[QUOTE]What the Oregon Standoff Is Really About
Forget the Bundys and "terrorism"—the real crime is what federal bullies do to ranchers like the Hammond family.
By JUSTIN RAIMONDO • January 7, 2016
The occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon, by a group led by Ammon Bundy—yes, of those Bundys—was supposed to have focused attention on the plight of a rancher family that has been fighting decades-long efforts by federal officials to drive them off their land. Instead, this dramatic act of civil disobedience has done the opposite: amid debates over the Bundy family, their tactics, and ideology, the focus has been taken off the Hammond family, and their struggle to preserve their land and their way of life has been largely obscured.
This is their story.
Dwight Hammond and his wife Susan bought their ranch in 1964. The Hammond ranch consists of 6,000 acres, grazing rights in four areas on public land, and rights at three separate water sources. They live in a small ranch house—a beautiful structure of stone and hand-hewn wood—on the property.
The land sits in Oregon’s Harney Basin, an area first settled at the tail end of the 19th century. While the narrative we are getting in the media depicts the ranchers as despoilers of the land, implacable enemies of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge established by Teddy Roosevelt in 1908, the true history of the region shows that the “cowboys” who lived there and ran as many as 300,000 head of cattle were in fact its best defenders. Without them, there would be no Malheur Wildlife Refuge.
As the cattlemen developed an elaborate irrigation system in order to feed their herds, what had been a huge swampland surrounding Malheur Lake was transformed into rolling meadows, wildlife flocked to the area, and it became a favored spot for migratory birds. In 1913, however, the Oregon state legislature passed the Thompson Act, which authorized anyone who won approval from the Land Board to drain any lake and “reclaim” it for development. Drainage districts were established all over the state, and taxes were extracted from landowners in order to further approved development schemes. The Oregon Swampland Act created a “Reclamation Service,” which surveyed and facilitated the drainage of riparian areas, applying for title to lands owned by the federal government, which would then be turned over to developers who envisioned selling plots for agricultural purposes. (As it turned out, however, the land around Malheur Lake was too salty for crops to grow, but since no one had bothered to investigate, this wasn’t discovered until much later.) In 1913, the year the Thompson Act was passed, there were no fewer than eight attempts to drain Malheur Lake filed with the Reclamation Service.
These efforts were thwarted by the ranchers, represented by the Pacific Livestock Company, who contested the water rights and fought the developers to a standstill. As Nancy Langston puts it in Where Land and Water Meet: A Western Landscape Transformed: “What saved the Malheur Refuge from being destroyed by drainage along with other federal refuges in the region were precisely its tangled water rights and the stubbornness of local ranchers.”
Yet the federal officials who today preside over the refuge don’t remember or don’t care to recall that it was the ranchers who saved the land from being despoiled. Imbued with what can only be described as an imperialistic impulse, the feds have relentlessly sought to expand the refuge, using every method, legal and illegal, to drive them off the land.
As Ammon Bundy explains on his blog, in the 1970s the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) launched their campaign of conquest: ranchers were informed that grazing was inimical to wildlife and had to be reduced, if not eliminated. Out of a total of 53 permits, 32 were revoked; grazing fees were raised sky-high, and many ranchers were forced to give up their land. The irrigation system they had created and which had attracted birds and other wildlife to the area was appropriated by the refuge. While the original refuge established by Teddy Roosevelt included only Malheur Lake, and neither the rivers whose waters flowed into it nor most of the land surrounding it, today it covers some 187,000 acres, completely surrounding the Hammonds’ ranch.
Those who held on, including the Hammonds, were continually pressured to sell, but the hardscrabble ranchers—who had fought the developers, the state politicians, and the forces of nature to preserve their land and their way of life—were not about to surrender to an army of bureaucrats and the urban elites who ran the environmentalist lobby. Their answer was a firm: no way, no how.
