Malheur Occupation Blogs

Here are the blogs I’ve written on the Malheur Occupation.

Malheur Verdict, Armchair Jurors, and God  (late October 2016)

I was among many in Harney County who hoped that the Bundys and their co-defendants would be found guilty and jailed for their siege of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in early 2016. Like many, I was surprised by the “not guilty” verdict.

But I was also among a few skeptics that felt FBI and prosecutors unwisely chose to charge defendants of conspiracy to impede federal workers from doing their jobs. I felt charges would prove difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

There was no doubt that the Bundy’s occupied the refuge with armed guns. No doubt they were involved in criminal trespass, destruction of federal property and archeological artifacts. For these deeds, they should have been tarred and feathered. But that is not what they were charged with.

The defense claimed that the intent of their defendants was not to impede employees, but to mount a national protest against federal ownership of lands, claiming God and the Constitution on their side. Impeding Refuge employees was a result of the occupation, not its intent.

Defendants raised doubts about where and how the government settled on a conspiracy charge and what they did to ensure that the charges stuck. What was the role of informants, some of them paid, within the refuge compound and within Harney County among the patriots that were not occupying the Malheur Refuge? Did the FBI play a role as agent provocateurs before or during the occupation? How was it decided to prolong the stay of Bundy and company at the refuge? Was it to provide further proof of conspiracy on the supposition that the longer Bundy ad company stayed the greater the proof. Weren’t federal employees paid while working at remote locations?

Wasn’t it the FBI who told employees to get out of the refuge prior to the arrival of Bundyites, counseled employees not to show up to work, sequestering many outside of Harney County because of credible threats of physical harm? There was little doubt that threats to them and their children were real.

Now, the surprising verdict has turned many into armchair jurors.

My opinion? The FBI and prosecutors bungled the case. They failed to prove their charges against reasonable doubt. I do not feel that the judge or jury members were bribed or paid off; or that the jurors were uneducated and held hidden internal sympathies for the defendants. Fair trial. Upsetting outcome.

I also feel the verdict—           

    * Reawakens fears against threats of violence to federal workers and their families

    * Bolsters the extremist causes of militant and armed patriot groups

     * Furthers arguments for the divestment of federal lands

     * Provides impetus for the occupation of other federal properties

Did the ‘not guilty’ verdict boost the defendants’ belief in the rule of law? Probably not. They claim victory was a miracle sent by God.

Who is going to argue with God?

(Copyright 2016 Diane Sward Rapaport)

Malheur Occupation Redux:  Confusing Rifts in Reality

The armed militia led by Ammon Bundy that occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Headquarters for 41 days are gone. Twenty-seven people have been arrested and await trial, including Cliven Bundy, mastermind of the first standoff in Nevada. The hundreds of media, members of various militia groups and array of law enforcement officers that occupied Burns and Hines for the same number of days are gone.

The snow geese came and flew their temporary coops. Harney County was packed with birders in larger numbers than before. The headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge remains closed for repairs, possibly until summer.  Perhaps not until Spring 2017.

Friends ask, “What was the occupation all about?” I’m still sifting through the emotional debris. As for others, the ill wind that blew in here still rustles up edgy nerves.

I’m a city gal. Since I moved to Hines/Burns ten years ago, I’ve been out to some of the ranches and met some of their owners, but still do not fully understand the business of ranching. My first inkling of how much I did not know came about soon after my husband and I moved here. I was out in the woods practicing tai chi in some obsidian digging grounds. For three months, I saw no one. Suddenly I sensed someone behind me and turned to see an old geezer, teeth yellowed, battered boots and Stetson, on a large horse. We looked at each other for quite a few moments. Then he bellowed: “’Ya seen my cows?” My face must have gone through quite a few changes, because he bellowed again, “‘Ya seen my cows?” I answered in starched English: “I am very sorry, sir, but I have not seen any cows up here.” He doffs his hat and away he rides. I could only imagine what he was going to tell his bunkmates about the old lady he saw waving her hands in some peculiar dance. It was the first time I recognized that finding and herding cows out on the rangelands might be a primary job.

As I ponder the occupation and its aftermath, I understood once again how misunderstood ranching life here is as seen by outsiders, including media that struggled mightily, and the armed militia that occupied the refuge and our town, so few of whom were ranchers or cowboys, or alfalfa growers, even though the cause they seemed to espouse had a lot to do with ranching.

The range of ideas and emotions the occupation spurred, brought home, yet again, that there is a divide among many of us that live here in the city and the lonelier and harder 24/7 physical life lived by ranchers and their employees. It also showed me that many barricade themselves inside their separate and private islands and live in disparate worlds—emotionally and physically. No wonder we were ill-prepared to communicate with each other when life here got so shaken up.

The Malheur occupation showed us some very dangerous divides, what my husband called, rifts in reality, and their waves continue to radiate outwards.

Whose reality? The occupation revealed a confusing kaleidoscope. And so did almost every public meeting and private conversation, as people aired what they felt and thought.

What was the occupation about? At one level it was about morphing issues: first it was about a peaceful protest against the re-sentencing of father and son Hammond who were convicted of arson by a jury of peers in 2012. Then it became the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Headquarters by armed militia and their presence in town and stories of them following and harassing law enforcement, city and county officials, and employees of federal agencies and their families. Then it morphed into discussions of the occupation of FBI and a standoff mandated by them, with the intent of no bloodshed, neither to militia nor residents of Harney County. The issue morphed again as media and social media exploited the demands for the return of federal land to states, counties or private hands.

As the issues morphed, the rifts among Harney residents grew, and so did the acrimony among family and friends and businesses—almost, but not quite, inciting a hate fest. Anger and hatred were inflamed yet again following roadblocks that were set up by law enforcement against the militants and the arrests of Bundy, Payne and others on their way to John Day, and the death of La Voy Finicum, one of the inner circle, who tried to outrun the roadblocks, plowed into a snow bank, got out of his truck shouting, “Shoot me, shoot me,” refusing to surrender, and was shot. The media controversies about Finicum’s death and arrests of the militia subsumed all other issues for some time. Finicum’s wake still goes on and on as militia and family continue holding gatherings around the country. On April 24, about forty Finicum sympathizers gathered and mounted red white and blue crosses on highway easements from the place he was shot to the refuge (about forty miles).

The meme repeated during discussion of most any issue was that of government hatred.

Many here are still close to being clinically depressed. Some family members are still not talking to each other. I have heard of rifts within church communities. People that are running for local offices are wary of offering opinions on the issues mentioned above for fear of offending those who might otherwise vote for them. They spout the commonest of platitudes: “We want to improve Harney County’s economic prosperity.”

To only argue about issues is to ignore the much larger one that the occupation exposed.

On another level, the occupations was about how a very small group of armed, organized militia, some with past felony convictions, some lying about past military duty, some mentally deranged, some led by the inner voices of God, held a community in fear and loathing for 41 days at a terrible emotional and financial cost. The private, armed militias in our country are growing; they are networked into each other via video, radio stations, and social media; and they are organized and dedicated. Some of the tactics used in Harney County were sending thousands of emails to the sheriff and other county and city officials; and flooding  phones and 911 dispatch with messages.

You can see for miles at the top of the watchtower at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Photo by Mark Graves, Oregonian. The  watchtower, guarded by armed militia, just above the Malheur National Wildlife headquarters became a symbol of its occupation.

Sadly, the private militia found sympathizers among residents in Harney County who formed a homegrown version, with Bundy’s help, called “The Committee of Safety”.

The takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and our towns exposed our human frailties. We found ourselves not only unable to cope with the occupation emotionally and physically, but very much dependent on law enforcement to save the situation. Many barricaded themselves inside their homes; others left town to escape intimidations and threats of violence. We were shaken out of our complacencies. Some very large rifts in our disparate realities were revealed, and equally, our lack of communication tools to bridge them.

At the highest level, what the occupation was about was exposing our very deep seated fears of change in a world that is rapidly changing in ways that we cannot control: increasing climate calamities, war, population migrations, dwindling natural resources, and global population growing beyond sustainability.

Historically people facing rapid, uncontrolled change have turned to blame and shame; and sought spiritual and political leaders that will ‘save’ them.

Wasn’t that what fascism, Nazism, Mao and Stalin’s brand of communism was about? Hundreds of millions were disappeared and murdered. Isn’t that also the story behind the appalling genocides in such countries as Rwanda, Serbia, Darfur, Guatemala (Mayans) and Cambodia? Many more millions were killed by militias carrying the banners of god and ethnicity.

Visiting a naval museum in Chania, Crete, many years ago, I watched a school teacher leading a first grade class to the second floor, where there was an exhibit of Nazi’s parachuting down into Crete during World War II and killing off a tenth of the population. She shook her finger at them: “Never forget. Never forget.”

We too should never forget the impacts of this armed occupation. I know what I don’t want: a minority of private armed militias ruling over my life.

What should we remember?

Our country was founded on the principles life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—not for a minority, religious or ethnic or political—but for all who find home here.

Bundy Siege: Overcoming the Rhetoric of Hate and Fear

The aftermath of the siege of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is littered with destructive polarities: a microcosm in Harney County that mirrors a troubled America. We live within a kaleidoscope that incessantly changes with the opening of each day’s news and facebook posts.

Harney County in Duress

I moved to Harney County ten years ago from Jerome, Arizona, a community in distress in the nineteen seventies. Some of the polarities that prevented forward movement are similar to those that we have in Harney County: a rhetoric of hatred and fear, shame and blame; entrenched bureaucracy; and fear of change. The fear of outsiders, particularly from the oldtimers, is entrenched, even before militant insurgents arrived here and caused such havoc.

