A Day At Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
Forget the cameras, social media, and other reports, here's my first person perspective from my day at Malheur.
The first item that struck my attention when arriving at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is just how remote an area it is. Is it the power of the message or the media stirring things up that this area has gained worldwide attention?
If you listen to radio, watch TV, or follow social media, you get the impression that the folks in Oregon are surrounded by every military outlet known to mankind. I did not encounter any soldier or paramilitary troops. Instead of snipers and drones, I saw the usual media gaggle made up of satellite trucks, local, and regional reporters. The 'camp' is set up alongside the road, and that's where you park. The area is where members of the media and Ammon Bundy hold press conferences and national interviews.
The buildings that are occupied are about a quarter mile down a now icy hill. (I recommend not wearing crocs and shorts. Otherwise, you'll end up like me and take a fall.) Once you arrive at the building, you'll be greeted by a security person who will 'advise' you to go back up the hill and wait for another press release. This is what happened to me Tuesday, which left me thinking about the overall effort.
The folks occupying the buildings believe they're fighting for our constitutional rights. Within the Constitution is the Bill of Rights which includes the First Amendment. Since we're on public lands, and I have a right to be anywhere on those lands, how can the folks restrict me or the movement of the press? Aren't they acting like the government they're protesting? I thought I would mention that to the fellow asking me to leave. However, he was armed, and I wasn't, so I moved on.
Thankfully I did catch up with Ryan Bundy. I met him a few years ago while covering his family's standoff with the government. Ryan was answering questions from a few of us, and you'll see that video once we get it uploaded. Whether you agree with the Bundy's or not, you have to admire their sacrifice for their beliefs. They're not getting paid, and they're far from home. How many Americans are willing to follow their path?
I believe the biggest takeaway came from my conversation with an older man wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers Hat at the Burns Gas Station. He told me that he wished the folks in Burns had gotten behind the Hammonds sooner rather than later. He explained that government restrictions destroyed the once vibrant economic area.
Perhaps that should be the real focus of this story?