees:

There was nobody sentenced under the terrorist laws there.  Oh heck no, its the government, they weren’t sentenced, no one was charged.

Good point.  Its no wonder the residents in Harney County, and Ammon Bundy, are suspicious of the motives behind charging the Hammonds for their fires by the federal government.  It really doesn’t surprise me that there seems to be growing support for the occupation on the ground as residents of Harney County, and surrounding counties and states, see an opportunity to force these issues into the spotlight.  And an opportunity to find solutions.  And I think that makes the federal government increasingly nervous, and it shows in the media narrative.

It may be that it is simply too boring to report on the people on the ground, directly affected every day by the land use debate that is more vast than the land itself.  Or, maybe reporting on their efforts to find balanced solutions to the problems doesn’t serve the purpose of the Federal government as it seeks to increase its control.  Reporting on the reality on the ground might expose a widening crack in that control as the people are re-discovering that they don’t need the federal government to solve their problems for them.

Don’t miss “What’s The Beef, Part Two:  How Lawsuits Shape Land Management Policies.”  Read it here.

Another note: just as I finished this, I learned the news that Ammon Bundy and three others have been arrested after an incident involving shots fired while they were on the way to a meeting in John Day, Oregon. 

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