In Harney County, our largest industries—hay, alfalfa and cattle—remain profitable, but are somewhat endangered, particularly the smaller ones. It is easy to ‘blame’ the government and talk about the ‘fix’ being a return of federal lands to the government. But the problem here is more complex: if profits for smaller ranches are declining, it is bue to a synergy of causes/effects: federal regulations, which also includes the lack enforcement of rangeland health (see http://www.opb.org/news/article/backlog-grows-for-rangelands/), rising energy costs (heat and electricity), aging infrastructure and equipment, difficulty of finding part-time employees to work on the ranches in needed seasons, children leaving the ranches for the cities, owners getting older and less capable, and steep prices for ordinary items for daily living, particularly food and prescription drugs. Added to this mix is an official drought and declining water levels in ranch wells.

We are a  community under duress. And costs of the siege of our Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, in millions of dollars and emotional chaos, did not contribute to economic relief. Just the opposite.

We need new industry. We need diversity. We need new ideas. Above all, we need to overcome divisive rhetoric of the siege’s aftermath in order to make way for change.

Lessons Learned: Jerome, Arizona’s Low Point

Many lessons can be learned from rejuvenation of Jerome, Arizona when the copper mining industry abandoned it in 1952 and left a bankrupt, virtual ghost town inhabited by about 200 people, many of them widows with children.

By 1968, the town hit its economic low. “Jerome was still very close to decay, particularly in the business district. Everyday finds another wall…a little nearer collapse and another building a little near to the point of no return…piles of rat infested rubble or empty foundations are not the kind of thing that can be advertised. “ (Study commissioned by the Jerome Historical Society) Not good for attracting new business, visitors or residents.

It was not just the business district that was in trouble. Many homes had considerable damage and were barely considered livable. Many neighborhoods were firetraps. Broken water lines often left the town without water for days; sewage from broken pipes piled into yards and empty lots.

Under these circumstances, it was extremely difficult to bring Jerome out of its recessionary survival mode.

Antipathy

In the early 1970’s, about 175 cultural renegades moved into Jerome: some were artists, writers and musicians; some were homosexual; some could not stand authority of any kind; some were Korean or Vietnam vets; a few were computer programmers and scientists. One of Jerome’s new residents called them “The backwash of the avant-garde.” I called them hippies, because this group was so preponderant and visible.

No only were these newcomers not loved; there was huge antipathy, hostility and resentment against them from many oldtimers, particularly those who held office, were on such boards as the Jerome Historical Society, or served on the fire department. The Jerome town council passed a new ‘search and seizure’ ordinance targeting hippies and another that that forbade them from keeping bee hives; at least one new residence ‘accidentally’ burned down.

It was a recipe for disaster—a needy Jerome divided against itself.

As chaos and disorder increased, many newcomers recognized that any viable future needed cooperation, not dissension, participation not hostile ostracism.

“Living in Jerome is man against the mountain,” said Richard Martin, a hippie newcomer and furniture designer and craftsman that was to prove an effective agent of change. “You can’t live here without participating or the mountain is going to push the town off the side of the hill. I think that is the thing that made us different than a lot of other hippie communities. We couldn’t just sit around and party all the time. We had to pitch in to make sure water ran into our homes and toilets and sewage didn’t just run down the hill. I said to myself, do we really want everything to collapse, or do we want to roll up our shirtsleeves and get involved? This led to my volunteering for Town Council. I served three times and was elected mayor twice. I did it because it needed to be done. I did it because I believed in community, which to me means finding common unity. In 1975, we were at a crossroads of thinking. Many people were responding to rational, pragmatic ideas with emotional responses that didn’t mix, like oil and water. We had to learn to work together toward common goals.”

Casa Martin Jerome B & W

The house that Richard Martin bought in Jerome, AA for less than $500. Today it is an architectural wonder.

Today, Jerome, Arizona is a thriving artist mecca that draws 2 million visitors. The fascinating story of how this occurred is the subject of my book Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City http://www.amazon.com/Home-Sweet-Jerome-Rebirth-Arizonas/dp/1555664547/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399047591&sr=1-1&keywords=home+sweet+jerome

Diane Sward Rapaport's history of Jerome. Arizona after 1953

The first history of Jerome, Arizona after 1953, tells of its economic rejuvenation. I dubbed it a town too stubborn to die

Bridging the Rhetoric of Hate and Fear

The bridge that led to rapprochement between oldtimers and newcomers and fostered new beginnings in Jerome, Arizona were these: a great love for the town, one that approached a supernatural attachment; equally powerful were hope and need.

This same bridge among uncommon people can be built here in Harney County and help us heal from the destructive polarities we find ourselves in the midst of.

Love, hope and need are powerful allies in bringing uncommon people together, helping overcome antipathy and impelling them forward towards common missions.

Featured image by Kelly Hazen. Used with permission.

Bundy Siege and the Suspension of Disbelief

While teaching a free tai chi class at the Burns, Oregon Community and Senior Center, students expressed relief that the insurgents’ occupation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was over. Suddenly the bearded grey-haired man using a computer behind us stood up and angrily shouted. “It’s not over. Your paper money is about to be useless. The militia is still here and will be rising up again to prevent the tyranny of government oppression.”

“Do you know you are using government paid for computers and helping yourself to free bread in a center that is 65% funded by the federal government?” said one of my elderly students. “Is this what you mean by tyranny?” He looked at another of the grey-haired women facing him wearing a t-shirt that said, “Love heals.” He stalked out.

The delinking of what is said from factual reality is encompassed in the phrase “suspension of disbelief.” I first encountered it while studying ”The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He meant putting aside logic and rational thought for a story with supernatural or otherwise unbelievable elements. An example in our culture might be the voyage of Star Trek to alternate universes.

Now ask yourself what you would say to ‘trekkies’ that take the next leap of illogic and tell you that they know that alternative universes exist because they encountered some extra-terrestrials near Area 51 in Nevada who told them so.

Home on the Range

Michele Fiore, a Nevada legislator, justified the occupation of the Malheur Federal Wildlife Refuge as an exercise of the Constitution’s First Amendment rights of free speech and peaceful assembly. “I truly believe the refuge and the people who stood on the refuge … are prisoners because they exercised their right to political free speech… We’re talking about a bunch of cowboys camping in the middle of nowhere.” standoff/2016/02/final_four_holdouts_in_refuge.html#incart_maj-story-1

Never mind that these cowboys (and not all the insurgents were cowboys or ranchers) illegally occupied headquarters of a federal wildlife refuge for 41 days. Never mind that they put quite a few people out of work. Or used government equipment and fuel. Cut fences and built roads. Forget about bringing up the emotional and financial havoc they caused in our community.

Poor Old Cliven Bundy

Susan Hammond is the wife of Dwight Hammond, who, together with son Steven, were convicted of committing arson federal lands. The occupation of the refuge was sparked by controversy surrounding their return to prison to serve out mandatory five-year sentences.

When interviewed by Reuters, Mrs. Hammond said, “I cannot imagine why they would pick up an old man at the airport and charge him with something like that. It’s just piling on of government bureaucracy onto the Bundy family.” (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-oregon-militia-hammond-idUSKCN0VL073)

Bundy threatened to “do whatever it takes” to prevent the impoundment of his cattle, which were illegally grazing on federal land. On April 12, 2014, he did just that.

“BUNDY organized his Followers and gave them the order to get the cattle, directing a crowd of hundreds to travel more than five miles to the site where the cattle were corralled. One group of followers kept law enforcement officers occupied at the main entrance of the site by threatening to enter there, while another group—ultimately consisting of more than 200 Followers …assaulted the site from below, converging on its most vulnerable point: a narrow entrance located in a wash that ran under highway bridges. . . a significant number brandishing or raising their assault rifles in front of the officers. Some of these gunmen took tactically superior positions on high ground, while others moved in and out of the crowd, making their movement behind other unarmed Followers. The most immediate threat to the officers came from the bridges where gunmen took sniper position behind concrete barriers, their assault rifles aimed directly at the officers below. . …they pressed forward to and against the wash entrance , demanding that the officers leave and abandon the cattle, threatening to enter by force if the officers did not do so.” The law enforcement officers did not wish to engage in a firefight and stood down.’

Enter the Devil

For two months, I read how God was on the side of the insurgents and told Ammon Bundy to go to occupy the refuge. Then, counter criminal complaint filed by Shawna Cox, one of 27 people indicted on federal conspiracy charges for occupying the refuge, claimed that the devil led to state and federal employees “organizing to attempt to murder me and they executed my co-witness and co-informant Lavoy Finicum.” Cox claims that she and others “involved in these actions have suffered damages from the works of the devil in excess of $666,666,666,666.66 Six hundred sixty six billion, six hundred sixty six million, six hundred sixty six thousand, six six dollars and sixty six cents.”

“Evidence will also show that Oregon State Bar members including S. Amanda Marshall, Governor Kate Brown, Judge Grasity, Oregon State Senator Cliff Bentz, and others within the Oregon State Bar Association organized together to take complete control of the Oregon State Government so they could execute their personal objectives, agendas and the objectives and agendas of the predatory Oregon State Bar Association….and that some domestic terrorism liability policy instigated Judge Grasity and others to ratchet up the situation and terrorize the people of Harney County, Oregon and the United States, so they could profit from the situation and continue to execute their secrete subversive activities against our constitutional form of government.” http://www.oregonlive.com/oregon-standoff/2016/02/shawna_cox_files_her_own_count.html

I doubt Coleridge’s wonderful imagination, even were he to live in these times, could have concocted so fantastical a conspiracy.

Certainly I can suspend my disbelief far enough to understand that Shawna Cox was brought up in a church where nonbelievers are considered instruments of the devil.

The Christian religion I grew up in preached religious tolerance. Like the sun, God shines over everyone.

My mom, uncle, and maternal granddad—well-respected lawyers and judges—also raised me to believe in the rule of law.

But Shawna Cox, and many of her insurgent followers—including Michel Fiore and Cliven Bundy—want me to join an alternate universe in which force and might, guns and bullets, trump the law. Perhaps they should all be put on the next Star Trek space ship to an alternative universe and learn to survive together.

