Who's who inside and on the outskirts of the Malheur occupation

Here are the most vocal occupiers, along with a core group of militia members staying in Burns.

 

The armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon is now on its tenth day and is showing no immediate signs of letting up. The occupiers, led by Ammon Bundy, have demanded that the federal government hand over the refuge to the citizens of Harney County. Bundy’s actions reflect the decades-long Sagebrush Rebellion tradition in which ranchers, miners and other land users have sparred with federal agencies over how public lands are managed. Many of Bundy’s fellow occupiers at Malheur are members of militia groups who are new to the rebellion, but who share a constitutionalist, right-wing ideology.

For several days, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been present at an ad hoc staging area at the Burns Municipal Airport. The agency has been mum about its activities other than that it is monitoring the situation.

Last week, Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward met in person with Ammon Bundy to ask him and the group of occupiers to leave the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, but those conversations appear to have had few actionable results.

This past weekend, a group of four militiamen from around the Pacific Northwest visited Bundy at the refuge, the FBI staging area, and Sheriff Ward, in what they say is an attempt to end the current stalemate and promote dialogue. Below here are the key players.  

THE OCCUPIERS

Ammon Bundy: The bearded, cowboy-hatted leader of the armed occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is the son of the notorious scofflaw rancher of southern Nevada, Cliven Bundy. Ammon was on the Bundy Ranch in April 2014 when his father faced down federal officials, and made a name for himself by getting Tasered by those same officials. He started the Harney County Committee of Safety back in December as a protest against the re-sentencing of Oregon ranchers Dwight and Steve Hammond for committing arson in 2001 and 2006. He's the listed registrant for ourchildrensfreedom.com, which has him living in Emmet, Idaho, but his Facebook page says he lives in Phoenix, where he owns a fleet maintenance business in Tempe, Arizona.

Ryan Bundy at the Recapture Canyon protest in Blanding, Utah, May 2014.
Jonathan Thompson
Ryan Bundy: The oldest of Cliven Bundy's 14 children, Ryan's heated rhetoric suggests that the resident of Mesquite, Nevada, is even more strident in his anti-Bureau of Land Management views than his brother Ammon. Ryan was part of the Bundy Ranch standoff and attended the May 2014 Recapture Canyon protest in southeastern Utah, where he butted heads with organizer Phil Lyman. After Lyman was convicted for his role in the protest, Bundy went on the attack on Facebook, calling Lyman "a traitor to the cause of freedom" for "allowing himself to be used as a precedent to strengthen the federal overreach position."

LaVoy Finicum, from a still from one of his YouTube videos.
LaVoy Finicum: At the occupiers' press conferences, this Arizona rancher, who resembles actor Ed Harris, has been especially vocal. He has posted a couple dozen YouTube videos over the last year or so in which he chronicles his ongoing battle with the BLM over water, grazing and the like. Finicum calls his fight "One Cowboy's Stand for Freedom," and even sells merchandise.

Ryan Payne: Although he has not been very visible during the occupation, this founder of Montana's West Mountain Rangers "militia" has been an important presence on the refuge. He sent out the original call to self-proclaimed militia members summoning them to help at the Bundy Ranch. Payne is a veteran of the Iraq War, and may be the most extreme of the refuge occupiers. To learn more, read this in-depth 2014 profile of Payne by Ted McDermott of the Missoula Independent.

Dylan Anderson, a.k.a. Capt. Moroni, at the Recapture Canyon protest in May 2014.
Jonathan Thompson
"Capt. Moroni": His floppy camo hat, kind eyes and youthful grin stand in sharp contrast to his words to Oregon Public Broadcasting's Amanda Peacher: "I didn't come here to shoot, I came here to die." He identifies himself only as "Capt. Moroni" or "Gladiator," but at the Recapture Canyon protest, he told me his name was Dylan Anderson, of Provo, Utah, and that he had been on the front lines of the Bundy standoff, as well. 

Todd MacFarlane: This Utah attorney arrived on the scene of the occupation a few days after it began, to represent Finicum and his family. He has since also become one of the spokesmen for the occupiers. He told a St. George, Utah, radio station that the Bundys "haven't taken over anything per se," implying that they are just sort of visiting public land. MacFarlane has a long history with this sort of thing, representing ranchers in their fights against the BLM. He is a contributor to the Pahvant Post, and his opinion pieces range from attacking BLM, to standing up for the right to sell and drink raw milk.

THE RELUCTANT SUPPORT GROUP (They're staying in Burns, not the refuge.)

