by Stephen Capra
As dawn broke today the news was everywhere, another siege by disgruntled ranchers, again the name Bundy was front and center and once again the news was that local and government officials were trying “to calm the situation.”
So again American is faced with the double standard of how we deal with white vs. black crime and once again how a select group of privilege is given more than special treatment, they are given a pass.
The story revolves around the Hammond family, who has lived adjacent to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for many years. Many say the family is generous and part of the fabric of the surrounding community. In 2001, they set fire to more than 130 acres of land in an attempt to cover up their deer poaching; witnesses said many deer where not killed but maimed and struggled to get away. In 2006, as fires were burning in the Steen Mountains area and BLM firefighters were on a high ridge camped, Steve Hammond, set fires below them in the middle of the night to move the flames away from his lands while threatening their lives.
The Hammonds were charged under a provision of expanded federal law designed to fight terrorism. They were sentenced to a small jail stay only to have an appeals court rule that time served was inadequate. They are scheduled to return to federal prison tomorrow to complete four (son) and five year (father) sentences respectively.
The Hammonds own about 12,000 acres of land adjacent to the refuge. Their sentencing and the fact threat as part of a settlement with the government that included $400,000 in fines and a clause that states that the Government has the first right to purchase their lands if they decide to sell them has sent the right-wing militia into action. The Hammonds have clearly never loved the Refuge and they history in the courts and their continued public statements about the barren nature of the refuge vs. the lush ideal of their cow-filled private lands speaks to their ignorance of science and reality. It is part of the standard talking points of the livestock industry.
Last year the Bundy family made headlines by defying the government and with an armed militia stood their ground and threatened government police officials. The result: the government backed down, Bundy became a folk hero. The Hammonds have made clear they do not want the help of the Bundy’s and do not support the actions. However, once again the Bundy clan is leading a group of radicalized ranchers, extreme right-wing militia types and the government faces the prospect of a long-term siege, if they do not act.
So imagine for a moment if the Black Panthers took over a government office in downtown Oakland and asked others to come and join them in fighting our government. What would be the response? Fair to say, a hail of bullets and explosions!
In Oregon, a jury of their peers convicted these ranchers of arson. They were sentenced to jail. Their outrageous actions could have cost firefighters their lives.
Now the government must act and act aggressively, before our nation is torn apart by right-wing terrorism. The spoiled and pampered livestock industrial complex must, like all Americans, live within the boundaries of law and order.
Mr. Bundy must be arrested and additional charges with no bail be given. Some will say it only makes him a martyr, but a long jail sentence far removed from his Nevada home is one way to send a strong message, something the government is using in its fight against terrorism and let’s be clear, this is a form of terrorism.
The actions of Bundy and his like are designed to break down the very laws and systems of protecting our wildlife and environment that is perhaps America’s most precious achievement. Their goal: To transform our public lands into a lawless oasis for common thugs and vigilantes’. The Hammonds must go straight to jail; their land will one day be a nice addition to the refuge, may it come soon.
The actions of these ranchers are reflective of an attitude of privilege. The same attitude that allows the indiscriminate killing of wolves or other wildlife, the destruction of public lands and a long history of intolerance towards those who question their abuse of the public trust.
Bold Visions Conservation