A group of militia members, along with family of Cliven Bundy, have taken over a building on a national wildlife refuge. Like the 2014 Bundy incident, the activists are once again accusing the government of a “land grab”.
On social media, the left has called the milita members terrorists. However, the Bundy family say they’re simply trying to stand up to government.
How did this all start? Here is a timeline provided by FOX NEWS’ brainroom on the history of this dispute:
August 18, 1908: Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established by President Theodore Roosevelt as the Lake Malheur Reservation
:: Set aside as a “preserve and breeding ground for native birds”
:: Was the 19th of 51 wildlife refuges created by Roosevelt during his presidency
:: At the time was the third refuge in Oregon and one of six refuges west of the Mississippi
Late 1880s: plume hunters had decimated North American bird populations in pursuit of breeding feathers for the hat industry
:: In 1908, wildlife photographers William L. Finley and Herman T. Bohlman discovered that most of the white herons (egrets) on Malheur Lake had been killed in 1898 by plume hunters
:: After 10 years the white heron population still had not recovered. With backing from the Oregon Audubon Society, Finley and Bohlman proposed establishment of a bird reservation to protect birds using Malheur, Mud, and Harney lakes.
1935: The Blitzen Valley was purchased, adding 65,000 acres to the refuge to secure water rights for Malheur and Mud Lake.
1933: Creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), allowing the refuge to use additional manpower to begin major improvements on the refuge
1942: 14,000 acre Double-O unit was added to the refuge in 1942 and provides important shorebird habitat, as well as waterfowl nesting areas.
1964: Dwight Hammond, then around age 22, moved to Diamond Valley and began his ranch business, beginning with around 7,000 acres
:: Today, Hammond Ranches owns about 12,000 acres in the Diamond-Frenchglen area
:: This ground is used to run cattle during the winter; until two years ago they used 26,420 acres of land belonging to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for summer grazing.
1994: Dwight Hammond was arrested but not prosecuted in a dispute over access to water with managers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
:: Heavy equipment from the Hammond ranch had obstructed a crew building a fence to keep cattle out
1999: Dwight Hammond was advised that his son, Steve Hammond, had set a fire that spread to bureau ground
:: According to a letter from the government, Steve told officials that he “did not believe there was any way to control fire behavior or where it would burn, and that he did not take any action to prevent the fire from burning.”
1999: Steve Hammond confronted hunters on land bureau property near his ranch
:: The next day, the hunters said Hammond fired several shots from his firearm that the hunting party heard about, but he said he was shooting at rabbits
:: Hammond was later convicted of interfering with use of public land
:: Hammond’s attorney said his actions “arose out of his belief that there was something wrong with a system that authorized commercial hunting of wildlife that temporarily wandered onto barren public land from private land lush with forage.”
2001: A fire set by Dwight and Steve Hammond destroyed evidence of alleged deer poaching and illegal hunting on the grounds
:: The Hammonds’ defense was that they started the fires on their neighboring property as a precaution against future wildfires and invasive plants, and the flames spread out of control to federal lands
2006: The Hammonds set a “back fire” in an attempt to save the Hammond’s ranch winter’s feed; the fire burned onto public land
:: The government said Steve Hammond lit up on the flanks of a butte, despite a countywide burn ban and the knowledge that young part-time firefighters were camped up higher (the firefighters’ crew boss spotted the fires, which were set at night, and moved the crew)
** NOTE: The two fires burned a combined 140 acres **
2012: The Hammonds were convicted of arson, and sentenced to time well below the federal minimum of 5 yeras
:: At that time, the Hammonds argued that the mandatory minimum terms were unconstitutional, and the trial court agreed
:: However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the federal law; the original sentence was vacated and the Hammonds were ordered to be resentenced in compliance with the mandatory minimums
2014: The Hammonds’ settlement with the federal government
:: The federal government was trying to force the Hammonds to pay more than $1 million in firefighting costs for the 2001 and 2006 fires
:: The Hammonds agreed to pay the federal government $400,000; they paid $200,000 right away, and the rest Thursday. Dec. 31, 2015
:: The settlement also required the Hammonds to give the land bureau first chance at buying a particular ranch parcel adjacent to public land if they intended to sell
:: :: For some, this was evidence that the government all along was after the Hammond ground to add to its Steens Mountain holdings
:: :: Per the federal government, that provision was inserted in case the Hammonds felt they had to sell ranchland to pay the settlement.
2015: The Supreme Court rejected the Hammonds’ petitions for certiorari
October 7, 2015: The Hammonds were each sentenced to five-year prison terms, with credit for time served
January 2, 2016: Hundreds of protestors in Burns, Oregon rally in support of the Hammonds; Ammon Bundy and two of his brothers were among them, and were part of a splinter group that drove to the refuge and broke into its headquarters
January 4, 2016: Hammonds are due to report to serve out their sentence
:: NOTE: Because of the criminal convictions, the federal land bureau decided not to renew the Hammonds’ grazing permits, which puts their ranch in jeopardy (the Hammonds are appealing this decision)
:: The U.S. holds deed to three-fourths of Harney County; some counties are nearly 90% public land
:: Many ranchers depend on grazing leases from the federal government
:: Regional ranchers have tried to fight federal management since at least the 1970s, when ranchers tried to claim federal land during the so-called “Sagebrush Rebellion”
:: According to local reports, ranching done for a century and more is under pressure from environmentalists, recreationalists, and hunters.
Interesting fact: A key witness for the government’s arson case was a family member who was a teenager at the time of the 2001 fire. He testified how he and his relatives started the blaze, saying in court that Steve Hammo