At least one person involved in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is expected to speak at a community meeting in John Day Tuesday.
Tad Houpt, Canyon City, said he organized the meeting to discuss people’s constitutional power and authority as well as federal land mismanagement and corruption. The meeting is planned for 6 p.m. Jan. 26 at the John Day Senior Center, 142 NE Dayton St.
Houpt said he plans to speak, and he has also invited Ryan Payne, who has participated in the occupation of the refuge near Burns. He said he was unsure if any other members of the occupation would be attending. He plans to ask Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer to speak as well.
“What I’d like to get across is how much power and authority we have and how we need to make some changes in our government here,” Houpt said Monday. “... The corruption, that’s what this meeting is about — the blatant, unbelievable corruption we have in this county. It’s from local government clean up to federal government. Our state government is probably even worse.”
Houpt said he has 30 years of forestry experience, but his retirement — in the form of timber on his private land — burned in the Canyon Creek Complex fire last summer. He described the U.S. Forest Service’s management policies as “voodoo forestry” and said “gross mismanagement” led to the fire. He said the federal government has “zero authority” to manage land, and he hoped people would begin to reform some of these government agencies in Grant County, which he described as a cancer.
“I hope the people of this county start standing up for themselves,” he said. “Everybody is scared of their government. The government should be scared of the people, and that will keep them scared straight, in other words.”
Houpt said he was not afraid to stand up to the government. He said he “absolutely” supports the occupation of the refuge and claimed two-thirds of Harney County’s residents did as well. He said he visited the refuge since the occupation began, and although he did not meet leader Ammon Bundy, he spoke to about 20 people who were there.
“I didn’t find one person that was even remotely nutty,” he said. “They all seemed like good Average Joe people that are just fed up with it all.”
After meeting some of the occupiers, Houpt said he invited Payne and two others to a meeting Jan. 12 with a group of Grant County residents in John Day. Houpt said Palmer attended the meeting but was not informed who would be there beforehand. County residents Jim Sproul, Dave Traylor, Mac Coffer and Harry Stangle said they attended the meeting as well. Sproul and Traylor said Jon Ritzheimer also attended. Ritzheimer has posted videos to YouTube from the refuge.