The photographer of the featured image of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is by Steve Terrill, a renowned Oregon photographer. His work has been featured in many magazines, including AudobonNational Geographic Publications and Travel and Leisure. The photograph is used with permission from www.SteveTerrill.com. Thank you.

Bundy Siege: A Meditation on its Aftermath

An evil wind blew in. It whipped up a malheur in my heart and shredded the emotional fabric of our community.

For 41 days, headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge were occupied by a bizarre concoction of armed insurgents. Federal offices were closed, stalling more than 300 people from going to work. Some hid in other towns because of threats to themselves and their families.

The insurgents are finally gone. There have been 28 arrests, including that of Cliven Bundy, who can be called the “Godfather” of this wreck, and one insurgent death. The refuge is a crime scene to be cleared before employees can return to work.

Many here thought we lived in a safe, peaceful and beautiful redoubt, a sanctuary from the troubles that are so endemic elsewhere. How wrong we were. We were caught flat-footed and flabbergasted.

It’s going to take awhile until the detritus clears.

A Pack of Jackals

My thoughts return again and yet again to the unhinged pack of jackals that took over such a lovely and peaceful edge of our wildlands here and found a surreal refuge with each other.

My first introduction to the insurgents was a selfie video posted Dec. 31 by anti-Muslim activist Jon Ritzheimer from Arizona tearfully announcing to his family that he was abandoning them over the Christmas and New Year holidays “to protect and defend the Constitution” against the “oppression and tyranny” against two ranchers convicted of arson. Police caught up with him in Safeway before he joined the refuge occupation and asked him to please remove inflammatory anti-Muslim signs on his car.

I watched videos featuring the anti-government ravings of Pete Santilli, the right wing radio host, who documented activities at the refuge. He once said he wanted Hillary Clinton tried, convicted and shot in the vagina for her “fake hunt down of this Obama, Obama bin Laden thing,” (Right Wing Watch reports.) I watched him at a town meeting that was held at the local high school, when police forcibly walked him out because of his obnoxious interruptions.

A particularly odious video  was made of Kelly Gneiting, the 400+ pound Sumo wrestler, naked except for some weird diaper, flexing his muscles out in the snow, challenging New Jersey governor Chris Christie to a fight, repeatedly calling him ‘little brother,’ which he was not. So far, Gneiting isn’t among those that have been arrested.

The first time I became aware of 27-year old David Fry, a latecomer to the refuge, was when he posted a video of himself using refuge computers to set up a now defunct website called DefendYourBase.com (“I’m only using zip drives—so I’m not really breaking into federal information”). He was the last of the four holdouts at the refuge to surrender. I listened horrified for an hour an a half to a life audio feed as Fry jockeyed between suicide and prison, trying to bargain with the FBI to ‘pardon’ him for illegally trespassing on his first amendment rights, ranting on about how President Obama needed to be hung for treason and ISIS prayed for. He finally opted to surrender only if the FBI shouted “Hallelujah,” which they did. He appeared at his first legal hearing wearing some sort of protective strait-jacket to prevent suicide. This young man’s internal chaos greatly saddens me.

Next is Cliven Bundy himself, a man who flagrantly thought he was above the law and arrogantly flaunted the law by refusing to pay fees for grazing his cows on federal Bureau of Management land near Bunkerville, Nevada. He ambushed officials who tried to round up and impound 400 of his cows. Firearms raised, Bundy and company chased the officials away who were loath to start a firefight. That ambush started the ‘dialogue’ over who should control federal lands.

Cliven Bundy fortified his ranch with bodyguards and kept law enforcement at bay for almost two years, until they caught up with him at a Portland airport. He had flown in to help free his imprisoned sons. His bodyguards were forbidden to take firearms on the plane, and he was easily apprehended.

Only by comparison could other insurgents of the refuge, including Ammon and Ryan Bundy, their bodyguards, and the rest of the flim flam at the refuge be regarded as sane, rational human beings. They thought they were invincible, freely coming into town bearing arms, attending meetings, shopping, holding court at the refuge with reporters and supporters. They displayed quite the arrogance to not worry about legal consequences.

Equally disturbing to me are the people that supported these insurgents, ‘loved them,’ thought they were real patriots, salt-of-the-earth, God-fearing men, folk heroes that were just opening up a ‘dialogue’—the armed militant groups that answered ‘an all call” to come to Harney County, residents here, some of whom formed their own militia group called “The Committee for Safety,” legislators from many states, and evangelists.

With God and the Constitution on their side, how could it all have gone so wrong?

For a very good timeline of the events:  http://www.oregonlive.com/oregon-standoff/page/oregon_standoff_a_timeline_of.html#incart_2box

Law and the Constitution

I continue to be baffled by the bizarre, confusing, and sometimes unhinged interpretations of law and the Constitution that were bandied about by insurgents and their supporters.

Events here unfolded in early January with protests against the sentencing of Dwight and Steven Hammond, father and son ranchers that were sent back to prison to serve out five-year sentences for starting fires on federal lands, a local issue that has divided many families and friends. Armed militia groups arrived here from other counties in Oregon and many states to help stage the protests. Justifications against sending the Hammonds back to prison ranged from what generous, community-minded people the Hammonds were, to the fires that they set being small and immaterial—despite endangering a few lives—to their re-sentencing exemplifying double jeopardy.

Who wants to listen to the definition of double jeopardy as being tried twice for the same crime, which was not true, of the fact that the first judge in the case illegally decided to disregard the minimum sentencing law, granted the Hammonds some lenient few months, and retired the day after to avoid any reprisals against him. Should you bring up a history of abuse, particularly towards one of the grandsons, including getting him to light some of the fires and the use of a belt sander to remove a tattoo, people told me, “Well, they had a bit of an anger management problem that seemed to get much better the last few years when the Hammonds started attending church.”

Absolutely nothing can be said when you are told something like that.

Insurgents and supporters justified the occupation of the federal refuge as an exercise of the Constitution’s First Amendment rights of free speech and peaceful assembly. “I truly believe the refuge and the people who stood on the refuge today are prisoners because they exercised their right to political free speech,” said Micelle Fiore, a Nevada legislator. “We’re talking about a bunch of cowboys camping in the middle of nowhere.” standoff/2016/02/final_four_holdouts_in_refuge.html#incart_maj-story-1

Never mind that many of these cowboys were prominently armed. Never mind that they put quite a few people out of work. Never mind that they sifted through boxes of archeological artifacts. Or used government equipment and fuel. Or cut fences and built roads. Forget about bringing up the emotional and financial havoc they caused.

These armed cowboys were prepared to stay at refuge headquarters until the government turned over federal lands back to the people, or the state, or the local counties, depending on who was talking, to further develop mining, logging and ranching. This big effort of a land grab is backed by major money, including that of the Koch brothers and Florida’s Deseret Ranches, which owns the largest cow-calf ranch in America, and legislators that receive large donations from them to vote their agendas. Can the insurgents count on that major money to help them in court, or even acknowledge their service to their shadowy cause. I doubt it. The insurgents were sacrificial pawns in a chess game they didn’t even know they were playing.

Hope, Moral Clarity and Integrity

I started this blog to answer over a hundred phone calls and emails from family and friends who wanted to know what was happening here and was I safe. I wrote to try and puzzle out for myself the events that led to what seemed to be to be a profound junction of history being played out in this Western corner of America, a microcosm that mirrors a troubled country and world that is increasingly chaotic and violent. The direction to take from here is confusing and unclear.

Many here showed admirable leadership, moral clarity and integrity. They include:

Georgia Marshall, a fifth-generation rancher, who spoke powerfully and emotionally at community meetings and wrote long, impassioned Facebook posts, about her love of the land and the community she has come to love.

Sheriff David Ward shows a decency and emotionalism rare in a law enforcement officer. His steadfast command in a tremendously difficult situation deserves much praise and appreciation.

Charlotte Rodrique, Chair of the Paiute tribe, eloquently spoke of the collaboration between her tribe and refuge employees in collecting their artifacts and documenting their history. She was outspoken in her contempt for refuge insurgents who showed little knowledge of Paiute history. The Paiutes were the first occupiers of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge lands, and, sadly, the first victims of the white man’s rapacious land grabs here.

These people and many others, inspire signs of hope that our community and our country can heal from the destructive polarities we find ourselves in the midst of.

Soon employees of the wildlife refuge will be returning to work. There’s a lilt of spring in the wind. The deep snows are melting. The eagles have returned. Within weeks Ross’ geese and the great white Northern geese will be on the wing. Purple blue camas will cover the fields. We will welcome the visitors that come to see our bird migrations and attend our annual bird festival (migragorybirdfestival.com).

In the meantime, I will continue to sift through the detritus of these evil winds and walk towards a path of hope. As my friend Amos Burk reminded me at tai chi practice today, “Breathe in peace. Breathe out smile.”

The photographer of the featured image of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is by Steve Terrill, a renowned Oregon photographer. His work has been featured in many magazines, including AudobonNational Geographic Publications and Travel and Leisure. The photograph is used with permission from www.SteveTerrill.com. Thank you.

Bundy Siege: No Win in Sight

A county shattered, in mourning, in relief, in disbelief. Confusion. Eleven arrested. One dead. Four are still holed up at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, asking yet another preposterous ransom, freedom from arrest.

We wanted a peaceful resolution, and we almost got it the first time around. The FBI and local law enforcement found the perfect place for a roadblock ambush up a steep canyon towards John Day, which is 70 miles from Burns. They chose a place up canyon near a major campground where they could hide their vehicles until showdown.

Car number one was stopped at the first blockade. Ammon Bundy and Brian Cavalier (“Booda”) were arrested. Drive Mike McConnell, a relative newcomer to the refuge, was taken into custody, questioned and then later released.

Behind them was the diesel truck that was being driven by Lavoy Finicum, that held Ryan Bundy, Ryan Payne, Shawna Cox, and Victoria Sharp, an 18 year old member of the Sharp Family Singers, a bluegrass gospel group from Kansas that was scheduled to sing at the meeting in John Day. Lavoy stopped, then cut and run, saw the second blockade, swerved to avoid it, plowed into a snow bank, got out of the truck, and was shot. Four eyewitness accounts agree up to here.

