Add the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association to the list of groups that don’t approve of the militia takeover of a federal building south of Burns.
In a prepared statement Jan. 4, OCA President John O’Keeffe noted that Harney County ranchers have been “very resourceful” in working with federal agencies on wildlife issues in particular.
“Furthermore, OCA does not support illegal activity taken against the government. This includes militia takeover of government property, such as the Malheur Wildlife Refuge.”
However, OCA Executive Director Jerome Rosa said the organization continues to support Burns-area ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond, who reported to federal prison Monday to serve additional time for burning BLM land. The OCA believes their resentencing was a “classic case of double jeopardy” and is calling for clemency.
The self-described militia members are led by Ammon Bundy, who took part in the 2014 armed standoff at the Nevada ranch of his father, Cliven Bundy, over the family’s non-payment of federal grazing fees. The younger Bundy and fellow believers arrived in Burns vowing to “support” the Hammonds. They took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters during the New Year’s holiday weekend when it was closed and vacant.
The militia members appear to have few if any ties to the case or to the local area.
Ironically, as O’Keeffe referenced, Harney County ranchers worked extensively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other local, state and federal agencies on improving habitat for Greater sage-grouse. The voluntary conservation agreements signed by county ranchers set a standard for habitat protection on private property throughout the West and are credited with keeping sage-grouse off the federal endangered species list in 2015. A county rancher, Tom Sharp, coined the phrase that summed up the collaboration: “What’s good for the bird is good for the herd.”
O’Keeffe said the OCA is circulating an on-line petition asking the White House to review the Hammond’s case.