Where’s the SWAT team?

The government’s inaction at an Oregon refuge is an interesting turn of events

The author, a Butte County resident, is a psychiatric nurse and author of several CN&R cover stories.

So far, the government’s response to the disgruntled Yeehaw-istas’ occupation of a wildlife refuge in Oregon has been underwhelming. No SWAT team has been deployed. No National Guard. No police in sight, except for when the local sheriff met with the lead occupier, Ammon Bundy, to kindly request that he leave the refuge. Such restraint.

I had my own little occupation of federal land a couple of years ago. During the government shutdown, I ignored the Lassen Volcanic National Park’s closure order and climbed Mount Harkness. It was glorious. I did it to write a story in this newspaper about environmentalist Edward Abbey (see “Lassen Solitaire,” Nov. 7, 2013) as he’d completed his seminal work, Desert Solitaire, in a fire tower there back in 1967.

The Lassen park rangers didn’t take my little occupation lightly: They dispatched a ranger, on the government dime, to drive five hours round-trip to my home in order to ticket me for illegal camping and refusing to obey a park closure order. I had to pay $250. It made me feel a little like Arlo Guthrie.

My spouse, Joni, also had her own occupation of federal land. Back in 1992, the forest service was going to allow logging on a huge grove of 500-year-old Engelmann spruce in Colorado’s San Juan National Forest. The trees were located at 9,000 feet; a replacement stand of trees would take hundreds of years to reach any considerable size. Joni climbed a tree and zipped around the canopy, frustrating law enforcement and curtailing the logging for a couple of days. The forest service brought in a SWAT team, armed with automatic weapons and night vision goggles, to apprehend her and break up a small encampment of hippies with bongos. Joni ended up in prison for a month.

Both of us have gotten more severe penalties from the government for our lowly occupations than the armed Oath Keepers and the Bundys have received for two illegal armed occupations. But then again, Joni and I are left-wing, unarmed enviros—the sort of people the government has no problem arresting and ticketing.

Let’s hope Bundy gets at least a $250 ticket for his shenanigans.