Liberals have chosen to oppose the ranchers who are fighting for their land rights in Oregon, and they are using every shaming tactic in the book. Their language is as bigoted and hateful as they claim the Bundy’s are. But what they don’t understand is that their totalitarian ideology is being uplifted by the feds to push a deeply leftist agenda where all land belongs to the government and property rights do not exist.
The truth is that this is a conflict over land rights that have gone on for over a century. The Harney Basin valley where the Hammond’s ranch exists was settled by ranchers in the late 1870s. More than 300,000 head of cattle was shared by this cowboy collective of homesteading families. Together, these families developed a state-of-the-art irrigation system to water the land and develop it for grazing. This also made the territory a favorite place for migrating birds to stop and take their rest on their long journeys north.
In 1908, Roosevelt created an Indian Reservation on the same property which surrounded the Malheur, Harney, and Mud lakes. He declared it a preserve and breeding ground for migrating birds. It became the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
In 1964, the Hammond’s were forced to purchase 6000 acres of the land that their ancestors had settled three-quarters of a century before. They paid for grazing rights, water rights, and a ranch house which stands, for now, 53 miles south of the town of Burns.
By 1970, most of the nearby ranches were purchased by the federal government and added to the Malheur Refuge. The Hammonds had been approached by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) many times with offers to purchase their land, but they refused to sell.
Later that decade, the FWS and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) took a different tack with the families of the Malheur Refuge. The ranchers were told that grazing was harmful to the wildlife and must be curtailed. The two agencies revoked 32 of 53 existing grazing permits and most of the ranchers, now impoverished, were forced to leave. Grazing rights fees were raised for the remaining families, and more soon began to leave. After this exodus, the FWS took over the irrigation system that had existed for generations and claimed it for their own.
By the 1980s, the FWS had become even more aggressive. They began to cut off water rights to the remaining families, intentionally diverting water away from the ranch lands. They flooded 31 ranches on the Silvies plains washing away homes, topsoil, barns, and corrals. By the late 80s, the lakes had doubled in size, drastically reducing the available grazing land. Most of the remaining ranchers had nothing left to hold onto. Totally destitute, they could no longer fight the FWS. They left and the feds swiftly moved in.
In 1990, the Hammonds were one of the very few remaining ranching families. They began to investigate independently and discovered that the FWS has a No Use policy regarding the lands the Hammonds and their neighbors lived on. It was the beginning of the end of their faith in the system that had long since been waging war against them. Susie Hammond found a federal study which showed that migratory birds were more attracted to privately owned lands than they were to federally owned reserve territory.
Since then, the aggression, legal action and outright cruelty toward these struggling families has gone on unabated, and totally under the radar of public awareness. The media has rarely spoken of the plights of these hard working Americans until a group of them staged a peaceful takeover of an FWS building.
What the media does not tell you is that fewer than half of the protesters are actually armed. The few photos we’ve seen of armed cowboys at the federal building were a poor sample of a group of people who almost always have hunting rifles with them in order to defend cattle from predators.
But the liberal spasm that has childishly labeled this group “Yall Quaeda” is almost begging to have its ignorance enshrined in law. Reactionary Twitter users have made headlines calling for the extermination of these people who are laying claim only to the rights of their friends and neighbors to use the land that they rightfully own- and to make their livings in the only way they know how.
The national tone is a sad testimony to the ignorance of the public to the history and origins of the westernmost states. Worst of all, the totalitarian shrieks which have received the most applause scoff at the Oregon occupiers and portray them as the historical oppressors of the Native Americans. The fact is that it was the federal government who starved and slaughtered the Natives, and they are now doing the same thing to these ranchers.
The real lesson of this story won’t come from those who mock the protesters by comparing them to characters from Cold Mountain. The real lesson here is that it isn’t about skin color versus skin color, it’s about the needs of the weak versus the greed of the strong- and the strong are winning again- this time with the approval of political Left.