Armed Standoff in Oregonby Representative Jared Huffman
Posted on 2016-01-11
HUFFMAN. I want to thank my friend from Oregon for his leadership
and advocacy and calling us together for this important discussion
I want to thank him also for bringing up our great conservation hero, Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican President who I can't help but think is rolling in his grave over the fact that cornerstones of his legacy--the protection of public lands, the protection of wildlife--are under constant assault by too many of our friends across the aisle and, for the last 2 weeks, by some very wrong-headed individuals who are heavily armed at a wildlife refuge in southern Oregon.
Many Americans who turned on their TVs last week I think were probably surprised to see that this heavily armed extremist group had taken over a national wildlife refuge and that they were threatening to kill anyone who stands in their way.
They were led, of course, by Ammon Bundy, the son of the infamous Cliven Bundy, that great philosopher who romanticizes slavery, refuses to pay legally required grazing fees, and organized his own armed insurrection in Nevada a couple of years ago.
Americans were surprised to see that this group, which was part of a larger protest against Federal authority, public land policy, and environmental land violations, was so violent and so heavily armed and so extreme in their demands.
I think so many Americans are just surprised to find that people would be so violently opposed to our Federal Government's role in protecting public lands and wildlife that they would do this kind of thing.
But as a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, I have to tell you I am disgusted by these reckless, dangerous, and criminal actions, but I am not totally surprised. I am not totally surprised.
Because on any given week in the Natural Resources Committee, you can hear the intellectual underpinnings of these dangerous, violent actions. You hear the divisive, over-the-top antigovernment rhetoric that is spewed by too many of our colleagues across the aisle, Members of Congress who may now be criticizing ever so gently the tactics of the armed criminals in southern Oregon.
But out of the other side of their mouth they justify their actions by arguing that their anger and frustration with the government is somehow justified and legitimate and that we should essentially sympathize with them rather than be outraged by their seditious, violent actions.
I am amazed and grateful for the fact that our Federal land management and law enforcement authorities have been so patient and so passive and so deferential because of their determination to try to bring this to a peaceful resolution. I admire and respect that. I know where they are coming from.
But let's be clear about this. There has to be accountability for the occupiers. This armed group of thugs occupying a refuge in the State to my north can't be allowed to do this without consequences.
Because many people--you mentioned our colleague, Peter DeFazio-- believe--correctly, in my view--that this wouldn't have happened had there been some consequences to the Bundy ranch standoff 2 years ago.
Unfortunately, despite a very similar action, despite all of the same heavily armed threats and violence and the near avoidance of a tragedy that could have cost untold numbers of lives, there really were no consequences.
My understanding is that Cliven Bundy still owes well over $1 million in ranching fees to the Federal Government and that he is still grazing his cattle without permission.
And because there has been no consequences, his son and the current gang that is occupying the refuge obviously took the lesson that they could do it [[Page H278]] again. And they will do it again and again, as long as we continue to give them a pass.
So there has to be accountability. There has to be some type of consequences for people that do this. But there also should be accountability for politicians who tacitly fuel incidents like this with their inflammatory and hyperbolic rhetoric that always casts environmental protection as an assault on individual rights and that falsely describes our national public lands as some type of a threat to State and private property owners. It is not right.
The truth is, in California and across the West, our public lands are a cornerstone of lots of local and State economies, including those in my district. I have huge tracts of Federal public lands in the Second Congressional District of California, from vast national parks and recreational areas to three different national forests, to numerous national monuments and lots and lots of BLM lands.
For many of my constituents, Federal lands help them put dinner on the table. It helps them pay their bills. Ninety-one percent of western voters surveyed responded that they believe public lands are an essential part of their State's economy. We need to remember this.
So I want to protect public lands, and I want to work cooperatively with the Federal agencies that manage them to iron out differences.
Our Federal Government isn't perfect. They make mistakes. Sometimes they are not the best neighbors. Sometimes they aren't always as responsive and respectful to the communities and individuals that live nearby.
Part of our job as Members of Congress who represent those communities is to try to make sure that the government, for its part, is doing the right thing: listening, being a good neighbor.
I have seen it work time and time again. And the notion that the only way to resolve differences with Federal land management agencies is to take up arms and threaten a violent insurrection is just absolutely nonsense.
So those are a few of my thoughts. I certainly could go on at length about some of the success stories I have seen in my district, where communities have come together and actually collaborated with the Federal Government, not just as a neighbor, but as a partner to do things, including things that brought jobs to those communities.
I have seen it in Trinity County with a process called the Trinity County Collaboration, where, believe it or not, environmentalists are working together with folks in the forest products industry and with Federal agencies and with all sorts of other interests and they have agreed to cut thousands of acres of trees as part of a comprehensive stewardship plan.
It can work. It is very unique, but it can actually work. And it can work in other places. It almost worked in the Klamath, which is another part of southern Oregon where we saw this historic coming together of farmers and fishermen and tribes and government agencies.
The problem is that collaboration depended on an act of Congress to actually happen. Sadly, under current management, Congress is where collaboration goes to die. And so we were unable to do the right thing there. But it can be done.
I again want to thank the gentleman for his leadership in trying to interpose a little bit of sanity into this debate.