As protesters continue to engage in a standoff against the government at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, conservatives agree the events have elevated the debate over federal land ownership.
But, lawmakers stop short of endorsing the actions of the protesters occupying a federal building located south of Burns, Ore.
“It’s brought attention to a problem issue,” Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, told The Daily Signal. “I’m not an advocate of trespassing, taking over federal property, but now that they’ve brought attention to the issue, they don’t need to be violating laws, either—local, state or federal.”
“We do need to get to the bottom of what happened to the Hammonds. It sounds very abusive,” Gohmert, chairman of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, continued. “We’ve got too much power in the hands of the [Bureau of Land Management], too much power in the hands of Fish and Wildlife [Service], too much power in the Department of the Interior.”
The federal government currently owns more than 630 million acres of land across the United States, and the Texas Republican warned that the federal government is beginning to creep further east in terms of the land it controls.
“If they’re doing it in the West, then eventually they’re going to come do it in the East, and people all over the country will feel the crush as the federal government takes over the land at a theater near you,” he said.
On Saturday, armed protesters took over an empty federal building located on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. It’s unknown how many people are in the group, called Citizens for Constitutional Freedom and led by Ammon Bundy.