Joseph Rice: This former National Guardsman lives in southern Oregon, and is a co-founder of the Pacific Patriots Network. He became involved in the Hammond support movement in the fall when Ammon Bundy first ramped up his social media campaign around the issue. Rice is also the head of the Josephine County chapter of the Oath Keepers, a national constitutionalist group started in 2009 for former military and law enforcement. The last Sagebrush Rebellion event Rice was involved in occurred last spring, when Rice helped defend two gold miners in Josephine County who were being badgered by the BLM. Rice orchestrated “Operation Gold Rush,” in which reportedly hundreds of self-described patriots passed through the area.   

Joseph Rice, head of Josephine County Oath Keepers, speaking in Harney County.
Brooke Warren

Rice opposes the Malheur occupation but believes the Hammonds were wrongly sentenced and that the federal government has too much control over public land management. Over the weekend, Rice was part of a group that visited Ammon Bundy at the refuge, Sheriff Ward, and the FBI in what they say is an attempt to de-escalate the situation.  

Brandon Curtiss: President of the Idaho Three Percent and a co-founder of the Pacific Patriots Network, who helped organize the protest in Burns on Jan. 2 to support the Hammonds. Along with Rice, Curtiss is part of the militia leadership that was blindsided by Bundy’s decision to take over the wildlife refuge. "There's a better way to go about things," Curtiss recently told Newsweek. 

Brandon Rapolla: This former Marine is a member of Oath Keepers, head of militia group Oregon Tactical, and a leader of the Pacific Patriots Network. He was in Clark County, Nevada to support Cliven Bundy during the standoff with the BLM in April, 2014.

Oregon militiaman Bj Soper, left, and founder of Idaho Three Percent, Brandon Curtiss, right. Pictured in Burns, Oregon, Jan. 2, 2016.
Brooke Warren

Bj Soper: Originally from Nevada, Soper is now a resident of central Oregon. He is a co-founder of the Pacific Patriots Network and a coordinator for central Oregon Oath Keepers. Soper helped out during Operation Gold Rush at Sugar Pine Mine in Josephine County last spring.

Jonathan Thompson is a senior editor and Tay Wiles is the online editor of High Country News. 

