The occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Preserve in Oregon, which began in January, is costing the local community money. Representative Earl Blumenhauer (D-OR) has therefore introduced a bill that would reimburse the community without sticking the taxpayers with the bill.
The first part of H.R. 4431 calls for the federal government to reimburse local and state law enforcement agencies for the added security costs caused by the standoff in the Malheaur Preserve, which is federal property.
The second part of the bill would then have the government send the bill to the Bundys and their allies. After the federal government reimburses the relevant state and local organizations, the attorney general would be able to sue the militia.
Blumenhauer, when introducing the bill, told Congress:
“It is not just enough to enforce the law. We should recover damages from lawbreakers who tear up the landscape, degrade wildlife habitat, and destroy property.”
Blumenhauer and Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, both estimate that the standoff has cost local and state law enforcement $100,000 per week. The total cost of the standoff so far is over $1 million, for the closure of the Bureau of Land Management, the one week-closure of Harney County schools, and their attendant security have added to the standoff’s costs.
As Blumenhauer points out, that may sound insignificant, but to a small community, that money affects both local taxpayers and community services. He argues that it’s wrong to make local taxpayers pay for the militia’s actions and its results.
Blumenhauer also points out that if the federal government did decide to surrender the preserve’s land for some reason that it shouldn’t go to the Bundys. Native Americans ought to be “first in line.” The Malheur Preserve had originally belonged to the Burns Paiute Tribe, who had lived there for 6,000 years. The tribe’s leaders still consider the land to be theirs, and they have worked closely with the refuge, which is home to 4,000 tribal artifacts.
After the militia seized control of the preserve, they posted a video of themselves sorting through the artifacts. While a spokesman for the militia claimed he wanted to return the artifacts to the tribe and ensure they were properly taken care of, tribal leaders have retorted that they don’t want or need the militia’s help. In fact, they have sent a letter to the US Department of Fish and Wildlife and the US Attorney demanding that the ranchers be prosecuted if they damage the artifacts.
On February 3, 16 of the militia members, including Ammon Bundy, were indicted by the Federal Grand Jury for one count of Conspiracy to Impede Officers of the United States. There are still four occupiers in Malheur Preserve, and they have Cliven Bundy’s support. Cliven Bundy had led an earlier armed standoff in Nevada. Blumenhauer told Congress that a firmer response to Cliven Bundy might have prevented his sons from leading the standoff in Oregon.