Posted by: atowhee | January 4, 2016


No change in the occupation of Malheur by self-styled militia, anti-federal activists.  So far no violence and apparently no property damage.  For birders this is a serious issue as it continues.  The watch tower where the armed men are on guard is a tower long used by nesting Great Horned Owls.  They should be nesting in the next few weeks.

The occupiers have vowed to begin working the land, whatever that means.  It certainly does not mean letting White Pelicans, Harrier, Black Tern, Short-eared Owls, White-faced Ibis and other locally nesting birds use the land without being disturbed…or even shot.

The long-term goal for this anti-federal movement is to take land away from the U.S. government and give it back to the states with the intention of eventually giving it to private individuals for profit.  Some private land owners do care and take care of wildlife.  Many do not.  Cattle ranchers, alfalfa and mint growers and energy companies are notorious for environmental carnage. Mint, cows and hay crops are major sources of ranch revenue in Harney County where this farce is playing out.  Great Gray Owls, of which I know something, cannot find enough mammals to eat in meadows trampled by sheep or cattle.  Many other species are also threatened by modern farm and ranch practices.   Monoculturtes of alfalfa, Douglas-fir or any other harvestable crop rarely provide rich habitat for birds and other animals.

President Theodore Roosevelt created the wildlife refuge system over a century ago because he wanted to be sure there would be animals to hunt.  There is no constitutional provision for refuges so Congress and a right-wing President could decide to give away to sell all the federal land holdings.  Or they could simply cut the budgets of federal enforcement agencies so the U.S. becomes like so many African nations: big parks showing up on maps but with with inadequate patrols and lots of poaching of species doomed to extinction.

If the feds were to sell off their lands or cede them to the states, in some blue states there might be the effort to maintain open space and protect wildlife but in states like Nevada, Utah, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Texas the federal lands would almost immediately be turned into private preserves for making money any way possible.  To hell with the wolves and Sage Grouse.

Quickest way to destroy the refuge system: money.  Malheur NWR is over 170-thousand acres.  It cannot be maintained and patrolled by a couple men or a few volunteers.  It requires a real financial commitment.  At least equal to the cost of a couple of drones per year.  There are many in the Republican Party who would far rather have the drones than any wildlife refuge.

What began as the Sagebrush Rebellion has now become a centerpiece of rural western Republican dogma: get the feds out of our lives so we can ride ATVs, shoot deer and cut trees wherever we want.  Liberty uber alles.  A party that sees climate change as a myth and wolves as targets is not going to preserve refuges or even national park except as photos ops.  How would like to own one of the first condos on the edge of Grand Canyon?  Cheap at $2 million, free parking included.  Membership in golf club extra.

Here are some relevant links:

The anti-federal land movment.

Current status of Malheur situation.


  1. Hi this was posted on a Poetrylovers list today. This is what Malheur is all about. Thanks

    Malheur Before Dawn

    An owl sound wandered along the road with me.
    I didn’t hear it—I breathed it into my ears.

    Little ones at first, the stars retired, leaving
    polished little circles on the sky for a while.

    Then the sun began to shout from below the horizon.
    Throngs of birds campaigned, their music a tent of sound.

    From across a pond, out of the mist,
    one drake made a V and said its name.

    Some vast animal of sound began to rouse
    from the reeds and lean outward.

    Frogs discovered their national anthem again.
    I didn’t know a ditch could hold so much joy.

    So magic a time it was that I was both brave and afraid.
    Some day like this might save the world.

    – William Stafford

    • wonderful, thanks

  2. […] Jan 4 Occupation underway: […]

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