Accounts begin to diverge about the actual shooting. According to a phone call that Bundy apparently made to his wife from the back of a police car, Lavoy was shot while he was on his knees with his hands up in the air.

According to Mike McConnell, Shawna Cox told him that Lavoy and Ryan Payne had a heated discussion and “The next thing Lavoy is out of the car and charging towards law officers. “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqMuM7u6ph8

Then there’s the account by Victoria, who regarded the men at the refuge as heroes. Victoria must have felt quite the pride and self-importance riding with them in the car. What did she think when she saw the police convoy stopping the front car and Lavoy deciding to try an end run before crashing into the snow bank. According to her, “With the car running, Finicum got out of the car and he had his hands in the air and he was like, saying ‘Just shoot me, just shoot me.’ And they did. They shot him dead.” She did not report that he was saying, “I surrender, don’t shoot.”

She reported her story in an audio feed to right-wing reporter Pete Santilli in a car some hours after the takedown after she had been talked to and released by the police. You can hear the hysteria in her voice. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y92PvMFL0Eg

Then there’s the official account by the SWAT team., followed by a video taken from an airplane: “Finicum, with police in hot pursuit, attempted to leave the main road and drove into a snow bank. When he emerged from the vehicle, FBI and state police ordered him to surrender. That’s when, authorities say, Finicum reached down toward his waistband where he had a gun. The SWAT team opened fire. Finicum was killed. Ryan Bundy suffered a light wound on his arm.” http://www.opb.org/news/series/burns-oregon-standoff-bundy-militia-news-updates/fbi-standoff-continues-release-video-of-finicum-death/

Now there will be trial by media and social media. Many, including Finicum’s family and Cliven Bundy, will believe that he was shot in cold blood, dying for the cause he believed in, a martyr. Others say, ‘Suicide by cop.’

Perhaps we might reflect that there weren’t more deaths that night in a very tense situation. Perhaps we might speculate that Lavoy’s death spared his family of the grief of watching their finances drain out in a long trial that would probably have ended up with Lavoy in jail. Better to regard him as a hero than as some deranged madman. Better to reflect that Victoria Sharp was released. That poor girl will hear bullets in her head hitting the truck as she crouched down in the cab of that truck forever. Hundreds and hundreds of bullets, she said. “Ten to fifteen minutes.”

Even if peaceful resolution had gone down without bloodshed, there would still be trauma and sadness. There was already a great deal of sympathy for the men that occupied the refuge in our community, one among many issues that have divided the community here.

Some of these men certainly had that old West charisma about them, the good outlaws with the big hats, a mythology wrapped up pretty good into their psyches and that of their followers. They were revolutionary heroes, brandishing guns of righteousness and spouting God and the Constitution. Nobody had more freedom of speech and a bigger bully pulpit than they did. They spouted off to every media outlet they could at every opportunity. The coverage was immense—more perhaps than Donald Trump.

Did they think their arrogant lawlessness would grant them immunity and freedom from consequences?

I hope that letting some of the occupiers of the refuge leave peacefully does not mean that they will be free of arrest at some future time. Selective enforcement towards some would open more wounds. Already people are asking why Mike McConnell was allowed to go free?

Early on in the occupation of the refuge, Ammon Bundy talked about ‘federal agencies putting one family under duress.’ His payback was to put an entire county in duress. Bundy and others scoffed at the ‘small fires’ set by the Hammonds. Their payback was to unleash an emotional firestorm and, now, a hugely expensive legal fight. They talked about their grand plans to help restore the economy by turning over federal lands to local control. Instead they’ve caused financial chaos. Millions of dollars. Who will pay those bills? Who bears the cost of the emotional bills?

These are not my kind of heroes.

The invasion of these outlaws into our community meant that many residents felt they were being held hostage to preposterous ransoms. Many were afraid and intimidated, their emotional privacy violated. As the numbers of militants from out of town grew. and are still growing, many of us felt as though we were living inside some kind of weird outlaw convention under the spotlight of an incredible cadre of media and an equally incredible cadre of law enforcement. Our local law enforcement and county and city officials suffer great tension. It’s been a no-win for everyone involved, and there is no real end in sight.

At some point, everyone from out of town will go home and leave us alone to heal our wounds. Perhaps then we can find some new conversation; some positive solutions to old challenges. Out of chaos often comes a renewed sense of purpose and unity.

What new directions and hope will we find?

The photographer of the featured image of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is by Steve Terrill, a renowned Oregon photographer. His work has been featured in many magazines, including AudobonNational Geographic Publications and Travel and Leisure. The photograph is used with permission from www.SteveTerrill.com. Thank you.

Bundy Siege: The Real Refuge They Have Robbed

Yesterday, a bald eagle perched in an elm tree in my neighbor’s yard. In the spring, eagles are common in Eastern Oregon. There’s even a tree on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge that eagles use as an airport, flying in and out by the dozens about every ten seconds—one of the most remarkable sights I have ever seen.

Within the month, Ross’ geese will be here, hundreds of thousands of them, squawking and swirling in spirals as they land or take off on the many ponds near town or at the Refuge. A wild profusion of ducks, storks, cranes, and swans visit here, the their wings beating rhythms in the air.

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Ross’ geese by the tens of thousands crowd fields and ponds at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and around Burns/Hines during their annual Spring migration through Harney County. Photo by Kelly Hazen. Used with permisison.

The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is not just for the birds. They are shelters for people like me who want to get away from the meanness of the world. Here far-away horizons beckon me into empty, vast wild lands. And sometimes, at night, out in the emptiest of these places, silence wraps you in its magic. Absolute stillness. When there is no moon, my mind is gently drawn upwards into the soliloquy of the stars.

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I know that neighbors love these wonders as well—birders, fishermen, horsemen, kayakers, bikers and hikers, and yes, many ranchers that respect the land and the critters that live there.

Now the Refuge is occupied by outlaws, claiming to be sent by God and the Constitution. Their cohorts patrol the roads, follow and intimidate people; crowd motels in town and campgrounds out of town. They have caused emotional disarray among residents of Burns/Hines and within our ranch communities. Anger, fear, hostility and wariness dominate many conversations. I have not heard such divisiveness among families and friends since protests against the Vietnam War.

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Snowy White Owl. Photo by Kelly Hazen. Used with permission.

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The appreciation for the beauties that Harney County offers has been missing from the meaner focus started by the outlaws out at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the militia roaming our town. They have sown great discord into our peace of mind. And robbed so many of us of one of the jewels of wilderness in Harney County.

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The lands that are still held by federal agencies, including our National Parks and wildlife refuges, are public lands—without  “No Trespassing” signs and barbed wire to shoo us away.

These lands are not just to about mining, logging and timbering. To privatize federal lands for the money these industries might bring would be to rob us of an essential refuge for the soul.

Will these militant outlaws go away, be arrested, leave town before our renowned bird festival in April? I hope so.

Those armed bandits that roam so freely and arrogantly at the Refuge fill me with dread and sorrow. They make it impossible to visit. They desecrate a lovely place.

The wildness of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge draws me so that I can purge myself of fear and restore my enthusiasm and curiosity for life. It brings me peace of mind and helps my heart follow a path of peace.

Shame on the outlaws that would rob me of an essential refuge for the soul.

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The photographer of the featured image of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is by Steve Terrill, a renowned Oregon photographer.  His work has been featured in many magazines, including AudobonNational Geographic Publications and Travel and Leisure. The photograph is used with permission from www.SteveTerrill.com.  Thank you.

Bundy Siege: Lavoy Finicum’s Hypocrisy

You might even give it the title “The Ballad of Tarp Man,” Lavoy Finicum’s new nickname. There he is huddling over a little fire in the snow, rocking away in his chair, his trusty assault weapon beside him, covered with his blue tarp, guarding the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge against an invasion from law enforcement who would like nothing better than to arrest him and his seditionist friends.

It’s a lonely vigil, not even stars to keep Tarp Man company, because it has snowed almost continuously since he’s been there.  Soon, maybe even this week, there will be a thaw and the refuge roads will become as bog-thick and slimy as the mud he’s been slinging.

Tarp man and his buddies, whom I refer to as the Bundy Bunch, seized the refuge in late December and have been using their bully pulpit to bullhorn their anti-government message.

But perhaps not all government is bad for Lavoy.

According to Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), four foster children were removed from his home in Chino Valley, AZ. More digging by OPB found that Catholic Charities Community Service of Arizona paid the Finicums $115,343 in 2009. It is their main income. His cows just cover the costs of running the ranch. http://www.opb.org/news/series/burns-oregon-standoff-bundy-militia-news-updates/militant-says-foster-children-were-pulled-from-his-home-lavoy-finicum-burns-oregon/

What OPB did not mention, is that, according to Catholic Charities’ annual report, this organization receives over 80% of its funding from government contracts and grants. https://www.catholiccharitiesaz.org/images/financials/2014%20Annual%20Report.pdf

Government money helps fund Lavoy’s life.  And now tarp man is using some of that government income, not on behalf of his foster kids, which is where it should have gone, but to help fund his sojourn out at the refuge and abandon his family “for as long as it takes” for the ‘greater’ cause of fighting government tyranny. Hypocrisy on a scale I could not begin to  dream up on my own. Can you call the mis-use of those funds fraud?