As 1980 rolled around, the feds came up with a new battle plan, taking a leaf from the playbook of the Israelis, who have seized Palestine’s water and dole it out in dribs and drabs to their Palestinian helots. The FWS was keen to acquire privately owned land on the nearby Silvies Plain, so the refuge diverted the water, channeling it into Malheur Lake. Water levels rose, soon doubling, and over 30 ranches on the plain were utterly destroyed: homes, barns, and the verdant pastures on which cows once grazed were under water.
This broke the back of the rancher resistance: most came to the FWS and gave their land away for a song. It wasn’t until 1989 that the waters began to recede. By then the entire plain was in the grasping hands of the refuge.
Still the Hammonds refused to sell, and along with a few other holdouts they began to develop a strategy of resistance. Susan Hammond, the matriarch of the family, began to research how the refuge managed its considerable resources. What she discovered was that the ostensible purpose of the refuge—to provide a habitat for birds that might otherwise be endangered—was ill-served by refuge personnel. She dug out a 1975 study conducted by the FWS itself (as Bundy’s blog notes), which showed that the policies pursued by the refuge and allied federal bureaucracies were driving the birds away. It turned out that private lands bordering the refuge provided a haven for four times as many geese and ducks as the federally held lands. Migrating birds turned up their beaks, so to speak, at the refuge and were 13 times more likely to alight and breed on ranchers’ land.
One of the reasons for this is that federal overseers have allowed carp to take over the waters of Malheur Lake and the streams that feed into it. Massive numbers of carp have invaded and destroyed a habitat which once contained grasses and aquatic plants that provided birds and animals with a steady diet. No more. As Oregon Public Broadcasting put it:
Scientists say Malheur Lake once provided expansive habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds along the Pacific Flyway.
That was before common carp were introduced to the lake. These fish are native to Eurasia. Malheur wildlife biologist Linda Beck says the common carp was brought to the lake as early as the 1920s, likely as a reliable food source for people living in this arid region…
Now the shallow Malheur Lake is mostly brown, open water, free of the plants that provide food, shelter and nesting grounds for the birds… The lake’s estimated carp population runs in the millions.
The refuge, the BLM, and the FWS profit from this disaster by hiring commercial fisherman to come in and catch the carp, which is then sold in areas of the country where immigrant communities for whom carp is a favored foodstuff buy it. Forget the birds: it’s the carp that bring in the money.
Another big problem—one that would come to figure prominently in the Hammonds’ legal problems—is the invasion of junipers, which are crowding out other plant species and turning what were once fields—maintained by ranchers, who regularly cleared the land for grazing—into forests. Junipers suck up water at an amazing rate, and the result is that those fields have now turned into desert. For years, environmentalists objected to cutting down the junipers because it might encourage grazing on “public” lands, and the federal bureaucracy’s “no use” policies encouraged the juniper invasion, which has now conquered over 6 million acres. Finally, the BLM got wise to the problem, but as with the carp invasion, they reacted far too late. This is another reason why the refuge is not popular with the bird population, who are losing their habitat and being driven out—along with the ranchers.
And it isn’t just the junipers that are hogging all the water. In the early 1990s the Hammonds applied for and were granted water rights in an area adjacent to the Refuge by the state authorities. The BLM and FWS went ballistic, with the latter challenging the water rights in Oregon State Circuit Court. They lost—and that’s when the bureaucrats really starting going after the Hammonds.
Not long after being told by a judge to back off, the BLM and FWS fenced off the Hammonds’ water—a brazenly illegal act. The Hammonds struck back, dismantling the fence: the feds called in the Harney County sheriff, who arrested Dwight Hammond. Charged with “disturbing and interfering with federal officials,” a felony, Dwight was jailed for two days. Brought before a federal judge, he was released without bail: the hearing was at first postponed, and then it looks like the government was so embarrassed by the illegal actions of the BLM and FWS that they forgot to schedule another hearing date. The whole matter was dropped. But the feds had sent a message to the Hammonds—that the government would not be bound by the law.
/QUOTE]For the rest of the article go to; http://www.theamericanconservative.c...-really-about/