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Fallout From Oregon Occupation Yet To Be Seen

LaVoy Finicum's family has posted a Facebook page to memorialize the rancher, who was shot and killed in Oregon on Tuesday. Reports about the circumstances of his death are conflicting.

A leader of the armed occupation at an Oregon wildlife refuge urged his supporters on Thursday to avoid further bloodshed. Now observers are wondering how the issues will play out.

Ammon Bundy’s supporters call it a fight for freedom that won’t end even after the anti-government protestors have left the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. On conservative talk radio in Utah, the words “tyranny” and “murder” are coming up after occupation spokesman LaVoy Finicum was killed at a roadblock on Tuesday. On Utah’s range, reports are that eight ranchers have torn up their federal grazing contracts.

Iron County Commissioner David Miller predicts impacts far beyond the rural West.

“This is an issue of national concern,” he says. “In fact, I would even raise it to the potential level of being a clear and present danger.”

Miller says the fight will continue until outsiders realize the federal government has no rights to public lands. It’s a sentiment echoed by leaders in Utah’s Republican-controlled Legislature, where lawmakers are talking about spending millions of dollars to argue the state’s case in court.

Mark Potok, who tracks anti-government groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center, says the question comes down to the facts of Finicum’s shooting.

“What we hope is that people will realize how completely off-base the occupiers were in Oregon and see them for what they were,” he says, “essentially a bunch of thugs masquerading as defenders of the Constitution.”

Potok’s group says new-age militias like the Oregon occupiers have grown at an “astounding” pace since Barack Obama was elected president. Back then, there were 149. Today his group counts around 1,000.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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