Senator Heinrich: Armed Extremists At Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Must Be Prosecuted

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) expressed his concern over the continued takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon by armed extremists, and urged the U.S. Department of Justice to fully prosecute anyone who has broken the law.

10561816_10153945850089214_8644844109926164287_n“Unfortunately, the attack on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is only the latest effort in a growing campaign by anti-government interests to seize and sell off the American people’s public lands,” Sen. Heinrich wrote in the letter. “I am concerned that the absence of federal prosecution after similar events in the past, such as the 2014 standoff near Bunkerville, Nevada, may have emboldened these individuals to seize federal property in the Malheur standoff. There must be consequences for this sort of dangerous action. When the federal government does not fulfill its duty in prosecuting violations of the law, individuals are emboldened to further defy the law.”

Efforts to seize and sell off America’s public lands are deeply unpopular in the West. Recent polling in Western states, including New Mexico, found that an overwhelming majority of voters in the region oppose transferring national public lands to state ownership.

Senator Heinrich has staunchly opposed turning over America’s public lands to state or private control. He’s warned that doing so would put everyone’s access to our national forests and wildlife refuges at risk, including for hunting and fishing, and the costs of managing these lands could bankrupt state governments.

“Like most Westerners I value our shared lands as assets to be enjoyed, used responsibly, and passed on to future generations. I find the latest Bundy land-grab scheme deeply disturbing. When you use armed intimidation to take over lands and property that belong to the American people, that’s not ‘taking back’ anything. It’s just stealing,” said Sen. Heinrich.

The full text of the letter is available here and below:

The Honorable Loretta Lynch
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Dear Attorney General Lynch:

I write to express my concern over the continued takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon by armed extremists. It is my hope that law enforcement officials can safely restore the rule of law and bring those responsible to justice.

Unfortunately, the attack on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is only the latest effort in a growing campaign by anti-government interests to seize and sell off the American people’s public lands.

I am concerned that the absence of federal prosecution after similar events in the past, such as the 2014 standoff near Bunkerville, Nevada, may have emboldened these individuals to seize federal property in the Malheur standoff. There must be consequences for this sort of dangerous action. When the federal government does not fulfill its duty in prosecuting violations of the law, individuals are emboldened to further defy the law.

New Mexico is home to many national forests, parks, refuges, and other public lands. My constituents serve as park rangers and wildlife biologists, volunteer in visitor centers, and routinely hunt, hike, ski, bike, and camp with their families on these public lands. The possibility that their offices and community buildings may be overrun in an armed siege is simply unacceptable. I urge you and the Department of Justice to use all of the resources at your disposal to fully prosecute anyone who has broken the law in these situations.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

Sincerely,

MARTIN HEINRICH

United States Senator