Got to be great fodder for Lavoy’s next novel. His last one, Only by Blood and Suffering, received such headline reviews on Amazon as “Failure of a prison bound radical thief,” and “Works great as toilet paper!” Liane Allen wrote: “One of TarpMan’s Best: Exactly the kind of book you’d expect from a blue tarp. #tarpman (aka, Lavoy Finicum) is not only living out his fantasy of stealing federal lands, he wrote the book on it! If you need tips on how to survive in an Oregon parking lot, with nothing more than a sleeping bag, a rifle, and a tarp over your head, you need look no further than the self-published ramblings of #tarpman, himself. It’s a gripping tale of a citizen who believes he is exempt from laws (and so are you, as long as you agree with him, and are white!), and can single-handedly bring about a brave new world, where the only people who have the right to preserve federal lands are those who want to destroy them for profit. With the handy tips in this book, you’ll learn amazing facts, like: Which absorbent adult undergarment is best for long-term sitting in sub-freezing temperatures. How to ball up a sleeping bag around your feet for the most effective frostbite prevention. The right brand of blue tarp for your overnight chair sitting needs.” http://www.amazon.com/Only-Blood-Suffering-LAVOY-FINICUM/dp/193773594X/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1453156043&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=La+voy+finicum

Can you imagine the dialogue between Lavoy and his kids when he went home to visit a few weeks ago, presumably before the kids were removed.

Where have you been Dad?

Out at a bird refuge.

What were you doing?

Me and my buddies are saving the refuge from those nasty carp scientists.

Like, Wow, Dad.

Now La Voy worries that he and his wife will have to eat “rice and beans.” Maybe while he is out at the refuge he will learn to catch carp to dish out with his crap. I do feel sorry for his wife trying to make do out there in Chino Valley, AZ on her own.

Rice, beans, and carp might not be the mainstay diet in whatever prison I hope Mr. Finicum eventually ends up in.

Perhaps while he is there, he can contemplate the answer to the question I posed in my last blog.

“What does it feel like to sow such hatred and fear?”

Bundy Siege Ignites an Emotional Firestorm among Community

During the ten years that I have lived here, tragedy has brought our community together to support one another—with love, kindness, decency, helpfulness, and donations.

Last summer, a wildfire that was located sixty miles north of Burns, Oregon in Canyon City, destroyed over forty homes and outbuildings and burned far into the Strawberry Wilderness. The Mennonite community of Harney County sponsored a large benefit, attended by over 1000 people and raised over $6000 to help Canyon City residents to begin to rebuild. In another disastrous wildfire that occurred a few years back in the southern part of Harney County, ranchers gathered up dozens of semi-truck loads of hay to help feed livestock of affected ranches. I believe Hammonds helped in that effort.

As Georgia Marshall, a fifth generation rancher said in an impassioned Facebook post, “These little communities are primarily ranch communities. They are made up of very hard working families. Faith based, law abiding, proud, compassionate people. Supportive of their families, neighbors and friends. You couldn’t ask for finer people! They are proud of their lifestyle, proud Americans. I watch them stand, as I do, for the National Anthem, hands on hearts, hats removed and their children taught to stand and remove their hats, put their hands on their hearts too.”

You might as well erase her words. Now we have a negative firestorm in the hearts of this community. Hate, meanness, fear, and anger are spreading virtually unchecked, even among those of us not directly in the storm’s path. Our law enforcement people have told us of threats credible enough for leaders in federal facilities or families of lawmakers to be asked to leave town.

My neighbor, an 82-year old widow so frail, so thin and small that a breeze could blow her down, called me, her voice trembling in fear: “I saw strange footsteps in my backyard; my kids told me to keep the doors locked and not let anyone in.” I tried to reassure her: “In our yard, some of the deer footprints look like those of people because they are having a hard time dragging through the deep snow pack here.” I told her that 70- and 80-year old women were the least of the targets of the militia among us.

Many people spoke of how the negative firestorm was affecting them at a large gathering at the high school last week. A 15-year old identifying herself as Ashley cried out “I’m scared. I don’t want to feel scared in my own home.” A brilliant ecologist employed in one of the federal agencies stood up and said that he was more scared living here than when he lived in Trenton, NJ (arguably one of the more unsafe communities, at least ten years ago) and in Tucson where Gabby Giffords and others were shot by a crazed terrorist. Men and women talked of having arguments with friends large enough to separate them.

The Oregonian ran down people in our community who were being followed, raising hackles and fear. http://www.oregonlive.com/oregon-standoff/2016/01/residents_near_oregon_occupati.html

The last time I was at the high school for just as large a gathering was for a spring concert sponsored by The Committee for the Performing Arts. High school kids played oboe, bassoons, and flutes and little ballerinas in their adorable tutus fluttered as little swans.

A  community meeting held on January 20 again revealed the anger and tension, as the siege continues on to the third week.  http://www.opb.org/news/series/burns-oregon-standoff-bundy-militia-news-updates/burns-meeting-grows-tense-with-bundy-presence/

Just after the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was occupied, I posed a question on Facebook: “What shall we call the people that are occupying the refuge?” The answers mirror a community divided.

“Brave.”

“Seditionists.”

“A bunch of squatters with guns ransacking the fridge.”

“Peaceful protesters.”

“Thugs.”

“They are men. American citizens. Nothing more and nothing less. They are people standing up for American citizens rights.”

“Terrorists disguised as patriots.”

Some say the agitators have started a dialogue. I say they’ve started a highly destructive emotional firestorm within our community. Some have tried to intimidate federal workers and their families. I say, they are big bullies with big guns—not a great combination to further peace, love and credibility for their cause in our community.

The worst of the flames are fanned by the outside agitators, both within our community and out at the refuge. They want the bully pulpit and they have gotten it. Their anti-government rhetoric has been printed by every major news media in the country. After repeating their views ad nauseum, how many more words can they possibly have?

One thing most of our community is not divided about: we want the outside agitators to go home and leave our community and our beloved bird refuge in peace. We were working out our challenges just fine without them.

Firestorms like this are not easily eradicated. And once they are out, the emotional scars are difficult to heal and cure. Certainly the resiliency of our citizens will help.

I have just one question for Mr. Bundy and his bunch of outlaws: What does it feel like to sow such hatred and fear?

The photographer of the featured image of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is by Steve Terrill, a renowned Oregon photographer.  His work has been featured in many magazines, including AudobonNational Geographic Publications and Travel and Leisure. The photograph is used with permission from www.SteveTerrill.com.  Thank you.

Bundy Siege—Sorting Carp from Crap

The Bundy group demonstrated its ignorance yet again when they made derogatory remarks about Linda Sue Beck, the highly respected fish biologist of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Linda Beck is the one of the country’s top experts on carp, the invasive fish species that has taken over lakes and wetlands, not just on the refuge, but on private and other public lands here. Maybe the carp number in the millions. Maybe tens of millions.

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Linda Beck with a whopper carp. Photo by Devon Schwartz

Now, the refuge has a new invasive species to deal with—the militant thugs that have taken the refuge in hostage. Although there were only fifteen to twenty when they first occupied the refuge; nine days later, they number as many as 100, multiplying exponentially, just like the neighboring carp.

Linda Beck is “not here working for the people, She’s not benefiting America. She’s part of what’s destroying America.” This according to Jonathan Allen and Jim Urquhart, two Reuters reporters that spent the night with the Bundy bunch. They reported that the Bundy’s poked fun at Beck’s research and mocked the cozy office that she virtually lives in. http://news.yahoo.com/pizza-rifles-tension-night-inside-oregon-protest-055624373.html?soc_src=mediacontentsharebuttons&soc_trk=fb

Within Harney County, Linda Beck is a heroine. She came here fresh out of school with a biology degree and worked herself up to being one of America’s carp experts. She has been tirelessly productive, studying the problem, getting grants, forming alliances with private landowners and other wildlife biologists.

The Bundy crap is fouling the refuge and what it stands for; and besmirching the reputation of a wonderful scientist.

What is So Bad about Carp?

Carp are known among animal and plant scientists as a weedy species. They proliferate quickly, adapt easily to changing conditions, can live in extreme weather temperatures, eat most anything, overrun native plant and animals, and are difficult to get rid of. (Perhaps ironically, humans are considered a weedy species for similar reasons).

Carp are bottom feeders that hang out in mud and sediments and gobble everything they can find—fish eggs and minnows of native fish, insects, water plants, seeds—many of the same foods that birds and ducks eat. And because carp are so aggressive and can out-compete the birds and ducks, they have caused bird populations to drop, and some of the native fish populations, including the rare Redband trout, so prized by anglers. And because carp stir up the sediments, they foul the water, not just the considerable bodies of refuge waters, but water owned by ranchers and other federal agencies.

To add insult to injury, a major problem is what to do with the many weekly pick-up loads of carp once they’ve been caught or killed.

Ranchers, county and city officials and refuge scientists have found the carp to be a common enemy to battle against.

They’ve been joining forces for years and working together to achieve many positive gains. not just to draft an overall management plan that has won awards, but to address the specific problem of the carp. Now they also need to deal with the crap being dished out by the Bundy bunch.

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Malheur wetlands from Buena Vista overlook. On good days, you can look down and see raptors. Photographer unknown.

What’s so bad about the militia? 

Gee, let me count the ways. First by taking the laws into their own hands and occupying the refuge, they have usurped the values of law and order that we pledge allegiance to. What they have done is against the law. They are seditionists.

Second, they show a blatant disregard for many of the ways that ranchers and refuge scientists have worked together for years and years to defeat the carp problem and other common rangeland problems, the very thing they say they hope to ‘restore.’ What kind of B.S. is that?

Third, the Comprehensive Conservation Plan that took some six years to draft is very much the people of Harney County’s vision and ideas. It was a huge collaborative project that included just about every facet of the community. Copies of the plan in PDF formats can be accessed: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Malheur/what_we_do/conservation.html. Have any of the Bundy bunch read the plan? I’m sure it’s out at the refuge in plain sight. Shame on the Bundy bunch for mocking their cooperation.

More plainly: Invoking God and the Constitution to return the refuge ‘to the people’ in Harney County is crap.

Like many invasive species, they bully their way in and take over. This particular bunch has eclipsed qualities we prize as human beings: decency, kindness, compassion. Instead, they make people afraid. They sow seeds of divisiveness.

