Salem, Oregon (AP) — A local family, the Holidays, is using it to corral cattle when U.S. Forest Service officials set a routine burn in Oregon’s National Forest on Oct. 13. The fence caught fire.
The crew returned six days later to resume the prescribed burns, but the flames spread to the family ranch and “burn boss” Rick Snodgrass was arrested.
The impact of a unique incident in a remote corner of eastern Oregon has reached Washington, D.C., with Forest Service Commissioner Randy Moore condemning the arrest. However, the rancher’s family applauds the actions of Grant County Sheriff Todd McKinley.
“It was just negligence to light a fire when it was very dry right next to a private property,” said Sue Holliday, the matriarch of the family.
The incident again exposed tensions over land management in the West, where the federal government owns nearly half of all land.
In 2016, that tension resulted in armed right-wing extremists from the Muller National Wildlife Refuge in neighboring Harney County protesting the imprisonment of two ranchers, Dwight Hammond and his son Stephen, and accused of arson. Convicted and occupied for 41 days. Fire on federal land.
Sue’s daughter, Tonna Holliday, said in a telephone interview that whoever was responsible for burning up to 40 acres (16 hectares) of their property should be brought to justice.
“The same thing, why is the Hammond family held accountable and not the US Forest Service?” Holliday said.
However, Hammons was found guilty of felony arson for intentionally setting fires to federal land, including a fire set to cover up a deer herd massacre. Snodgrass is being investigated for reckless arson, a misdemeanor.
Mechanical thinning and routine fire practices in overgrown forests, such as the 2017 wildfires near Sisters, Oregon, are credited with saving homes. But some efforts have failed miserably, including the one that caused the largest fire in New Mexico’s history earlier this year. was exposed to
In a review, the federal agency admitted that fire managers failed to consider the historic drought and unfavorable spring weather conditions when trying to reduce combustible undergrowth in northern New Mexico.
Moore said following the review, the agency would have to explain its actions.
“Designated fires are an important tool for reducing wildfire risk, protecting communities, and improving the health and resilience of our nation’s forests and grasslands,” Moore said on the Forest Service website. “As you carry out your duties in your public capacity, I will be actively involved in ensuring that our important work across the country can proceed unhindered.”
Forest Service spokesman John McMillan said the fence that burned down on Oct. 13 has already been repaired.
“We routinely plan and conduct routine burns in areas with plot fences, and it is standard practice to repair fence posts that have been damaged by burns,” he said.
According to the Forest Service, over the past 12 years, designated fires have accounted for an average of 51% of the area of hazardous fuel reductions achieved, or an average of 1.4 million acres per year.
At 4,529 square miles (11,730 square kilometers), Grant County is four times the size of Rhode Island and is studded with forests and mountains, covered in grasslands and high desert. Only 7,200 people live there, many of whom trace their Oregon roots to the days of the wagon train. Mr. and Mrs. Holiday and other ranchers drove hundreds of cattle each year in the nearby town of John his Day in a scene reminiscent of the Old West.
The Holiday Ranch covers more than 6,000 acres (2,400 hectares) and houses approximately 1,000 cows. At this time of year, before the snow hits, cattle are grazed from family grazing lands in the Marur National Forest, transferred to large grazing lands, and transferred to ranches.
On October 19th, some cows grazing in the pasture were filled with dark gray smoke from a given fire. Soon the fire spread to Holliday’s ranch. Burned a large grove of ponderosa pines that Tonna Holliday’s uncle, Darrell Holliday, said he had helped plant twenty years earlier.
Grant County District Attorney Jim Carpenter on Tuesday defended the arrest of Snodgrass, who was handcuffed and taken to the county jail before being conditionally released. It could last for months, and said it would decide whether to charge Snodgrass once the investigation was complete.
The Holidays say they hope justice will be done.
“We just stand up for what we believe in. This is our land,” said Tona Holliday.
She separated her family from extremists like Ammon Bundy, who led the takeover of Malhar National Wildlife Refuge. The Bundy family has a history of opposition to the federal government. Bundy’s father refused to pay federal cattle grazing fees in Nevada, leading to armed conflict in 2014.
“Bundies, they were extreme,” Holliday said. “They weren’t paying grazing fees.
Associated Press reporter Susan Montoya Bryan of Albuquerque, New Mexico contributed to this report.