LaVoy Finicum is a member of the armed group occupying a federal building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He is a rancher from Arizona and supporter of Oregon ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond, who are now in federal custody. Finicum spoke with OPB's Think Out Loud host Dave Miller Tuesday. During the interview Finicum detailed his involvement in the occupation and provided an explanation of what the group's goals are in continuing their efforts in the remote rural community.
Finicum initially became involved in the occupation to support the Hammonds, who he believes have been "very unjustly imprisoned" after being convicted of arson on federally-owned land in 2001 and 2006. Finicum suggested they have fallen prey to what he perceives as the government's goal of "pushing off" ranchers in Harney County and public lands across the United States.
When asked why he has remained in Burns even after the Hammonds' surrender to federal authorities on Mon, Jan. 4, he said, "We are here to go to work " and "to re-establish the Harney County residents' property rights," which Finicum believes the federal government has trampled on in an effort to intimidate and control the ranchers.
In response to reports from the Harney County Sheriff that the occupiers came to overthrow the federal government and spark a movement across the United States, Finicum said, "I believe in the federal government. We need the federal government, but the federal government needs to adhere to their most important responsibilities, which are clearly outlined in the constitution."
To Finicum, one of these responsibilities is to transfer federally-owned lands to state and local government control, institutions which he believes are better able to support their citizens.
When questioned about what it will take for the occupiers to be satisfied and forgo their armed protest, Finicum suggested that their job will not be complete until the "ranchers are back ranching" and current federally-controlled lands are relinquished to state and local control.