Expense and Income

There are number of issues to consider. One is what the occupation of the militia is costing in dollars. Harney County Judge Steve Grasty put out the figure $75,000 a day. Who knows what the financial costs will really be.

The emotional costs are higher and less able to quantify: A community held in fear and trembling, divided against itself, peace and love shattered, confused and in disarray. The poignant outcry of a 15-year old at a community meeting held by County officials was devastatingly sad: “I’m scared. I shouldn’t have to feel scared in my home.”

On the flip side are two important income sources that may be adversely affected. One is a 5.6 million dollar grant, called the Harney Basin Wetlands Initiative, another collaborative project headed up by High Desert Partnership (http://highdesertpartnership.org/what-we-do/harney-basin-wetlands-initiative/about-hbwi.html). The goal of the grant is to (a) implement a basin-wide carp control strategy and adaptive management to improve the health of wet meadows and other wetlands under b) maintain traditional flood irrigation practices on the Silvies River floodplain and other private lands that sustain important seasonal wetland habitats; and c) improve riverine and riparian habitats across the Harney Basin. The grant application came about as a direct result of the refuge’s conservation plan and vision adopted in 2013.

Part of that vision was “to conserve and enhance the health of Malheur Lake by managing in harmony with ecological forces in collaboration with our neighbors, partners, and friends and to learn from our efforts, successes and failures and the surrounding flood irrigated wet meadows are managed using science based management practices that are common to public and private lands. There is a cooperative relationship between local ranching families and the MNWR staff working to build understanding of how to manage the flood irrigated wet meadows in a manner that reduces carp reintroduction, provides food for migrating water birds, and provides a sustainable economic return for ranching families.

A new business that would add 250 jobs to Harney County is potentially at risk. In Spring of 2015, the Malheur Refuge entered into an agreement to catch and process invasive carp with Silver Sage Fisheries and Nutrient Company, a venture of Oregon-based Pacific Natural Foods. They have already purchased the French Glen Millworks in Hines for their processing plant. Their idea is to use the carp for fish food; and carp remains for fertilizer on land they purchased in Crane for growing vegetables for their soup line. It is quite an elegant solution for private industry, federal scientists and country officials to cooperatively work together.

According to Randy Fulton, Director of Harney County Economic Development, Linda Beck and refuge managers bent over backwards to help the new company. For now, Pacific Foods owner Chuck Eggert has assured Fulton that the project is a go. How long will that be true if the occupation is not ended soon?

Bundy Bunch Go Home

You could say our new invasive creatures out at the refuge seem to be as hell bent as the destructive carp on muddying the waters to the point of destroying positive working relationships between ranchers and scientists. Although there are imperfections, they have made great strides forward—not just to get rid of invasive carp —but other invasive species such as cheatgrass and medusa head that threatened rangelands, and need cooperation, not divisiveness, to combat. But before they can get back to working together on these issues, they now need to get rid of the county’s newest invasive species: the Bundy boys and their very warped sense of God and the Constitution.

Bundy Bunch: Get out of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Militias: Get out of Burns and Hines. You are a destructive force among us. We have been making great strides in solving our problems without you.

The Bundy Bunch: Preposterous Ransom Demands

The Bundy Bunch militia has grown to some 100 people squatting at the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, a beloved bird paradise. At least another 100 militia from outside Harney County are estimated to be holed up in Burns/Hines.

The Bundy bunch holds the headquarter buildings of the refuge in hostage. Their ransom terms are preposterous: A presidential pardon for Dwight and Steven Hammond (who are now in prison to serve out a five-year sentence for arson and poaching); and return of federal lands to the county or the states or the public (different entities on different days).

In the latest development, Luke Hammill in the January 8, 2016 Oregonian reported that militia from Idaho have arrived to “secure perimeter, prevent a Waco-style situation” at the refuge. (http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2016/01/oregon_standoff_idaho_militia.html#incart_river_index)

Credible threats to law enforcement, their families, and federal workers continue. some families have left town. Concrete barricades and chain link fencing surround Lincoln School, across from the courthouse, where many lawmakers are temporarily housed. (I’m sure they love the small stall bathrooms and low sinks.) City offices are closed and so is the Hines Post Office (a first). Federal offices, such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Agricultural Research Station continue to be closed.

How do these closures affect me? I can’t teach tai chi at town hall. A small thing, but these closures adversely affect everyone in town in small and large ways.  It is difficult for us ordinary folks to have anything else on our minds. There is no other conversation. What is going to happen? When are these militia going to leave? We hope there will be no bloodshed, but emotions are ratcheting up. Will our town ever be the same again?

The FBI is here, as well as sheriffs and lawmakers from others parts of Oregon. A large force, but not quantified. Their goal is to ensure public safety and have no bloodshed. Dave Ward, our County sheriff is being guided by the FBI and told to handle the Bundy’s at the Refuge with kid gloves. He and a few sheriffs from other parts of Oregon drove down and had a polite meeting with Ammon Bundy on Thursday, January 7. Ward asked them to leave; he told them he would provide them with an escort out of the County. Bundy said it ‘wasn’t time yet.’

No lawmaker here is using the word ‘terrorists.’ That’s part of the kid gloves treatment. But they’re not using the word ‘patriots’ either.

The media is here in force, at least 100 print, TV and radio people—liberal to right wing—gamely trying to report on the ‘real ‘story and ‘understand’ the people of our county. They have interviewed many ranchers who are giving their two bits on the bad ‘gummint’ (government, not chewing gum) they say has tyrannized us. The media can’t seem to find too many other people besides ranchers to interview. (In fairness, their backgrounders and commentary on Western rangeland issues has been good.)

No interviews with the 200-300 scientists and engineers, etc. working for the forest service, fish and game, BLM, Malheur Refuge, or another few hundred city, state and county officials (a few of which have offered ‘official statements’). They’ve probably all been counseled to stay out of the way and not inflame already high emotions. For sure many have been threatened and intimidated. And for sure, many are angry and uptight, rightly so. Not just for being out of work, but for being unrepresented and misrepresented. There’s quite a big of misinformation being bandied around and no way to counter it.

One exception are people from the small Paiute Reservation who have put in their two cents about how they occupied the land before the ranchers and homesteaders came here in the late 1800’s. They had a reservation in what is now the core of the refuge before it was dismantled in 1878. Probably not politically correct to say: but they have been marginalized here ever since.

Nor have there been interviews with the writers/jewelers/painters/craftsmen, potters here (with much of their work showcased at Gallery 15). Small business people that own shops are afraid of speaking their mind for fear of losing customers, no matter what side of what fence they’re on. Nobody has interviewed anyone from the Mennonite community. It’s as though nobody besides ranchers exists. The rest of us might as well be ghosts.

One of the unfortunate results of interviews that are skewed towards ranchers is that many are ‘on the side’ of the Bundy Bunch and their anti-government rants. And as with any group, some spew misinformation, opinionated bullshit and mayhem, which the media loves, because they are headline grabbers.

They are not the only ones with an anti-government stance. This evening’s headline story in Huffington Post: “Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Friday proposed a series of amendments to the U.S. constitution that would permit states to override the Supreme Court and ignore federal laws.”

An exception to the anti-government talk is Georgia Marshall, a fifth generation Harney County rancher, highly respected, who spoke and wrote eloquently about the collaborative effort to write a very good management plan for the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (very much a people’s vision, crafted by a diverse array of Harney County folk in 2013—see previous blog), She spoke with a great deal of heart and compassion about her neighbors the Hammonds, who unfortunately “made wrong choices” and should pay for them.

I was going to go to a meeting this evening of the Harney County Safety Committee, a self-appointed militia that was formed during a meeting on December 15 at the fairgrounds with Ammon Bundy and other militia, who at that time, professed to only be organizing a peaceful march. But you know what, I don’t even want to cross shoulders with them. They are not my type of people. I’m staying home and using my pen (well, my computer anyway).

So here we all are. Two feet of snow on the ground and more predicted. Ice rinks for streets. Ice fog in the morning hours (quite beautiful, if you have never seen it). Temperatures are 15 degrees in town, colder at the refuge.

Some of the humor among us is grim. At dinner, my husband announces he is ‘channeling’ Captain Moroni (one of the refugees at the refuge) to tell him that he should take the Bundy Bunch to San Francisco and take over the Cow Palace.

Friday evening, January 8, 2106.

Siege of an Oregon Birder’s Paradise

A few years ago, I had the privilege of touring the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge during the annual April Harney County Migratory Bird Festival  with well-known birding expert Steve Shunk http://www.paradisebirding.com  He took us to a tree in the middle of the refuge where we watched dozens of eagles land and take off, almost as though it was an airport; we spotted Sandhill cranes; rare Trumpeter swans, thousands and thousands of ducks ambling around some of the less visited lakes on the refuge. http://www.fws.gov/refuge/malheur/

Ka Steele 110428421_scaled_293x413

Kay Steele’s lovely photo of a Sandhill crane.

The refuge is a beautiful, vast and lonesome place—of some 187,757 acres—and it was a treat to have a guide who knew its byways. Because of its many lakes, migratory birds stop here to rest, nest, and breed. Watching Ross’ (Snow) geese land and take off by the hundreds of thousands is one of the great wonders of the world. www.migratorybirdfestival.com

Ross' Geese

Ross’ geese by the tens of thousands crowd fields and ponds during their annual Spring migration through Harney County. Photo by Kelly Hazen.

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt to protect the vast populations of waterbirds that were being decimated by the plume traders.

Before ranching and homesteading came to the area, the land was occupied by the Paiutes; and in 1872, they were given what is the core of the refuge as a reservation. They were not safe even there; and many of the Paiutes continued to be terrorized and killed. Sadly the federal government “discontinued” the reservation under pressure from European-American settlers who wanted the land.

That’s a partial history.