Charlie Brown
Charlie Brown
Jan 12, 2016 12:30 PM
Just a question but the efforts seems to be to return the refuge to the citizens of Harney County. But none of the people mentioned mentioned are actually from Harney County and few are even from Oregon. What is the point of view of Harney County's citizens?
Richard Crow
Richard Crow Subscriber
Jan 12, 2016 02:05 PM
I agree that they were wrongly convicted. There is a federal power grab involved in it all and they are serving as an example for other ranchers to get in line or else. As to the tactics being used for the occupation that is just plain wrong.
Derek Volkart
Derek Volkart Subscriber
Jan 13, 2016 03:42 PM
I read the statement by Rice as he thought the Hammonds were wrongly sentenced, not convicted. I assume he means the sentencing was too harsh and perhaps he is correct, though I recall environmentalists charged after burning property and nobody had their "conscious shocked" by the sentencing as activist Judge Michael Hogan asserted would have been the case for the Hammond's had he used the mandatory minimum. Double standards are as tiresome as Judges who won't follow the law.
Sharon Karpinski
Sharon Karpinski
Jan 12, 2016 02:53 PM
I kind of object to calling the Bundy Bunch "right wing constitutionalists." They quote the Constitution when it suits them (all them references to the Second Amendment, f'nstance) but ignore it when it doesn't fit their agenda. They are "constitutionalists" the same way that Justice Scalia is---very selectively.
Tom Reynolds
Tom Reynolds Subscriber
Jan 12, 2016 03:14 PM
Some people just hate science, especially the work of biologists. The function of the BLM is to integrate all the rights of all Western interests, in true democratic fashion, into a scientifically developed plan for multiple use of certain public lands. Tremendous natural resources have been spoiled by 20th Century ranchers who were simply ignorant about land-carrying capacity. There went wetlands. There went the capacity of the range to recover from that many beef and sheep. There went critical habitat for all manner, large and small, of other wildlife. Now comes climate change. Pope Francis is right. We've made a cesspool in the wilds that support us. You have ZERO standing make my state your state of Deseret. The Constitution's Supremacy Clause and the General Welfare Clause is very clear to a super-majority of US voters. Get over it. I'd rather have 10 more Mexican wolves than all the occupiers combined.
Sharon Karpinski
Sharon Karpinski
Jan 12, 2016 03:26 PM
Tom, it's not only the ranchers who have screwed up BLM land. Frankly, sometimes the BLM has been as wrong-headed as anybody else concerned with the problem of managing western public land. While I probably agree with your politics and certainly agree with how many, many of us (and not just ranchers) have mucked up wild lands, I object to your focusing on 20th century ranchers. Some of my best friends...and some of the most ardent conservationists I know...are 20th century ranchers. The Bundy Bunch are recidivist morons and certainly don't speak for everyone that lives off and with western land.
Tom Reynolds
Tom Reynolds Subscriber
Jan 12, 2016 04:24 PM
I grant you that. I really mean before the now massive archive of real science what forms our policies and LT-planning today. I mean anytime before the science, so say before 1930, or some such. Maybe I should have said "the 19th Century." I have near and dear friends in ranching and farming, and they are always involved in solutions for what ails Earth, not for reverting back to the darkness in bad taste and bad manners towards our land, water, and every critter. Multiple use, and trust.
And if BLM has a bunch of bad apples, and there are cases where they have been, or are wrong, I am repulsed there also. I'll get the rope, because these matters a deadly serious, and we must have integrity and highly worthy behavior in the ranks of our USDA, DOI, and DOJ.
Lael Bradshaw
Lael Bradshaw Subscriber
Jan 13, 2016 12:04 AM
Well said, thank you.
E D Coleman
E D Coleman Subscriber
Jan 12, 2016 03:31 PM
Conspicuously missing from the reportage on this event: How many of the occupiers are Mormon? I suppose it's PC not to differentiate based on religion, but in this case it's very telling.
Irene S
Irene S
Jan 12, 2016 05:22 PM
I'm so very sick of this. I want these THUGS off my public land. And if they want to talk about "returning the land" then return it to the Native people from whom it was stolen! If these guys were Muslims or Blacks, they'd all be dead or in jail by now. Letting these right-wing nutjobs get away with this is totally disgusting. Put them in jail where they belong.
E D Coleman
E D Coleman Subscriber
Jan 13, 2016 09:51 AM
Don Francis
Don Francis
Jan 13, 2016 10:32 AM
Last week most of a day inside the main occupied building with the militia. Ammon Bundy and I talked for almost an hour about what they want to accomplish and why. His explanation/justification started with the statement that God created the earth for humans to use. Throughout our conversation "use of the land" was repeated over and over. They believe they are doing God's work.
E D Coleman
E D Coleman Subscriber
Jan 13, 2016 10:54 AM
So does ISIL.
Irene S
Irene S
Jan 13, 2016 11:13 AM
Such arrogance. Read the Salon article...he thinks God is speaking directly to him. Why is this OK but when it's a "non-Christian" religion it's terrorism???? The earth is a living organism in its entirety and we humans are screwing it up royally. It's unbelievable that the federal govt. is not doing something about these lawbreakers who are blatantly threatening violence. Can you imagine how angry this must make the people who've been arrested and persecuted for attempting to use their first amendment right of free speech? How angry it must make the African-Americans who've been beaten, discriminated against, their fellows shot down in cold blood? It's just plain unacceptable.
Andy Grosland
Andy Grosland Subscriber
Jan 13, 2016 09:04 PM
Fantastic article, thank you. Balanced it well.
Andy Grosland
Andy Grosland Subscriber
Jan 13, 2016 09:10 PM
@Irene - Just so. Government can't be perfect, but if the people who make it up try, it can ;)
Guy Durrant
Guy Durrant Subscriber
Jan 16, 2016 11:42 PM
E D Coleman: I'm not sure how many are LDS (Mormon). The Bundys certainly are, and given his self-appellation, so is "Captain Moroni." The request a few days ago for coffee and cigarettes indicates that it is a mixed group, as faithful LDS eschew both.
E D Coleman
E D Coleman Subscriber
Jan 18, 2016 05:25 PM
Guy Durrant: Did you read the Salon article linked above?
Guy Durrant
Guy Durrant Subscriber
Jan 19, 2016 05:10 PM
E D Coleman,

Yes, of course I read the article. I have lived in and among Mormons all but 12 of my 64 years; most of my family is LDS, as am I. Furthermore, most of my family is politically liberal and environmentally conscious and active. Yes, sir, there really are liberal, environmentalist Mormons out there. I was taught by my parents to love, treasure, protect and respect public lands; that they are our nation's birthrigh.

