I did a little research today, to get to the bottom of the claims of the angry little men who have sought to prove what big swinging dicks they are by taking over a visitor's center in a wildlife refuge.
A quick read of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge's website puts the lie to the fantasies of the Bundy Bunch.
A Californian named French used the federal Homestead, Desert, and Swamp Lands Acts to assemble a ranch of 140,000 acres around Malheur Lake between 1892 and 1907.
What attracted settlers to the area was the apparently limitless water in Malheur Lake. But within a decade, the Franch ranch and others were pumping so much water out that the lake level fell dramatically. New settlers moved in on the newly-created waterfront, claiming it as new land.
This led to violence and murders over property rights. Residents weren't so much exercised over the government stealing their land as they were over stealing other residents' land. In 1901, the US Supreme Court declared the land raised by the overuse of the lake water to be in the public domain.
In the meantime, the extraordinary variety of birds who nested around the lake started getting the same treatment as the lake water: being overused to near extinction- this time, to feed the demand for "plumery" in women's hats back east.
After French's murder, his land was acquired by two Portland businessmen. They ran it until 1916, when they sold Swift a 46% interest. A rail line ran cattle and pigs direct from the ranch to the slaughterhouse. Swift acquired full ownership in 1928, then sold the land to the US government in 1935.
It was then added to the Wildlife Refuge, which President Roosevelt created in 1908 out of the "new land" around the lake the Supreme Court declared public domain.
Another ranch was bought by the government in 1941. The government provided much-needed employment to many locals during the 1935-42 CCC camp operations to restore the refuge lands after a half century of unregulated ditching, clearing, overgrazing and roadbuilding.
With the exception of the original refuge tract, the entire place has been created out of the purchase of private land on the open market from people and corporations who couldn't make a go of it anymore. It wasn't taken from the people of Harney County. They all settled under the same terms- and under federal law that gave them the land.
So let's recap: Ammon Bundy wants to steal back land the government has restored and improved for 80 to 100 years after settlers like him despoiled it, after they got it free from the government he says stole it from the people, so they can set about despoiling it all over again.
God Bless America!