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January 5, 2016

Armed ranchers occupy Oregon wildlife refuge in protest

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Armed protesters took control of a national wildlife refuge in southeastern Oregon on Saturday to voice their opposition to federal land management.

The occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge began after a rally held in support of two Oregon ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond, convicted of committing arson on federal lands in 2012.The father and son reported to Southern California to begin serving a five-year prison sentence Monday.

The majority of those involved in the occupation are ranchers from various Western states that say they are fed up with government restricting their access to land. The self-described militia, calling itself Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, says it wants the 187,000 acre refuge created in 1908 from “unclaimed government lands” returned to local control.

“I think many of them feel that the way federal lands are managed is not appropriate and, in some cases, unconstitutional,” said Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter Amanda Peacher.

Ammon Bundy, the group’s spokesperson, said he and the other ranchers felt the need to take a stand against the government’s abuse of the Hammonds and other ranching families. Bundy and his father Cliven Bundy gained notoriety last year after staging an armed protest against federal land management on Cliven’s Nevada ranch.

“I feel and know that the abuses that this family has endured is much greater than even the Bundy family, and this is something that cannot be ignored,” Bundy said in video last week calling for support for the family.

The Hammond family has distanced itself from the protesters.

So far, the protesters have remained peaceful and almost no police presence has been seen at the refuge, according to Peacher.


Vocab

militia — a military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency

 

Warm up questions
  1. How can people who are dissatisfied with the government voice their concerns?
  2. What are some of the different forms of protest?
  3. Who manages national/federal land and parks?
Critical thinking questions
  1. How should law enforcement react to the armed protesters occupying the Malheur refuge?
  2. What are some of the challenges ranchers face when it comes to raising livestock that might make them particularly concerned about access to land?
  3. Why does federal land management wishing to preserve land for wildlife sometimes come into conflict with ranchers trying to make a living?
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