Christopher Ketcham: Bundy verdict puts target on federal workers

A group of mule deer bucks moves across Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Photo by Barbara Wheeler / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The leaders of an armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon were acquitted last week, a verdict that has federal employees worried for their safety, according to author Christopher Ketcham:
The federal land managers I’ve spoken to — rangers, biologists and law enforcement officers, almost all of them so fearful they won’t go on the record — worry that extremist copycats who seek to undermine the federal public lands system will be emboldened by the verdict.

And why shouldn’t they be afraid? This isn’t the first time the Bundy family has struck in their crusade against the federal government. The Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, the father of the two men acquitted in the Oregon case last week, led an armed standoff in 2014 against federal agents who had sought to seize his cattle, which had been grazing illegally on federal land for more than two decades, and continue to do so.

“The message of the Malheur verdicts is that the federal land management agencies stand alone,” Dennis McLane, the retired deputy chief of law enforcement for the Bureau of Land Management, told me.

In an email to employees, Daniel M. Ashe, the director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, which runs the refuge, described a traumatized staff at Malheur, whose work to protect wildlife and habitat there was put on hold during the occupation. “The lives and careers of many employees and family members will never be quite the same,” he wrote. “Even now, though many employees have returned, they continue to bear the scars of this traumatic experience.”

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell wrote in a message to employees that she was “profoundly disappointed in this outcome,” and was “concerned about its potential implications for our employees and for the effective management of public lands.”

Read More:
Christopher Ketcham: Bundy Verdict Puts a Target on the Backs of Federal Workers (The New York Times 11/1)

Also Today:
Oregon Occupation Unites Native American Tribes To Save Their Land (National Public Radio 10/27)

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