The Protests in Oregon Bring Up Major Issue for Ranchers
On January 2nd, armed ranchers decided to use their own right to protest the government. While protesting is normally associated with more a left wing, liberal voter, this group of people decided that they were tired of the government’s regulation and overreach.
The stimulus came from the arrest of Dwight Hammond and his son, Steen Hammond. Both ranchers, they were charged with arson on federal land. This father and son own Hammond Ranches, Inc, and are believed to have intentionally started firers on lands the US Bureau of Land Management manages. The Hammonds had grazing rights for their cattle, but not the right to set it on fire. These arson convictions in happened in 2001 and 2006. In 2006, the Hammonds proclaimed that the reason for their fires were to create backfires, in order to stop a fire started by lightning. The Hammond’s fire, therefore, unintentionally spread to federal land.
Both times the Hammonds were convicted, they have a plausible reason for what could very well have been an accident. But no matter what, there is a minimum five year sentence for arson on federal lands. So, while this would have just been a quiet court case, the arm end rump militias decided to protest, and occupied the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The real protest, however, is the debate over federal and private lands.
While this protest gained some media support in the beginning, but the focus was more on, “what is a terrorist?” and “are we racist to only call Muslims terrorist?” Basically, instead of questioning the impetus for Ammon Bundy and his group’s occupation, some media outlets decided to ask everyone if there would be a different reaction if these ranchers were not white. This, however, totally misses the point.
For many Americans who rely on agriculture or ranching for their livelihood, government regulation and federal overreach seriously damages their way of life. While the Hammonds could have indeed been guilty, they could have also been innocent, and therefore, will spend five years away from their ranch with serious economic consequences. The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, however, also argues that there mission is to protect America’s wildlife and land. This debate will continue to go on, but this protest is significant in the desire to rise up against federally owned lands, and protect individual rights. For others, this is viewed as an example of extremism, and no regard for wildlife and the protection of nature. Regardless your stance, the protest is an example of these two ideologies going head to head:those who believe in regulation and those who want the government off of the land.