Several years ago I was a member of Tulsa’s Utility Board and Metropolitan Water Authority. It was at a time that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was really coming to life and Tulsa’s Public Works Department wanted to be sure our board members were current as to their plans.
The EPA was holding a seminar in Washington, D.C., and we were encouraged to attend.
At the seminar, there were a number of cities represented. As we took our seats, the EPA officials took their places on the stage. As I looked them over, it dawned on me where the 1960s protestors and hippies had gone. They went to work for the EPA. There were afros, beards and all the long unkept hair that I remembered. All that was missing was music instruments.
There have been numerous stories about the overreach of the EPA and that of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Osage County. Another recent example is the Oregon standoff with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
As the Wall Street Journal reported, the Federal government owns 640 million acres of land predominately in the states of Utah, Oregon and Nevada. For the last 100 years the government has allowed ranching, mining and timber cutting on this sparsely used acreage – that is until now.
One example cited is the Ken Aderholt family in Texas that grazed cattle on a 900-acre property that they said they held the deed to since 1941.
The BLM recently informed the Aderholts that 650 acres of their land was federal pubic property.
In an editorial the WSJ says, “The feds have revoked dozens of grazing permits and raised the price of a few it issues. It has mismanaged the areas water, allowing ranchlands to flood. It has harassed landowners with regulatory actions that raise the cost of ranching, and then has bought out private landowners.”
What has brought the government’s overreach to a head is the treatment of the Hammond family living near the 187,000-acre federal refuge in Eastern Oregon.
The Hammonds are one of the last private land owners in the Harney Basin. The family has used backfires and burns to manage wild fires and “invasive species.”
In 2006, the Hammonds “tried to save its winter field from lightning fire by setting back fires on its property which burnt an acre” of adjoining public land.
In 2011, the government charged Dwight Hammond (age 73) and his son Steven with nine counts under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. A jury found them guilty of setting the fire and Federal Judge Michael Hogan sentenced the father to three months and the son to one year. Judge Hogan said the federal minimum of five years would not meet “any idea I have of justice, proportionally.” The feds appealed and another Judge ordered the men to serve the full five years. They have since reported to prison.
The head of the Oregon Farm Bureau, who worked for the Forest Service, says in the editorial that it is obvious that the BLM and the Wild Life Refuge wants “the Hammonds’ ranch.”
Too many citizens say the federal government is out of control. They don’t protect citizens from terrorism and follow the law by deporting illegal aliens.
They allow illegal aliens to thrive in sanctuary cities and imprison a seventy-three year old father and his son for burning an acre of land five years before.
The weak and ineffective members of Congress will not take a stand or solve the problem. It will take bold leadership in the future not a whimper and an apology. We need new leadership in Washington, D.C.