Armed takeover of refuge wrong-headed

By Chris Wood

At the heart of Trout Unlimited is the idea that we can exercise our First Amendment right to call on the government to take better care of the lands and waters that sustain this nation, including our trout and salmon resources.

There is a right way to do that, and a wrong way to do it. The “protesters” now occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon define the wrong way. 

Meeting the needs of local communities while managing public lands in the national interest is a balancing act. At Trout Unlimited, we believe that balance is best struck through collaborative stewardship. Bringing together the broadest array of communities of place and communities of interest typically leads to the most lasting and durable conservation gains.  We have seen collaborative stewardship work in negotiating to protect 9 million acres of roadless lands in Idaho; removing dams while maintaining hydropower production in the Penobscot River basin; and working with ranchers and farmers, in the last year alone, to reconnect over 570 miles of spawning and rearing habitat for fish.

Theodore Roosevelt, who founded the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, once defined conservation as the application of common sense to common problems for the common good. Taking up arms, forcibly occupying a public building, causing schools to close, and threatening violence does nothing but sow fear and otherwise disrupt the social fabric of a local community. 

We applaud the people of Burns, and other leaders in Harney County for asking armed gunmen from other states to vacate the refuge premises and let the community get back to normal. Solutions to complex problems must start at the local level. Outside noise, political grandstanding and pandering to the press only serve to muddy the water and make equitable outcomes more difficult.

Until three days ago, the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was open to all Americans as a birthright. Public lands such as the Malheur Refuge are one of the greatest gifts we enjoy as sportsmen and women.  Today, an armed mob has robbed us of that birthright.  When the grandstanding subsides, TU and the vast majority of Americans who value our public lands will continue working to bring the power of collaborative stewardship to the protection and management of our shared lands and waters.

Chris Wood is the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. 

Comments

 
said on Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

Amen, Chris. I think I can say with confidence that I've been as involved as anyone in public lands issues in the west. I can also say that if my friends and I had occupied a federal building every time an agency did something we didn't like, we'd have more locations than Starbucks. But the fact is that what these folks have done here is not some sort of courageous act of protest. It's more like culturally subsidized breaking and entering. I'm with the people of Burns. It's time - in fact, well past time - for these guys to go home. Let's let cooler and wiser heads work this out.

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said on Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

After doing a little research on the entire story regarding the armed takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge  Center I think TU and Chris Wood should "butt out" of taking a side and posting public comments in this political situation.  The Hammonds have been abused and mistreated by BLM and FWS.  I don't advocate the armed takeover but, I can understand the frustration resulting from the Government abuse.  As a memeber of TU, I say keep our organization out of this political mess.

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said on Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

Thank you, Chris Wood and TU, for taking a stand against these criminals who fancy themselves "patriots." Sad how many private landowners seem okay with the government when they can graze their livestock on federal lands at below-market value, receive government subsidies and treat our public land like it belongs to them, yet suddenly accuse the government of being "tyrannical" when they have to abide by federal laws designed to protect our public lands, wildlife and fisheries. Our public lands belong to all Americans, and they are managed in accordance to rules and regulations developed through a public, democratic process based on science, public input and the needs and desire of we, the people, who own the land. The deranged idiots participating in an armed takeover of a public wildlife refuge see themselves as "patriots" defending the Constitution and the "American way of life" when, in reality, they are defying and making a mockery of our democracy and American way of life. They are like children, throwing a public temper tantrum because they didn't get their way with OUR land. Keep up the great work TU -- you are a refreshingly bold organization fighting and standing up for what is right, and what is best for our clean water, watersheds and fisheries. Again, THANK YOU!

 

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said on Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

Thank you Chris for defending one of our most important birthrights. I agree with Wallace Stegner when he wrote, "National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best." It is an attack on our way of life when violent people steal this birthright in the name of politics. It is important that patriots like you stand up to cowards who are fighting against our freedom.

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said on Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

The times they are a-changin'. For a very long time, a lot of people looked the other way while ranchers, loggers and miners "managed" our public lands - paying little or nothing for this privilege. Habits became ingrained among these users to the point where this privilege became perceived as their "right" to manage these lands. In a number of instances, past practices among these users resulted in - or at least significantly contributed to - local extirpations or even extinctions of wildlife species. Biologists and the general public have a better understanding of land stewardship than was the case when the Hammonds and similar families first came to these lands. Like Chris and many others, I believe the path forward lies in science-based collaboration. These are our lands, which means that all of us have a right and a responsibility to speak up. 

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said on Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

Let's not confuse real stewards of the land with these guys. There are plenty of ranchers across the west who are working (both on their own and with TU and other conservation organizations) to do some great work to protect, restore and reconnect streams and rivers. They deserve to be lauded for this work and not lumped in with a group of half-baked revolutionaries. 

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said on Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

Thank you Chris.  These thugs are on lands that belong to my children and grandchildren yet to be born.  As you note there are issues in the west that are different than those here in the east, still I have fished Oregon a couple times, buying a license to acces the streams on Federal and state lands.  Which is a darn sight more than these interlopers from Nevada.  TU should take a strong stance whenever the lands we hunt and fish are threatened, that applies to Alaska, Maine, New Jersey and Oregon.

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said on Friday, April 28th, 2017

Well thought out and very effectively presented. Thanks much, Chris, for putting the issue and ways (not) to address it so clearly and concisely.

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