A Refuge Under Siege

On January 2, 2016, a few dozen terrorists—soft-spoken, self-righteous men who invoke God and the Constitution—have occupied the refuge headquarters. They’re going to stay, they say, until the lands are returned to the public, and more ranching, mining and logging can occur. They’re thin on the details of how to get rid of the ‘government’ and give the lands back to the people.  They want two ranchers arrested, convicted and re-sentnced to serve a minimum five-years in prison released. Then they’ll leave.

According to Bob Salinger of the Portland Audubon society, “The occupation of Malheur by armed, out of state militia groups puts one of America’s most important wildlife refuges at risk. It violates the most basic principles of the Public Trust Doctrine and holds hostage public lands and public resources to serve the very narrow political agenda of the occupiers.”

The Narrows in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Wild bunchgrass and whorled dock line  at the Narrows in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon. The photo of this and the feature image is by Steve Terrill, a renowned Oregon photogapher, whose works has been featured in such magainzes as Audobon, National Geographic Publications and Travel and Leisure. The photograph is used with gracious permission from www.SteveTerrill.com. Thank you.

The Vision of the Malheur Adopted by ‘The People.’ 

In 2013, after five-to six years of collaborative, hard work, a diverse array of ranchers, hunters, birders, local agencies and Paiutes, drafted and finalized The Malheur National Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan. the following vision was adopted for Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. It is the only refuge in America to adopt a comprehensive plan.  It is very much the work of the people of Harney County.

It’s vision statement in part reads. ..

Together with our surrounding community, partners, friends, staff, and all those who cherish this unique place where desert and water meet…

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge commits to care for, conserve, and enhance the health of the Malheur Lake, Blitzen Valley, and Double-O units, including the playas, dunes, marshes, rivers, meadows, and ponds that are all part of this landscape…

 We will observe nature and manage in harmony with ecological forces, while recognizing and maintaining the Refuge as a key anchor for migratory and breeding waterfowl, waterbirds, shorebirds, songbirds, and raptors.,,

 We will work diligently to improve the health of the land and water, reducing the destructive impact of carp and other invasive species, addressing imbalances in floodplain function, and restoring the original abundance of fish and wildlife for which Malheur is famous.

We will celebrate and welcome our visitors, noting and protecting the features that draw people again and again—the expansive landscape, the plenitude and diversity of wildlife, and the signs of a timeless history…

 We will allow and enhance opportunities to experience abundance, solitude, and renewal, for people birding, fishing, hunting, and learning on the Refuge. In respect to our ancestors and their fortitude, we will carefully preserve the legacies they left behind on this land…

Collaboration with our neighbors, partners, and friends will be a critical cornerstone in our day to day work; we recognize that nature crosses our boundaries and we can be successful only in partnership. We recognize that our activities are inextricably linked to the health of the local economy. We commit to environmental stewardship and sustainable management.

We commit to learn from our efforts, successes, and failures; to be humble about what we know; and to continuously strive for greater understanding in our stewardship of this remarkable place.

_DSC2846-S

These are the oddest, most wonderful birds I’ve ever seen. They’re very ordinary looking males until they want to go find a mate—then out comes the plumes and the white tuxedo-like front.  Quite amazing. Photographer unknown.

I’m one of the people that loves this vision and the management plan drafted by the people of Harney County; loves the Malheur Wildlife Refuge; loves finding the sage grouse in full court dress, is gladdened that the refuge exists for me and for the birds that love to visit.

The desire the militants that have occupied the refuge—to return the refuge to the people of Harney County for logging, mining and ranching is a narrow agenda that amounts to a land grab for the few. If the new management plan doesn’t set for the wide agenda of the people of Harney County, what does?

This is not the vision of Ammon Bundy and his cadre of terrorists who have taken siege of the refuge. I’m not one of the people Ammon Bundy and his crew would like.  These thugs and terrorists disguised as patriots have stolen the people’s management vision of the refuge and Harney County’s cultural jewel. Outside agitators invoking God and the Constitution have robbed us of our reputation and good name as hard working, peaceful folk. They have put people out of work and kids out of school.

Am I angry. You betcha. . .

Burns, Oregon: Siege of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge

Twelve to fifteen militia terrorists disguised as ‘patriots’ occupied the headquarters of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, some 40 miles south of Burns, Oregon, on the evening of January 2, 2016. They are armed with an array of pistols and assault rifles. According to Len Zaitz, a reporter for OregonLive, Ammon Bundy, one of the leaders, said that his cadre of patriots will be occupying the refuge for years and giving it back to the people so that they can ranch, log and mine again.

As David Calkins, superintendent at Harney Rock and Paving commented, It’s interesting that they have liberated the people’s property, but the people now have NO access to it.”

What started as an ‘all call’ to patriots to come to Burns to peacefully march in support of the Hammond family has now become an armed standoff in a remote and very beloved wildlife refuge.

On Monday, January 4, Hines and Burns town hall, county courthouse and some county offices, such as the Agricultural Research Stations will be closed at least until Wednesday. Public schools are closed all week.  Te Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offices are ‘closed until further notice.’

Why doesn’t law enforcement just arrest them? So far the goal is no violence and no deaths.  There is one major road to the refuge; another gravel one. The refuge is remote and well-guarded by the militia.  It won’t be easy to accomplish. No want wants a repeat of Waco.Law enforcement is puzzling out what to do, but asks that residents stay away from the refuge.

The terrorists have taken this town into emotional hostage. There is fear and uncertainty among all of us, no matter what side of which argument we follow.

Because of increasing national news coverage, my Jerome friends are calling to ask “What’s happening out there?”  I live here now. The Malheur is a great birdwatching destination. Here is attempt to answer that question.

Ross' Geese

Ross’ geese by the tens of thousands crowd fields and ponds during their annual Spring migration through Harney County. Photo by Kelly Hazen.

The Hammonds are Convicted of Arson

In June 2012, a jury sitting in Pendleton, Oregon found Dwight Hammond (73) and his son Steve Hammond (46) were convicted for arsons that they committed on federal land and sentenced to five years in prison by Chief U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken for arsons that they committed on federal land. They were guilty of setting a series of fires on lands managed by the U.S Bureau of Land Management. The Hammonds had grazing rights leased to them for their cattle operation. They settled here about twenty years ago.

On January 4 2013, Dwight and Steven reported to prison. Dwight served 3 months, Steven 12 months.

There were legal maneuvers and an appeal to the 9th circuit that the Hammonds serve out their entire sentence.

On October 7, 2015, Dwight Hammond (73) and his son Steve Hammond (46) were sentenced to serve the remaining of five years prison by Chief U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken for arsons that they committed on federal land. Over the weekend, they left Burns to report to prison on Monday, January 4.

Sentencing is Deemed Unfair

The sentencing was challenged by a group of Hammond supporters in Harney County that thought it was too severe. The protest spread to Cliven Bundy and others who have taken a stance against the ownership of government lands. Bundy came into national prominence for his armed standoff of BLM rangers that wanted to collect back taxes for leases of land to his cattle ranch. The Hammonds are supporters of Bundy.

According to some people in the county, the Hammonds have a long history of anti-governmental actions.

A petition and website, Stand with the Hammonds, paid for by Cliven Bundy is now circulating. https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/commute-sentences-dwight-lincoln-hammond-jr-and-steven-dwight-hammond-both-harney-county-oregon

It asks for President Obama to commute their sentence; but before it can go to the White House, some 100,000 signatures must be collected. As of January 3, only 1,665 signatures have been collected, with less that 10 % coming from Harney County citizens. How do I know? I counted them.

Sentencing is Deemed Fair

Others agreed with the sentencing and thought the Hammonds were given a fair trial. Among them was Georgia Marshall, a fifth generation rancher, highly respected among her peers, who posted a long letter on Facebook’s Harney County Forum (a closed forum). Here is some of it.

Intentionally setting fires, were convicted of the crimes, would have been charged with all nine counts against them by the jury, had they not plea bargained with the Justice Attorney. Had no regard for where fire fighters may have been. Have stared fires to cover up poaching crimes. Have burned onto neighbors lands. Becoming ruthless and reckless each time. How many other ranchers in our county have done this, out of the hundreds, who also make their homes and livings here?

I have know these two individuals and their families for years. I see them as friends. But sadly, wrong choices were made, they did the wrong things. Would they make someone pay a price for breaking one of their rules?

Will I march to show support? No. But I will show support to their wives and children and be there for them, if they need anything, I will be there in a heart beat! Do I hope they serve the entire five years? No, I hope they will be able to have an early release, come home to their families and their ranch. Do I hope the government gets their land? No, I hope they will pay their fine, they signed that plea agreement, it’s up to them to follow through on everything they agreed to. That’s as good as a handshake here, it’s your word!

I am sorry that our county is being pulled into all this mess and drama. I feel there are positive things to put all this energy into. Harney County let us stand together for what is good, positive and strong about our county and its people!”

Her letter had 184 ‘likes’. Her post was by far the most popular on that site and had 184 likes and comments of agreement.

March of Support

A few weeks ago, an ‘all call’ to patriots from patriots in other states was made. They were asked to come to Burns to support the Hammonds and ask that their sentence be commuted. They focused their efforts on leading a march from Safeway to the courthouse on Sat. January 2 and depositing flowers at the Hammond residence in Burns, where Dwight and Steve were waiting the be taken to prison on Jan. 4.

The march stayed peaceful. Perhaps as many as 200 people participated, carrying flags and flowers and throwing pennies at the courthouse in  gestures of peacefulness. The patriots and some residents here followed them to the Harney County fairgrounds to discuss their success.

The patriots ancillary agenda was to forward the idea that the Constitution gives them the right to take back public lands. And that agenda was dramatically made ‘real’ when Ammon Bundy, his brother, and other patriots took off to occupy the Malneur Wildlife Refuge. Not all the patriots at the fairgrounds supported this action.

Today, our sheriff has asked people to stay away from the Refuge.

Burns: Media Spotlight

Now Harney County has become a media focal point. The funny thing is that the only mainstream media reporters in Burns are from OPB, the Oregonian and OregonLive What has made national media in Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, or CNN and other major media sources are rehashes of their stories (sometimes without attribution).

