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Saturday, January 9, 2016

What little I Understand About the Oregon Issue

So, this week my Facebook feed and the news has been full of reports from Oregon.  A group of ranchers overtook an empty government building on a bird refuge in protest of other ranchers being sent to prison.  I do not understand everything that is going on, but one of my Facebook followers said she didn't either and didn't understand how this is a ranching issue.  To me and my family, it is very much an attack on common ranching practices of prescribed burning and nothing to do with terrorism, as these ranchers were charged as terrorists.

I am not taking sides in this matter, but trying to explain why it is important to so many and we are all watching how the government reacts to it.

I understand why ranchers burn.  I have talked about it here.  Kids, Cows and Grass has talked about it here and here.  Even the Pioneer Woman has a post about how important burning pastures is for ranchers  and how much she likes it.   Flat Aggie learned about the importance of a back fire which is what I understand the Hammonds did to protect their lands from a wildfire.  Often, a backfire is what is used to stop a wildfire.  My husband has done this several  times in wildfire situations.  It certainly was justifiable and the only thing that could stop this fire.

Seriously, take a few minutes to read at least one of the posts to understand the importance that prescribed fire for ranchers across the country.  We use it every year on some of our acres.  We use backfires to stop wildfires and most of the time they are more effective that any amount of water we can dump on the fires.  Wild fires are hard to control and are usually in extremely rough conditions where fire trucks can not go. 

The one item that I have seen all week that finally put things into perspective for me was this video of Greg Walden, a representative from Oregon, who addressed the U.S. House of Representatives on the situation. Mr. Walden wrote some of the laws that the Hammonds "broke" and Mr. Walden asserts that the laws are not being implemented as the intent of the law stated.  I would think that someone who wrote the laws would know the intent of the law.   (The video is 24 minutes long.  If you don't have that much time, scroll to the next interview.)

I agree with him that I don't agree with the protest and the armed takeover, but I do think they are frustrated more than I can imagine.  They feel they had to get America's attention in some way.  Full time farmers and ranchers makeup less than 1% of the United State population which makes it difficult for us to fight issues and let our customers (the entire United States and many in other countries) know what is really affecting our businesses.

Here is the followup questions asked by Lou Dobbs on Fox News:

The senior judge in the trial stated that the sentence of five years should be considered Cruel and Unusual Punishment for setting a backfire and another fire that burned a total of 140 acres and adjusted the sentences as he saw fit.  Unfortunately, the law did not allow him to adjust the sentence and the Hammonds were sent to jail for five years last week, even though they had already served the original sentence and paid the fines that were assigned to them.  This leaves 2 wives to manage the family ranch while their husbands are in jail (one of them is in his 70's.)

Do I understand everything that has gone on?  No, and it is possible no one will ever know everything that happened.
 
Do I agree with the armed take over? No, but I see everyday how the American consumer does not understand how their food is produced on farms across the country and have no way to understand the issues that we face everyday.

Do I understand BLM agreements and working with the government for grazing lands? No, but this rancher does on the Washington Post.

Do ranchers going to jail for setting fires that they felt was the right thing to do at the time scare me?  Absolutely YES, as it does the South Dakota Stockgrowers in this post!

Does this worry me about our ability to continue to manage our properties as we see fit with the guidance of university research?  Yes.

This issue isn't just about getting a couple of guys out of jail.  This issue is scaring the few people in America that produce food and makes us wonder if the government really wants us to stay in business and use science based research to run our farms and ranches.

-A Kansas Farm Mom