Not quite two years removed from Cliven Bundy’s moronic and dramatic showdown with the BLM (who were repo-ing his cattle for millions of dollars in unpaid fees, fines, and court ordered punitive damages) we find Cliven’s son Ammon forcing another showdown with government agents. This time over some ranchers who did bad things and got busted for it.
You have probably seen it splashed across your newsfeeds and made fun on of mercilessly on the late night comedy shows, but what does the showdown at a bathroom/gift shop at a remote wildlife refuge/bird sanctuary in the most desolate and sparsely populated region in the lower 48 have to do with anything (a well-sourced historical brief on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge)? Well, I am going to explain it to you.
In 2001 Lincoln Hammond, Jr., 73, and his son, Steven Dwight Hammond, 46 were illegally hunting on protected federal land. After making several kills of protected wildlife, “Steven Hammond handed out “Strike Anywhere” matches with instructions that they be lit and dropped on the ground because they were going to “light up the whole country on fire.” One witness testified that he barely escaped the eight to ten foot high flames caused by the arson.” According to court documents in the case. Later, in 2006, the Hammonds then began a backfire in the Malheur Wildlife Refuge despite being told that there were BLM fire crews battling the fires in the path of the winds of any backfires and were explicitly informed not to do so. Their problem was that those same BLM crews also bore witness to their crime
The Hammonds were convicted of arson on federal lands and given a short sentence. The Federal Prosecutor in the case appealed the sentence because arson on federal lands carries a congressionally mandated 5-year sentence. Upon appeal the 9th Circuit Court resentenced the Hammonds to 5 years minus time served. The Hammonds were to report to prison on January 4th of 2016 and have done so… So why all the militia dudes in Oregon?
The militia dudes are there because they are angry about something but they have no clue as to what that something is and are using the Hammonds as an excuse to express their anger. They claim that the Hammonds have been set up by the BLM so the federal government can take their land (which has a bearing of truth since it can happen if the Hammonds fail to pay some $200,000 in outstanding restitution owed for their criminal violations; the ranch is collateral on this fine). The conspiracy surrounding this ranges from: “Those whacko liberal environmentalists don’t want anyone to eat beef!” to “Obama owes our Chinese creditors and Hammond ranch is rich in diamonds, gold, uranium, and natural gas so he is giving it to them.” Pretty much all of this is beyond moronic.
As all of you who are familiar with this blog know, I am an expert on laws regarding access to federal lands; I kind of have to be when my livelihood depends upon it.
First, nope, there is no natural gas in this region since there is no shale to be found.
Second, gold is found in about four locations all about 15-30 miles from the Hammond Ranch and all of it is in miniscule recreational quantities. (You’ll remember that I detailed this geologically boring region this past summer: “This stretch of Oregon is the absolute worst. One giant, salty, flat, treeless, sun-baked, wasteland. Everywhere along the route is half-finished ideas, and crumbling dreams. Broken trailers here, roofless barns there… Anyone thinking of living in this uninhabitable hell-scape needs to just fill their tank and drive until it runs out of gas. Wherever you end up will be better than here.”)
Third, Uranium is so ubiquitous as to not even be interesting to anyone who needs it. I can hop into my truck and drive to Nevada and claim a few million tons of yellow cake uranium ore out of the desert on already existing federal lands. No one needs to steal the Hammonds land to gain access to significant uranium lodes.
Fourth, the rock here is just flood basalts. Flood basalts are pretty much the most mineralogically undeveloped igneous rock on the planet. If you’re lucky you will find some peridot (but not likely) and that is about it. This means there is no Lamproite or Kimberlite from which one can get diamonds. There are no diamond-bearing rocks in Oregon. Period. If there were diamonds in Oregon I would have staked claims there a long time ago (since I am the only person with commercial diamond claims in the lower 48, I am definitely the expert on this).
Fifth, it has been illegal for the federal government to sell public lands to mining interests since 1994 when it was found out that the feds sold some $50 billion (in today’s commodity prices) in mineral rights of ultra-rare beryllium to Brush-Wellman (now Materion) for $26,487.
Sixth, it is illegal for a foreign national or corporation to stake a claim on federal lands in the United States of America. The only way for a non-citizen to stake a claim on federal land is for said resident alien to be a legal resident who has declared their intention to becoming a citizen of the United States.
Now that we have debunked all of these conspiracies, what is it that Ammon Bundy and his militia dudes are so bent out of shape about that they have taken over a visitors center and gift shop in the dead of winter? As far as I can tell the Bundy-klan object to the feds owning land at all. They do not believe the federal government should own any land of any kind. Why? Beats me, federal lands are what this nation’s wealth is built on and for some reason the rightwing has been trying in recent years to liquidate our federal lands anyway they can.
Now lets look into the types of people who arm themselves and take over a bathroom outpost in the middle of nowhere when it is basically the most awful time of year to be there, or just like to join militias in general: these militias are comprised of men like Ryan Payne who claims to be a former Army Ranger, but who isnt; or Brian Cavalier who serves as Ammon Bundy’s personal body guard and who claims to be a former Marine and war veteran but isn’t either of those things (but is a convicted criminal).
Others who heed the call to militant action include or white supremacists and members of the Neo-Nazis and Aryan Brotherhood such as Rance Harris, a member of the “Oath Keepers” (a right wing paramilitary outfit who as a group made a show of force during the Bundy Ranch fiasco and who posed a threat to BLM employees this past Summer at the Sugar Pine Mine in Oregon), whose arms and hands are covered in racist and Nazi tattoos (a friend of mine identified him from a news photo as a known white supremacist and I managed to hunt down his Facebook page and yup, a groovy heil Hitler “88” tattoo on his knuckles).
In general unregulated militias are largely populated by white supremacists and grew at previously unseen levels when Obama was elected president (Cavalier also has swastika tattoos on his eyelids, by the way [classy]).
These men claim they want the US government to give their lands over to someone, but whom? This I don’t know. What I do know is that many of the men in this movement are also members of groups who advocate race wars, secession from the government, sedition, and outright revolution against our democracy. These people are the worst of our society and I hope they become lily white frozen hate-cicles on the plains of the Oregon Outback.