Although now that there is this kind of media coverage, there will be more reporters arriving for ‘the real story.’ Which is what the occupiers of the Malheur Refuge want. They are starved for media coverage, hungry for action; and armed and ready for it.

The ‘patriots’ want their message out there that public lands should revert to the public. The idea has taken hold among some Western ranchers who would more than enjoy privatization of these lands for their monetary agendas. A land grab to put it simply under some pastiche of constitutionality.

And this at a time when many ranchers are fearful that their industry and way of life is as endangered as the spotted owl. From drought. From increasing costs.

Burns/Hines and Harney County and the Malheur Wildlife Refuge

Burns and Hines are two contiguous small cities of about 5000 residents, within about 110,00 acres of land in Harney County. Bend Oregon, is 132 miles to the West, and Lakeview Oregon, about the same distance due South. Ranching and agriculture are the main industries and they are co-dependent on land they lease from the Bureau of Land Management. Federal offices here employ about 600 people.

Boise, Idahoo is a four-hour drive over icy roads. Portland is a 6-hour drive over snow-covered Mt Hood; and right now it is snowing all the way from Portland to Burns. Here, two feet of snow cover the ground. At night, the temperature drops to well-below below zero.

The Malheur Wildlife Refuge was established in 1908 by Theodore Roosevelt as a “preserve and breeding ground” for native birds. Thousands of visitors come to the area to see the hundreds of thousands of Ross’s (snow) geese that migrate through here in the Spring. The bird watching is spectacular.

Affect on the Community

The closures of schools and city and county offices affects all of us here, just as the sequester did a few years back.  Here’s a Facebook comment by Hipolito Medrano, one of our citizens here,  on the Bundy bunch.

If this movement is about giving back land to the people, ok hand it over to the Paiute Natives and leave. He says he wants to jump the economy for this area, well the Maulher Wildlife Refuge is one of the bread makers for Harney County. People come to Harney County from all over the world just to see the bird migration of over 100 species and now because of their actions everyone will suffer because they now see Burns, Oregon as a place that is not safe. I personally as many of the small businesses in town rely on the influx of people not from Burns to come here and spend money that stimulates our micro economy. Their actions will affect everyone in our community from the mom & pop shops to our schools. Think about it, will the sports teams that play against our high school, will they be so inclined to bring their families to a football or basketball game. Will the running camp in Hines attract all those students that come to Harney County every year. Will people feel inclined to come to the Harney County Fair, the car shows, the chili cook off, the quilt show. You name the event and you’ll soon realize that because of the Bundy militia and their illegal occupation of the Maulher Wildlife Refuge we will all have to pay dearly for their actions. Our town is holding on to dear life and because of the action of people that are not from here that have an agenda of their own to prove. All while using all of us and telling us that we’re the reason for their actions. OK MR BUNDY WE GET IT AND YOU PROVED YOUR POINT. NOW IT’S TIME FOR YOU TO BE A MAN AND LEAVE. FIGHT YOUR FIGHT ON YOUR OWN LAND AND SEND US A POSTCARD WHEN IT WORKS OUT FOR YOU. Lots of love, y’all need it more than anyone.”

Bundy Siege: The Real Refuge That Was Robbed

TheYesterday, a bald eagle perched in an elm tree in my neighbor’s yard. In the spring, eagles are common in Eastern Oregon. There’s even a tree on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge that eagles use as an airport, flying in and out by the dozens about every ten seconds—one of the most remarkable sights I have ever seen.

Within the month, Ross’ geese will be here, hundreds of thousands of them, squawking and swirling in spirals as they land or take off on the many ponds near town or at the Refuge. A wild profusion of ducks, storks, cranes, and swans visit here, the their wings beating rhythms in the air.

Ross' Geese

Ross’ geese by the tens of thousands crowd fields and ponds at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and around Burns/Hines during their annual Spring migration through Harney County. Photo by Kelly Hazen. Used with permisison.

The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is not just for the birds. They are shelters for people like me who want to get away from the meanness of the world. Here far-away horizons beckon me into empty, vast wild lands. And sometimes, at night, out in the emptiest of these places, silence wraps you in its magic. Absolute stillness. When there is no moon, my mind is gently drawn upwards into the soliloquy of the stars.

proj_or_buena_vista_malheur

I know that neighbors love these wonders as well—birders, fishermen, horsemen, kayakers, bikers and hikers, and yes, many ranchers that respect the land and the critters that live there.

Now the Refuge is occupied by outlaws, claiming to be sent by God and the Constitution. Their cohorts patrol the roads, follow and intimidate people; crowd motels in town and campgrounds out of town. They have caused emotional disarray among residents of Burns/Hines and within our ranch communities. Anger, fear, hostility and wariness dominate many conversations. I have not heard such divisiveness among families and friends since protests against the Vietnam War.

ImSnowOwlStare

Snowy White Owl. Photo by Kelly Hazen. Used with permission.

images-6

The appreciation for the beauties that Harney County offers has been missing from the meaner focus started by the outlaws out at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the militia roaming our town. They have sown great discord into our peace of mind. And robbed so many of us of one of the jewels of wilderness in Harney County.

images-1

The lands that are still held by federal agencies, including our National Parks and wildlife refuges, are public lands—without  “No Trespassing” signs and barbed wire to shoo us away.

These lands are not just to about mining, logging and timbering. To privatize federal lands for the money these industries might bring would be to rob us of an essential refuge for the soul.

Will these militant outlaws go away, be arrested, leave town before our renowned bird festival in April? I hope so.

Those armed bandits that roam so freely and arrogantly at the Refuge fill me with dread and sorrow. They make it impossible to visit. They desecrate a lovely place.

The wildness of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge draws me so that I can purge myself of fear and restore my enthusiasm and curiosity for life. It brings me peace of mind and helps my heart follow a path of peace.

Shame on the outlaws that would rob me of an essential refuge for the soul.

images-7

I\

images-3

The photographer of the featured image of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is by Steve Terrill, a renowned Oregon photographer.  His work has been featured in many magazines, including AudobonNational Geographic Publications and Travel and Leisure. The photograph is used with permission from www.SteveTerrill.com.  Thank you.

 

Yesterday, a bald eagle perched in an elm tree in my neighbor’s yard. In the spring, eagles are common in Eastern Oregon. There’s even a tree on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge that eagles use as an airport, flying in and out by the dozens about every ten seconds—one of the most remarkable sights I have ever seen.

Within the month, Ross’ geese will be here, hundreds of thousands of them, squawking and swirling in spirals as they land or take off on the many ponds near town or at the Refuge. A wild profusion of ducks, storks, cranes, and swans visit here, the their wings beating rhythms in the air.

Ross' Geese

Ross’ geese by the tens of thousands crowd fields and ponds at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and around Burns/Hines during their annual Spring migration through Harney County. Photo by Kelly Hazen. Used with permisison.

The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is not just for the birds. They are shelters for people like me who want to get away from the meanness of the world. Here far-away horizons beckon me into empty, vast wild lands. And sometimes, at night, out in the emptiest of these places, silence wraps you in its magic. Absolute stillness. When there is no moon, my mind is gently drawn upwards into the soliloquy of the stars.

proj_or_buena_vista_malheur

I know that neighbors love these wonders as well—birders, fishermen, horsemen, kayakers, bikers and hikers, and yes, many ranchers that respect the land and the critters that live there.

Now the Refuge is occupied by outlaws, claiming to be sent by God and the Constitution. Their cohorts patrol the roads, follow and intimidate people; crowd motels in town and campgrounds out of town. They have caused emotional disarray among residents of Burns/Hines and within our ranch communities. Anger, fear, hostility and wariness dominate many conversations. I have not heard such divisiveness among families and friends since protests against the Vietnam War.

ImSnowOwlStare

Snowy White Owl. Photo by Kelly Hazen. Used with permission.

images-6

The appreciation for the beauties that Harney County offers has been missing from the meaner focus started by the outlaws out at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the militia roaming our town. They have sown great discord into our peace of mind. And robbed so many of us of one of the jewels of wilderness in Harney County.

images-1

The lands that are still held by federal agencies, including our National Parks and wildlife refuges, are public lands—without  “No Trespassing” signs and barbed wire to shoo us away.

These lands are not just to about mining, logging and timbering. To privatize federal lands for the money these industries might bring would be to rob us of an essential refuge for the soul.

Will these militant outlaws go away, be arrested, leave town before our renowned bird festival in April? I hope so.

Those armed bandits that roam so freely and arrogantly at the Refuge fill me with dread and sorrow. They make it impossible to visit. They desecrate a lovely place.

The wildness of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge draws me so that I can purge myself of fear and restore my enthusiasm and curiosity for life. It brings me peace of mind and helps my heart follow a path of peace.

Shame on the outlaws that would rob me of an essential refuge for the soul.

images-7

I\

images-3

The photographer of the featured image of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is by Steve Terrill, a renowned Oregon photographer.  His work has been featured in many magazines, including AudobonNational Geographic Publications and Travel and Leisure. The photograph is used with permission from www.SteveTerrill.com.  Thank you.

 

Content to be licensed: Excerpt (107 words), in context as originally published.

 

Title: Apple Introduces What It Calls an Easier to Use Portable Music Player

 

For use in: The Musician’s Business and Legal Guide (Publication date: April 2017)

$392.00 BOOK-PRINT: 1 edition, up to 25,000 copies; Worldwide, English language. Republish up to 250 words of one article within specified Book. Ellipses (…) must be used wherever leaving out article text from published work. Excerpt may not change the tone/meaning of the original published article.

$392.00 E-BOOK: 1 edition, up to 25,000 copies; Worldwide, English language. Republish up to 250 words of one article within specified Book. Ellipses (…) must be used wherever leaving out article text from published work. Excerpt may not change the tone/meaning of the original published article.

 

Please advise on how you wish to proceed,

Corinne