Family leading land-right fight against Government

January 6, 2016 7:01 pm

 Ammon Bundy (centre), one of Cliven Bundy’s sons, is leading the occupation in Oregon with his brother Ryan. Photo / AP

The armed occupation of an American wildlife reserve in rural Oregon
over the weekend marked the national re-emergence of the Bundy family – a
clan of ranchers who have amassed vocal supporters during their
decades-long clash with the federal Government over land rights.
The
Bundy family makes up perhaps the best known of the current crop of
activists who think that the federal Government – through expanding
environmental and land regulation – has unconstitutionally infringed on
the rights of citizens and that armed confrontation is necessary to curb
that perceived overreach.
Best known among the Bundys is Cliven,
the family patriarch, a Nevada rancher who federal officials say has
been illegally grazing his cattle on federal land for decades. That
dispute came to a head in April 2014, when the US Bureau of Land
Management tried to move Bundy’s cattle, and he in turn vowed to shoot
any federal agent who entered the land.

His supporters took up arms, and, eventually, the federal agents ceded to Bundy’s demands that they leave.
The
Southern Poverty Law Centre, which tracks extremist groups, says that
victory strengthened Bundy, his sons and their supporters.
“When
the federal Government was stopped from enforcing the law at gunpoint,
that energised this entire movement,” said Heidi Beirich of the SPLC.
“When you have a big win like they did at the Bundy ranch, it emboldens
people … It is definitely a recipe for disaster.”
Since running
federal officers off his ranch, Bundy and his supporters have become a
travelling troop – co-opting various incidents in which they think the
federal Government is over-regulating people. In April, the Bundy family
involved itself in a dispute at the Sugar Pine Mine, during which a
local miner took up arms against federal agents who said he did not own
the surface rights to the land he was mining. Other members of the Bundy
operation went to the border, arguing that if the federal government
would not prevent illegal immigration, they would do it themselves.
And
the plight of the Hammond family – Oregon ranchers sentenced to prison
for arson – caught the attention of Ammon Bundy, an Idaho rancher who is
one of Cliven’s sons.
Ammon and one of his brothers, Ryan Bundy,
are leading the occupation in Oregon, and have vowed to remain in the
federal wildlife refuge until the Hammonds are released from prison.

FBI heads response to Oregon protest

The
FBI has taken charge of the response to an armed occupation of a
federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, saying that it will work with local
and state authorities to seek “a peaceful resolution to the situation”.
“Due
to safety considerations for both those inside the refuge as well as
the law enforcement officers involved, we will not be releasing any
specifics with regards to the law enforcement response,” the FBI said.
Federal
authorities are working with local and state police and agencies in
response to the situation in eastern Oregon, the latest chapter in an
ongoing fight over federal land use in the West.
The occupation
of a remote federal wildlife refuge followed a march and rally held over
the weekend to support two local ranchers convicted of arson. The two
ranchers – Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven – turned themselves in, to
report to federal prison.
After the march, a group of armed
activists, led by rancher Ammon Bundy, travelled to the Malheur National
Wildlife Refuge and announced plans to stay indefinitely.
Although
Bundy’s father, Cliven, told a reporter in Oregon that “150 militia
men” had occupied the federal land, at least one person who saw them
leave for the refuge said there were “maybe a dozen” people.
President
Barack Obama is aware of the Oregon situation, but the White House
considers it “a local law enforcement issue,” press secretary Josh
Earnest said.

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