Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Reverse New Deal: A right-wing militia group seizes Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and demands that the American public give the land to ranchers, loggers, and miners. (The CCC, however, developed the land for the people.)

(Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)
A right-wing militia group has occupied the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon: "The group wants to see ranchers, loggers and miners reclaim their land from the government and that the wildlife refuge be shut down" ("Militants seize federal wildlife refuge in OR," WSFA News, January 3, 2016).
The group "said they are not looking to hurt anyone. But they would not rule out violence if police tried to remove them" ("Militia takes over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters," The Oregonian, January 2, 2016).

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, "Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established on August 18, 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt as the Lake Malheur Reservation. Roosevelt set aside unclaimed government lands encompassed by Malheur, Mud and Harney Lakes as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds'” (About the Refuge).
Later, during the New Deal, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) helped develop the Refuge. For example, the work of the CCC "improved access throughout the valley and better distribution of irrigation water led to increased public use... The CCC was also responsible for early development of camping facilities at Page Springs Campground" (a campground that still exists today, at the southern end of the refuge).
Today, visitors to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge can, among other things, fish and hunt. If the Refuge was handed over to "ranchers, loggers and miners," as the occupying militia group wants to happen, those things would be severely restricted or terminated altogether. That's why public lands are important. So every American can enjoy them and benefit from them - not just those wealthy enough to own huge cattle ranches, or own a timber business, or be a large investor in the coal & gas industry. Unfortunately, with the increasingly paranoid & hysterical rhetoric coming from the political right, much of America is losing sight of that and demanding that our public lands be handed over to the privileged few.
Welcome to the Reverse New Deal. 
Also see...
"Koch-Backed Group Calls For No More National Parks," ThinkProgress, July 3, 2015. 
"The Great Republican Land Heist," Harper's Magazine, February 2015.

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