What is Behind the Oregon Rancher Standoff?

To many of us, we may not fully understand what is happening in Oregon. Now, one person has been shot and killed; there are armed ranchers still holed up; and there are armed law enforcement officials surrounding them.

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What led to all this? Two Oregon ranchers — Dwight Hammond and his son Steven — set a fire on their own ranch land in 2006 as a defensive measure in order to prevent a fire that was caused by a lightning storm from destroying the feed for the family's cattle. The fire that they set spread to 140 acres of unoccupied government land and was then put out. No one was hurt.

The federal government then prosecuted them and, amazingly enough, they were convicted, even though they were apparently just defending their land. One went to jail for 3 months and one for 1 year.

But if that was not outrageous enough, the government then appealed and said those sentences were not harsh enough. With the force of the government behind them, the prosecutors won and sent the two ranchers to prison for five years — all for starting a fire that the ranchers said was to protect their own land.

Other ranchers rallied in support of this high-handed government action. If the government could wield this kind of power, they felt they needed to stand up. So some ranchers and others from outside the area came into the area and started occupying federal land. Now the government has apprehended seven of them and killed one. Who knows where things may go from this point.