Ammon: The Hammond’s documented the BLM’s abuses for years along with other ranching families. My first objective was to get local authorities to stand up for the Hammond’s. There have been many takings of property in the area throughout the years without compensation. The Hammond’s and other ranchers first amendment rights were violated if they tried to speak out about the abuses. The Hammond’s and others have also been threatened for speaking to Ammon’s group and many have suffered retaliation too. The abuses have been found to be widespread affecting many people throughout Harney County. At one time in history Harney County was one of the wealthiest counties in the state of Oregon due to the logging industry. Now Harney County is the poorest because the people have lost control of all the natural resources including their own land. The Bundy family appreciates what was done to help us so we felt we should reciprocate and try to help the Hammond’s and other local ranchers. This is not an armed stand-off. The number of people helping this process varies as they are cycling in and out of the area as needed, but they remain strong and very organized. Our group is using the refuge facilities to meet and help local ranchers. We are assisting ranchers in removing a fence that was illegally placed by Fish and Wildlife to prevent grazing. Our group is in constant communication with the local people and are trying to help them stand up. We came here to make a stand – not war. We felt we needed to make a stand now to peacefully go through this process and get people back on their feet without violence.
Dave Hodges: Does this have anything to do with water in the area like what we are seeing in northern California where they are taking the minerals, restricting the use of the land and exercising procecutorial abuse like the Hammond’s case?
Ammon: Absolutely, that is one of the main complaints of the ranchers. They have not been able to drill wells for 5 years here.
Dave Hodges: Currently 19 counties want to succeed from California and Oregon over these same issues.
Ammon: This is about individual rights. The government does not own those rights. The individuals do. Government has taken the position that they own individual rights and are the rightful users, beneficiaries and purveyors of these resources. This is completely opposite from what our government was founded on. The rights belong to the individual. It’s very simple. The land and resources belong to the people.
Sheila Zalinsky: What do you say in response to the critics on your legitimacy of your presence, motives, intent?
Ammon: In response to critics that say this is lawless – many people say they stand for the Constitution but do not really understand it -so it has become just an idea. We stand very firmly upon that. The Federal Government does not have the right to come into a State and control and administer the natural resources. We find that in Article 1, 8-17, there are rules the Government must follow to administer land inside States. They have to have consent from the State Legislators and also have to purchase the rights from the rightful owner and they can only use it for certain things – which are for instance military purposes, national defense, and international trade with a few other needed buildings which would be like Post Offices and so forth. So all of the vast lands they have taken have been taken without Constitutional authority. Whether if this the correct way to address these problems, or not, everyone must decide for themselves, but to clarify this I want people to understand that a complete exhaustion of all avenues has been exercised through the courts. When that happens and there is no other venue or recourse to address grievances than this how people will respond like in the Civil Rights movement and others. The Federal Government has locked down Burns with a presence in public facilities, like the schools, the airport,etc., and the locals feel it is being used as a fear tactic. Over 300 locals have come to meet with our group to discuss their concerns – whereas beforehand they felt intimidated or retaliated against, and it has happened numerous times. Some of the methods used to retaliate against ranchers were the BLM not issuing permits or ending them right in the middle of a contract, and then using courts to prosecute them. These abuses would occur if they wanted the ranchers land. This happened to over 100 ranchers in the area where the refuge said they want the land. If the ranchers said they did not want to sell they were subjected to a process that would diminish the value of the ranch to where it was no longer worth anything. For example: A canal was built that flooded several ranches destroying them. Fish and Wildlife then bought them out because the land became useless to the ranchers.
Dave Hodges: I had a similar experience when the Federal Government wanted to put an international highway corridor through my community of 300 new homes in Arizona without just compensation and they also wanted the water there too.
Ammon: Another example is currently happening inn Malheur County where they want to create a National Monument twice the size of Yellowstone. It will destroy between 350-400 ranches. They are doing this arbitrarily without Constitutional authority. We have to stand up or we will be reduced to the point where we cannot stand up.
Dave Hodges: I wonder if TPTB are using this as a distraction from the current economic collapse?
Ammon: The re-sentencing of the Hammond’s is unconstitutional. They were wrongfully convicted in the first place, but served their sentences anyway – then afterward tried to rebuild their lives and ranching business. Then the 9th District Court of Appeals overturned their sentences and re-sentenced them to jail to another 4-5 years.
Dave Hodges: How does this serve the public interest in any way? How can we help you?
Ammon: We need help from people who know how to work with the public records, maps, surveys, to lay out the County to see who is using what and who has rights and get the titles and deeds back into the people’s hands. We need protection. We need some funding for this and resources. Signage needs to be changed in the County. Go to our website http://www.C4CF.com to donate funds. Educate yourself, the Federal Government does not have the authority to regulate our lands and resources. They belong to the people. We understand what is happening to the economy so we need to get the resources back into the people’s hands so they can produce and profit from it so we can get back on our feet. That is what is key to our recovery – not some act in Congress.
Dave Hodges: A think tank study showed the US has $128Trillion of untapped wealth in resources exists – especially in the Western states. There has also been on-going abuse of Native American lands by the BLM and Forest Service. They are stealing their land and resources without compensation in violation of treaty agreements.
Ammon: We are opening a dialog with the local tribes. The Federal Government has violated every treaty agreement with the tribes. All rights need to be respected – not just ranchers, loggers, whoever.
Dave Hodges: Has any federal agency been in communication with you?
Ammon: No, not at all.
Dave Hodges: I find that very odd!
Ammon: There are good people in the government that understand what is going on. The question will come up if there is any attempt to prosecute us whether this is a State or a Territory – so the Federal Government will clearly lose when faced with that question.