What's Going On In the Giddy Up SIEGE of Malheur County -- One Agent's Perspective

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What's Going On In the Giddy Up SIEGE of Malheur County -- One Agent's Perspective

And that one agent's perspective would be . . . mine!

For those of you not up to speed, here's what I know:

  • The Hammonds are ranchers and own property in both Harney and Malheur counties.  They went to jail for setting fire on federal land.  It's called: arson and it's a crime.  The first time they got a "don't do that again" warning.  But, they did it again and again.
  • The son and father Hammonds were arrested, had a trial, found guilty and were sentenced to a year in jail.
  • The mandatory sentence for arson is . . . five years.
  • They had to go back to jail
  • When this was all going down it made the rounds of how oppressed ranchers are, and how unfair life is to all of them.  
  • So the Bundy family rode in to town a few weeks ago with a few of their armed to the teeth commando-do birds of a feather friends and commandeered the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Which is ironic since this was such a bird-brained idea to beign with AND . . . Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is a BIRD SANCTUARY.  They will be introducing a new bird this year, I'm sure: The One Card Shy of a Full Deck Bundy Bird!

Their cause is kinda unclear . . . but what keeps surfacing is that the Bundy GiddyUp Brigade feels the government is "taking land away" from ranchers and farmers.  Which, apparently, is cowboy-speak for placing land in conservatorship. "Why does the government have to own so much land?" is their questioning mantra.  Yeah, you might want to ask our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt on that one. He was a Republican, too.  Not that it matters.

The words "small ranchers" and "small famers" being driven out of business is been slung about on various Internet sites that support what is happening.

I read about the Hammonds plight.  And I wonder how many down and out "small farmers" and "small ranchers" they bought out with dirt cheap land sales when the econony tanked several years ago. 

I'm actually afraid to write something because these are ARMED men who don't have a problem with taking over government property in justification of their "cause." 

Someone on the Internet said . . . "I don't like what they are doing" . . . and then added . . . 

"But I sympathize with their position."


I DO NOT SYMPATHIZE with their position

If their position is to suck more land out of the federal reserves and put it in the ranchers' back pockets -- what a bunch of hungry hungry hypocrites!

I decided to look up the Hammand ranch holdings in order to see if I could find a sympathetic bone in my body.


Nope, I could not.

Get to Know the Hammonds

I pulled up tax records in Harney County and tallied up the parcels owned by the Hammonds.  It came to about 16,000 acres. 

Then I went into Malheur County and pulled up records, about 74 tax parcels.  I started to add up the acreage on each parcel and when I got to 70,000 . . . acres . . . I stopped.  I just had enough.  Those poor little rich cowboys not being able to make a livelihood 'cause of the feds owning so much land, tsk, tsk, tsk.

So with over 85,000+ acres of land, plus their cattle herd, plus whatever else they own . . .  yeah go ahead and make the Hammonds the poster cowboys for unfairness of ranchers at the abusive hands of the BLM (Bureau of Land Management.)  Cry me a Malheur River.

I confess to not being a rancher . . . so perhaps 85,000+ acres in southeast Oregon is considered being a small rancher/farmer.    What do I know?

Grazing Rights on Federal Land

The federal government leases land that it owns to ranchers under grazing rights -- for a fee.  

"Federal Grazing Fee

The Federal grazing fee, which applies to Federal lands in 16 Western states on public lands managed by the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service, is adjusted annually and is calculated by using a formula originally set by Congress in the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978. Under this formula, as modified and extended by a presidential Executive Order issued in 1986, the grazing fee cannot fall below $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM); also, any fee increase or decrease cannot exceed 25 percent of the previous year’s level. (An AUM is the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month.) The grazing fee for 2015 is $1.69 per AUM, as compared to the 2014 fee of $1.35.
The Federal grazing fee is computed by using a 1966 base value of $1.23 per AUM for livestock grazing on public lands in Western states. The figure is then adjusted each year according to three factors – current private grazing land lease rates, beef cattle prices, and the cost of livestock production.  In effect, the fee rises, falls, or stays the same based on market conditions, with livestock operators paying more when conditions are better and less when conditions have declined.  Thus, the grazing fee is not a cost-recovery fee, but a market-driven fee."  BLM /Dept. of the Interior

Portion of the fees collected then go to state and local governments.

What's the Bitter Taste With These Jolly Ranchers?

Seems as though one of their biggest grips is they don't like to be told when they can graze their herd of cows.  If there's migrating birds, they aren't allowed to go to the particular water sheds where the birds migrate, for example.

Boo hoo hoo . . . if left up to the ranchers and their cows, the river and steams would be full of cow pies and say bye-bye birdie . . . breeding grounds are gone.

If I own the land, and give you a discounted grazing fee rent . . . then turn a portion of the rent over to the local/state community, please stop telling me to stop telling you what you can / can not do on my land! 

The federal government has every right to tell ranchers when they can graze . . . because they own the land. 

So basically, the ranchers are angry that they are getting subsidized grazing rights rent . . . and for that exchange, the trade-off is they can't graze cattle in certain areas, at certain times of the year.

If ranchers don't like the rules of the rental agreement with the BLM, why not rent grazing rights from the Hammonds . . . they've got 85,000 acres.    

Oh Give Me a Home

"Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam

And the deer and the antelope play . . . "

I've been singing that little ditty all afternoon, but COWS are just not in that lyric.  

Hmmmmmmmm . . . maybe 'cause . . . cows were never a native animal to the area.

When you bring in a species of animal that hasn't been adopted naturally to an area through either God's great plan, or the natural evolution of things (most people believe one or the other of the theories: pick one) then other eventualities occur.  

The unintended consequences of . . . DUH!

Bring in cows to graze . . . in the wilderness.  Yeah cows have adopted naturally to the area {rolling eyes}, Unfotunately, cows, for the most part, aren't exactly known for their gazelle-like natural instincts of "high tailing it". . . out of harms way.   They ears still sag.  They chew their own cud for their daily workout.

The Grey wolves -- which ARE native to the landscape -- and guess what's on the menu?  And whatta ya know . . . their wolf pack grows.  

And in true cowboy style . . . the Grey wolves are blamed for eating cows for dinner

Cowboy solution:  Kill them almost to extinction.  Take that for messing with our live stock and livelihoods you pesky predatory animal, you!

And then the Grey wolves are added to the endangered species list. 

Oh the wonderful circle of life in southeastern Oregon.  


Meet the Paiute

Speaking of life . . . 

 The Paiute are the folks that lived in the area long before they began being blamed for living in the area.

I read about their history over the weekend. 

This is a map of the original inhabitants of Oregon from hundreds of years ago.

The State of Oregon has changed, as has the landscape of the United States.


Where seldom is heard . . .

a discouarging word ?!?!?!?


NOT ANYMORE!  Now it's pretty much all . . . discouraging!

I get it now.


Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam,
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.
Home, home on the range,
Where the deer and the antelope play;
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.
Where the air is so pure, the zephyrs so free,
The breezes so balmy and light,
That I would not exchange my home on the range
For all of the cities so bright.
The red man was pressed from this part of the West
He's likely no more to return,
To the banks of Red River where seldom if ever
Their flickering camp-fires burn.
~ John A. Lomax 1910
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Carla Muss-Jacobs' retirement became effective May 1, 2018

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