The ongoing (as of this Tuesday, January 5, 2016 afternoon posting) armed occupation of a Burns, Oregon Federal wildlife refuge has prompted a lot of conversation, both on our air, on our website and in the general news media nationwide. So what's really happening out in rural eastern Oregon?
For starters, the Washington Post's political blog, The Fix, had a helpful explainer full of maps and charts showing the expansive Federal land holdings in the American West. ---> The Oregon occupiers’ land dispute, explained in 9 maps
And Oregon-based rancher and horse trainer Doug Duquette, who attended the original peaceful protest at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday before armed protesters occupied a nearby Federal building, told host Tom Ashbrook today the issues at stake in Oregon were bigger than just the controversial Bundy family.
"This is probably the most sickening case of the government coming in and trying to run somebody off their land," Duquette said. "For over 25 years, the Federal government have wanted [the Hammond's] land."
Dwight and Steven Hammond, a father-son ranching duo who recently surrendered to Federal custody in relation to a 2012 arson conviction on Federal territory where they had obtained grazing rights for their cattle, have been the focus of the ongoing protest.
"Their ranch abuts that refuge and goes up over the Steen Mountains. The government wants that piece of land," Duquette said this morning.
Duquette made clear in our broadcast this morning, however, that he didn't support the armed takeover of the Federal refuge headquarters.
"They hijacked the peaceful rally, the good rally that we did," he said. "I support the theory of what they're doing, but I don't support how they did it."
Several of our callers had some pretty different views.
Caller Katherine in Pocatello, Idaho, thought rancher and protest complaints of Federal overreach were an exaggeration.
"All the things these people have said are true, but having had personal experience of BLM, Fish and Game people, they are all concerned about the protection of animals and plants, and the land just doesn't belong to the government. It belongs to all of us!" Katherine told us. "You can't just boss the Federal government around...Go home, look at your cattle, and when you're taking your cow-calf numbers out into Federal lands, don't try to have a cow-calf and another calf so you end up with three animals instead of two. You've being given the privilege of protecting these lands."
And caller Richard in Edmond, Oklahoma, a self-described farmer and former law enforcement officer, mentioned how his previous use of Federal land for his hay crops required signing — and following — a contract.
"If you're going to lease land from the Federal government, you're going to have to pay for what you use," Richard told us.
We'll be following this story as it develops, and update you here and elsewhere at it changes.