Document Type



Environmental Analysis (Pomona)

Publication Date



Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, public lands, federal land management, conservation


The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, a 187,757-acre haven for greater sandhill cranes and other native birds in eastern Oregon, is usually a pretty peaceful place. But its calm was shattered on Saturday, January 2 when Ammon Bundy and a group of armed men broke into and occupied a number of federal buildings on the refuge, vowing to fight should the government try to arrest them. Their insurrectionary goal appears to be, simply put, to destroy the national system of public lands – our forests, parks and refuges – that was developed in the late 19th century to conserve these special landscapes and the critical natural resources they contain for all Americans. “The best possible outcome,” trumpeted Bundy, son of Cliven Bundy, who began an armed standoff with law enforcement in Nevada in April 2014 over his continued failure to pay US$1 million in fees for grazing on public lands, is that “ranchers that have been kicked out of the area…will come back and reclaim their land, and the wildlife refuge will be shut down forever and the federal government will relinquish such control.” Theirs was not a rebellion, Bundy declared. “What we’re doing is in accordance with the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land.” He could not be more wrong. To understand why requires a basic understanding of the region’s complex and troubling history and the legal authority under which the federal land management agencies operate.


This article was originally published with embedded links on The Conversation and then republished by The Washington Post.

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© 2016 Char Miller

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.