Rutting Mule Deer Buck, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, Colorado

I’ve become obsessed with this occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon. Sagebrush Rebel terrorists decided to take a stand at a remote wildlife refuge to protest ranchers sent to prison for covering up mule deer poaching with arson, and are somehow trying to take back an 1800’s way of life that entitles them to use our western lands however they wish for free, because dammit, the Federal government has overreached and there is too much government, and they say this isn’t terrorism, but they’re heavily armed and willing to die. Or some such myopic nonsense. They have signs protesting the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), even though the land they’re occupying is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). American flags are draped all over the refuge, even though they’re protesting the Federal government. None of what they’re doing is constitutionally defensible or upheld in any way by the Supreme Court. It is simply domestic terrorism and these yahoos playing army give sustainable ranching a bad name.

The National Wildlife Refuge System is made up of over 500 refuges that offer unique and rare opportunities to view wildlife, recreate, and celebrate our natural heritage. The refuge system is part of a public lands network managed by the USFWS, the BLM, The US Forest Service, and the National Park Service. Roughly half of the land in the American West is public, millions of acres that every American owns the same deed of ownership to. As I watch this news cycle unfold, I see politicians posture to defend this sagebrush rebel idea that folks are somehow being persecuted by a system that won’t allow them to graze cattle, drill, and mine wherever they want. Here’s an idea: choose a different way of life. After prison.

Our public lands system is one of the best ideas we’ve ever had and is rare in the world. It’s too easy, simple-minded, and lazy to marginalize a place because of its remoteness – the very quality that makes it extraordinary. I’ve not been to Malheur, but most of my work is on public lands that won’t grace glossy calendars, places without the aura of our celebrated national parks. Places like Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, Siskadee NWR, Jack Morrow Hills, Adobe Town, Arapaho NWR, Cochetopa SWA, and so many other largely unknown lands in the west are refuge for the wildlife that we celebrate – it’s where we go for inspiration and solitude, to get lost in the grunt of rut, melody of meadowlark, call of the eagle, crane, and loon. This sagebrush rebellion won’t likely go away anytime soon; hell, Ronald Reagan called himself a sagebrush rebel; but this thuggery aimed at stealing our natural inheritance, robbing us of a chance to be inspired will not stand. We carry cameras and binoculars, support western communities, and we like our public lands just fine. Large unbroken expanses of western lands are the present and the future; our defense against climate change, extinction, and ignorance.

6 thoughts on “Refuge

  1. Dave,
    I have been to Malheur, dozens of times. It is absolutely essential to many thousands of animals. We are doing everything we can to force a rapid end to this occupation. It is in all likelihood already affecting Great-horned owls that nest in the tower they are using (as a lookout?). Other animals will soon be arriving there by the thousands in their spring migration. CNN yesterday said we have all the time in the world to just wait them out; we do not. The function and integrity of the refuge must be the single most important consideration in ending this fiasco. Thank you for your accurate and pertinent comments.

    1. I agree Bob, and it’s so unfair to our wild brothers and sisters who have nowhere else to go. It does seem that the few folks that are doing the occupying (less than 15?) are wearing thin and I’m sure that’s part of the calculation along with avoiding emboldening like-minded yahoos. I give them another week before things really unravel in the camp. They have little support, other than fringe extreme politicos, and no support locally. I do hope a warm cell awaits each of these damn fool terrorists. There has to be some major deterrent to keep future whacks from thinking that taking over a refuge sort some other facility is a good way to make a point. And why isn’t Cliven in jail? Bastards.

  2. Dave, your thoughts match mine. These Domestic Terrorists (DTs) seem to forget that there are westerners like us that have no problem with the jurisdictional control of Federal Agencies. The DTs act as if they are the only ones that have any say over these lands. I have family that lives in Burns and the majority of the locals want these people out. The Hammond men that are headed back to jail don’t even want them there.

    I appreciate you taking the time to state the views of a majority of Americans, not just Western Americans.

    1. Thanks Chris. Maybe in some perverted way these whacks will harm their own cause through ignorance and a total miscalculation of how we value our public lands…after they leave, go to jail, and reflect in a 10×8’cell.

  3. I believe terrorists are motivated by their egos , greed and self-centeredness. It is about them and their imagination of who they perceive they are. They see into a distorted mirror. There really is no ability to look at the consequences of their actions and how it affects people and nature. It seems there are few who are in support of them. Nor, do these people know damage their way of thinking has affected our land east of the Mississippi River or our prairie lands you wrote about in your.

    I also enjoy the NWR near me and our natural areas supported with our county and city. They are a refuge for me to move out of the busyness of the city life.

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