By ANSON NYGAARD/Montana State News
Montana based conservation group Backcountry Hunters and Anglers responds in opposition to Malheur National Wildlife Preserve’s occupation, in defense of public land, water and sportsmen’s access.
At the outset of the armed occupation, BHA, headquartered in Missoula, released a statement on their website asserting, “The actions being perpetrated by extremists in Oregon are the misguided actions of a fringe element – and should be condemned by sportsmen and all citizens in the strongest terms.” The underlying theme was to speak up for those sportsmen and women who sincerely value the keeping of, “public lands in public hands.”
In the same statement, BHA President and CEO Land Tawney challenged the legitimacy of the occupation’s leadership, calling them, “out of state radicals,” and in particular Ammon Bundy, clarifying that he is the, “son of anti-government extremist Cliven Bundy of Nevada.”
Throughout their criticism of these events, BHA urged federal agencies involved to prioritize the safety of their employees, but to also, “be patient and thoroughly enforce the law.”
Over the course of the occupation, several Oregon and Washington BHA members have shown up to the refuge to protest the occupation, even tearing down a tarp occupiers used to cover a large wildlife refuge sign, as can be seen on a video posted to the group’s website.
Now, after a month of armed private occupation, one occupier has been killed by law enforcement, seven have been arrested, four remain within the preserve, true to their cause and all 16 people have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States, according to CNN.
The BHA released another statement on their website after the arrests and shooting death unfolded saying, “the individuals arrested, along with anyone else who participated in the seizure of Malheur, must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was initially designated for wildlife conservation by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, and was at the time only one of six such refuges west of the Mississippi. Before that, it was unassigned federal government property.
Those interested can find out more about BHA’s analysis of the occupation, and their priorities as it pertains to public land, on their website, or by attending the Montana chapter’s upcoming Storytelling Pint Night, Feb. 17, at 6 p.m.hosted by 406 Brewing Co. in Bozeman.
– Edited by Brittany Wallace