A couple of basic tenets of Mormonism get overlooked in the article; there is an article of faith that reads, "We believe in . . . obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law" obviously being ignored by the Bundy crew. Another concept is the idea of earth stewardship––that the earth is to be protected by humans. These are often trampled in the rush to become wealthy, which seems to be an unwritten dictum. Mormons do not seem to me to be the only ones trying to get rich––all those "prosperity gospel" ministers with their crystal cathedrals are decidedly not LDS.

I think the LDS church should not just "disavow" the Bundys, but rather take steps to condemn and repudiate them, including excommunication. And, as the article states, "We need the Obama administration to show resolve in ending the Bundy seizure of the Malheur center and then prosecute the perpetrators to the full extent of the law. Further White House inaction will only result in more usurpations." So far, the Obama administration has taken less action than the LDS church. I am still waiting for the USFWS to send a team of sharpshooters who are trained to remove non-indigenous species.
E D Coleman
E D Coleman Subscriber
Jan 20, 2016 03:27 PM
Guy Durrant: Well, thank goodness their are the likes of you out there.
Tom Reynolds
Tom Reynolds Subscriber
Jan 20, 2016 07:59 PM
Ya know, I am REALLY expecting the LDS Church to REALLY take the opportunity to put a whole, whole lot on the table, regarding stewardship of our precious, precarious planet.
I don't think they realize how many millions would applaud if they embraced and contributed to other Christian statements of fact and faith, such as that from Pope Francis. What a massive blow to the remaining few, albeit wealthy but backward, land, water, energy owner deniers; also the state-, federal-, local political office holder-deniers; of course the uncivil capitalists-, typically in finance and insurance, deniers.

But it is not isolated to the Mormon believers. I just think the Mormon coalition has nurtured a 30-year anti-government argument unsurpassed by other denominations. Great! Now they can leverage those believers and ACT TO go even further to restore, preserve, and expand wilderness quality, everywhere. No TV ads necessary.

God, grant the living prophet the really powerful marketing plan thus laid out! Nothing is a hill to a Climber.
Francis Smith
Francis Smith
Jan 19, 2016 03:30 AM
This is too delicious not to post:

A heartbroken militiaman announced that one of his buddies had walked off the Oregon nature preserve they had overtaken and had holed up in a local motel to drink away donation money.

Joe Oshaugnessy, an Arizona militiaman, has been actively seeking volunteers through social media to join the occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

But his friends tearfully announced that Oshaugnessy, who is known as “Capt. O,” had left the refuge Wednesday and was instead staying at a motel nearby — as some others associated with the militants have apparently been doing, according to sources.

Some of the militants have reportedly been spotted eating at area restaurants during the standoff, as well.

The militants have been allowed to come and go freely from the nature preserve in the absence of a law enforcement presence, but at least one of them, Brian “Booda” Cavalier, failed to return after a newspaper report revealed he had lied about serving in the U.S. Marines.

Oshaugnessy had apparently argued with some of the participants about the presence of women and children at the wildlife refuge, where militants apparently hoped to draw federal agents into a gun battle.

Jon Ritzheimer, the Arizona militiaman known for organizing anti-Muslim rallies and fundraising through his “Rogue Infidel” site, went to see Oshaugnessy at the motel and found him drinking there, according to Maureen Peltier, a disabled National Guard woman who claims to be the group’s official spokeswoman.

Peltier said Ritzheimer had confirmed that Oshaugnessy had kept the money he had raised through social media for himself and had spent at least some of it on a drinking binge.

Another militant, Cai Irvin, tearfully announced Oshaungnessy’s departure in a Facebook video.

“Ritzheimer did call me — he’s f*cking pissed, he’s mad, he’s upset,” Irvin said. “He told me to tell all of you that Joe Oshaugnessy is a deserter and a coward.”

Irvin said the militants felt betrayed by Oshaugnessy, who had taken part like many of them in the 2014 standoff at the Bundy ranch — where various factions within the right-wing “patriot” movement also squabbled.

“It’s like finding out there is no such thing as Santa,” Irvin said. “Come on, man.”

Irvin later removed the Facebook video from his public profile page.

Oshaungnessy, meanwhile, wrote on Facebook that a “smear campaign” had been launched against him.

“Because I have been vocal about not supporting the actions taken by the individuals inside the compound apparently they have desired to launch a smear Campaign against me,” he wrote on his profile page. “Even though I am one of the only Patriots on the outside doing everything I can to try and prevent this from turning into another Wako [sic] And making sure to protect the safety of all involved. To what I say my reputation is sterling.”