The Face of Federal Over-reach in America
By Scott Michael Rohter, October 2016 – Updated Sept. 2017
Dateline: Portland, Oregon – October 4, 2016
More than anyone else in America, Ammon and Ryan Bundy are leading the fight to change the way that Congress administers public land. These two dedicated men are sacrificing their lives to keep this subject in front of the Nation’s attention. Public land use reform became part of the Republican Party platform in the 2016 election primarily because of what these two men did in Nevada and Oregon.
Their goal is to get Congress to hold hearings on this important subject and ultimately to turn over as much federally administered land as possible to State and local control where it can be better managed. Nothing has made it more clear that the federal government cannot properly manage 700 million acres of public land than all of the wildfires that are raging out of control this year in the West. There is an old saying that too much of anything is not good. When you have too much of something you take it for granted. The Federal government simply does not and cannot care about all of the land under its control. If they did there would have been hundreds of drones flying aerial surveillance over every square mile of public land starting in June and lasting until the end of the fire season. They would have been equipped with special infrared cameras and air sampling devices in order to detect the presence of fire or smoke in the air so that they could stamp out these fires as soon as they began. After they got started there should have been a fleet of specially equipped airplanes ready to drop large amounts of water at a moments notice, but instead our government is either too cheap or it is more worried about the danger of water caused erosion. One thing I can assure you of is that there will be plenty of erosion this winter after these forests are burned to the ground.
The goal of Ammon and Ryan Bundy is to get Congress to hold hearings and ultimately to turn over as much federally administered land as possible to State and local control where it can be better managed. That would also go a long way to providing the stable source of funding that many counties in Western States need so they don’t have to keep going before Congress every year to ask for more money to fund local government services like schools, police, and fire protection.
Ammon and Ryan Bundy have already spent over fifteen months of their lives behind bars and the last month has been spent in solitary confinement for their role in bringing this subject to the Nation’s attention. This is in spite of the fact that an Oregon jury has found them NOT GUILTY of all charges including those of conspiracy to impede federal officials, as well as carrying personal firearms onto a federal facility. That verdict came as a total surprise to federal prosecutors who have spent millions of dollars over the last several years trying to obtain some kind of a conviction against the Bundy Family but have only wound up with mud on their faces. However if federal prosecutors get their way in a Nevada courtroom the Bundys will spend a lot more than just fifteen months behind bars. This however assumes that they will be convicted in a second trial which will be held in Las Vegas sometime later this year. With a hung jury in the first trial in Nevada the date of the second trial will be postponed even further.. The jurors who listen to all of the evidence (even though much of it is not admitted) do not believe that the Bundy family and their supporters are the danger to the whole country that the government says they are. This trial in Nevada unlike the one in Oregon stems from the standoff with the BLM that occurred at the Bundy ranch in Bunkerville in 2014 when the BLM impounded their cattle.
It is a gross mischaracterization to portray the Bundy’s as participants in a conspiracy. It is an even greater miscarriage of justice for federal prosecutors to accuse them of a conspiracy. It would be the ultimate miscarriage of justice if any jury in America ever finds them guilty of such a conspiracy. If the Bundys or any of the other defendants who are accused of conspiracy have to spend another day in jail it is a national disgrace. It is just as wrong to continue to hold them without bail as it was to sentence Dwight and Stephen Hammond to spend five years in jail under The Anti Terrorist and Effective Death Penalty Act for setting a grass fire on their land to control weeds. It was a simple accident that the fire burned 130 acres of grass on land they leased from the BLM, but it did not destroy a single improvement to the land or result in the loss of anything of any value. It was not arson, and it certainly wasn’t an act of terrorism.
The law can be an ass sometimes. Most of us know that. In fact the law can be an ass a lot of times, but the jury in Oregon in the Occupation Trial of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge had the final power to acquit these good men and they did. Later this year another jury in the State of Nevada will be entrusted with the same power to either convict or acquit these fine men and send them home to their families.
At his trial in Oregon Ammon Bundy took the witness stand to testify in his own behalf. It was not easy to watch him as he broke down several times telling the story of how he and his family have been harassed and hounded over the years by the Bureau of Land Management and how they are being unfairly prosecuted by the Federal government for simply standing up for their property rights.
A Synopsis of Ammon Bundy’s testimony in Oregon from October 4th, 2016
“Every man in my family is in a federal prison for defending our property rights… Federal agents beat up my little brother. Others grabbed my Aunt Margaret and threw her down on the ground… They tazed me three times… BLM agents impounded and killed my father’s cattle… “
“Our family has a legal right to use the land we graze our cattle on… Those rights are deeded to my father under Nevada law and they are just as legal as the title to our house. I grew up in that house. It is the same house that my father grew up in… My grandfather built that house with his own two hands.. The Bundys have lived on this land for five generations… For over 138 years we have worked this land and run our cattle on this land. That is longer than the BLM has been in existence. Our water rights and our grazing rights are just as real as the deed to our house, and if the law means anything then those rights have to be respected. They cannot just be taken away from us by evil men acting above the law. We own the water rights and the grazing rights just as sure as we own the land that our house is built on, and without those rights we cannot survive on the land.
When I first heard about the Hammond family and the problem they were having with the BLM my first inclination was to ignore it and not get involved, but my father told me that the same thing was happening to them in Oregon that had happened to us in Nevada. One night I couldn’t fall asleep. Something was speaking to my soul and telling me that I couldn’t ignore them anymore so I began to read everything I could find about the Hammonds. The more I learned, the more I became convinced that I had to meet them. “My father taught me to care for others who need help. Its my responsibility as a Christian.
So I drove up to Oregon and out to the Hammond Ranch. There I met Stephen. and after showing me around the ranch hok me to meet Susie and Dwight. They are wonderful people… the salt of the earth, but they were discouraged and ready to give up. They were convinced that they could not win against the overwhelming power of the federal government. Several weeks later they called me and told me that their attorney had received warnings purporting to be from the Federal government and that if they didn’t break off their communication with me… that extreme pain would come to their family. They told me that they could not talk to me anymore. That is when I realized that what the Federal government was doing had to stop. What had happened to my family in Nevada was now happening to another ranching family up in Oregon and something had to be done to stop it… “