Domestic Terrorism, Malheur NWR and Petulant Welfare Queens

WC’s friend, and the co-owner of Tropical Birding, Inc. is a birder. He posted:

New taxa described on refuge in Oregon. Red-necked Greed, Hooded Mercenary and Great Spotted Twat. Thanks to the USFWS for identifying them. Now if we could only get a type specimen for each.

It’s great that Iain can keep his sense of humor.

WC is having a harder time.

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is one of the great birding destinations in the western United States. It has been seized in a terrorist act by a bunch of armed idiots who have stated they intend to “occupy” it for the indefinite future. Their actions preclude anyone else from using property that belongs to all Americans. That would include WC, who can’t go there to photograph birds.

The thugs claim they are no different than the Occupy Wall Street folks, and pull out the victim card. But the Occupy Wall Street movement was peaceful. These criminals are armed, and are threatening to respond with violence if anyone tries to make them leave. To WC’s knowledge, none of the thousands of Occupy Wall Street protesters threatened to kill law enforcement officials. The terrorists at Malheur already have.

The whole Sage Brush Rebellion movement reminds WC of nothing more than petulant children who act out because they can’t get their way. Across vast swaths of the West, the government leases grazing rights to ranchers at laughably low rates. Nate Silver calculates that ranchers get grazing permits at a 93% discount over the fair market value of their rights:

In 2012, the bureau’s fees for grazing were 93 percent cheaper than the average market rate in 16 Western states ($1.35 versus $20.10 per AUM, which is a fancy acronym for the amount of land needed to support a cow and her calf for a month).

Silver goes on to point out:

As a result, in 2014, grazing fees covered only 15 percent of the bureau’s costs to maintain grazing lands. The rest of the cost is made up in federal appropriations and covered by taxpayers.

Let’s be clear about this: we, that is, you and WC, are subsidizing the armed thugs who are illegally occupying Malheur. Our tax dollars are enabling their business. If they had to pay market rates, they’d be out of business tomorrow. Those thugs are genuine welfare queens.

In return for paying just 7% of fair market value for grazing rights, the ranchers get to effectively exclude everyone else from the land they hold under grazing permits, keeping all the rest of us off the land we own as Americans. Never mind that we are paying more than we do; they can put up those No Trespassing signs and make it stick.

The Feds require the ranchers to be good custodians of the land, and follow federal law and regulations. It’s very, very easy to overgraze arid and semi-arid lands. The ranchers resent being told what they can and cannot do. More than that, they think all federal land should be in private hands. And they threaten to kill people if they don’t get their way.

The domestic terrorists at Malheur are a tiny, noisy minority. There are about 16,000 American ranchers who graze animals on BLM lands. Only 458 of them have not paid their grazing fees for use of that land. Even among those delinquents, the vast majority are two months or less past due on their fees, which are $1.69 per animal per month. Scofflaws like Cliven Bundy, who has racked up a debt of over $1 million to taxpayers from unpaid grazing fees and subsequent trespassing fines, are extremely rare.

The terrorists who have seized Malheur claim to be protesting the criminal sentences imposed on other ranchers. Those other ranchers decided they had the right to start grass fires on America’s lands. They thought their heavily subsidized grazing permits gave them the right to commit arson. They not only burned the land they held under their grazing permits; they burned other land, too. They got jail sentences. The terrorists at Malheur don’t think that’s fair. The ranchers have disclaimed the actions of the Malheur thugs. And reported to prison. The whole arson thing is an excuse, not a reason.

WC has spent some time in protests. WC has some scars (and a busted nose) to prove it. But WC has never been on the barricades with anything more dangerous than a camera.

But armed occupation of public land, of a national wildlife refuge? And threatening to kill anyone who tries to make them leave? That’s terrorism. Ask yourself: if those were Muslims, wouldn’t they be dead already? How does the fact that these are greedy ranchers, welfare queens living off our tax dollars, make it all right?

WC proposes the National Guard establish a siege. No food. no water. no electricity, no cell phone service. No one gets to go in. Anyone who wants to leave can surrender themselves and their weapons, and face the criminal charges. Anyone who stays can just starve. Or freeze in the dark.