|Tim Puckett's crew make repairs to a public fence that was cut by militants to give access for his livestock to refuge land two days ago. Puckett was unaware of their plan and is repairing the fence.|
Rancher: 'I didn't know anything' about Bundy entering property, destroying fence
By Luke Hammill
Tim Puckett, the rancher whose cattle graze private rangeland adjoining the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, said he didn't give Ammon Bundy and his band of armed militants permission to enter the ranch Monday afternoon and destroy a publicly owned fence.
"I am very upset," Puckett told The Oregonian/OregonLive.
His ranch hands have already repaired the fence.
"They're not coming onto my place no more," he said of the militants. "If they do, I'm gonna have to do something about it. I don't want them going across my ground."
Puckett said he has never spoken to Bundy, the leader of a militant group that has occupied the refuge headquarters compound since Jan. 2. The militants are protesting the federal government's land-use policies, advocating for public property to be turned over to local ranchers and loggers.
Bundy, an Arizona businessman and son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, claimed Monday that Puckett gave him permission to enter the ranch and that Puckett actually asked the militants to cut out the fence so his cattle could graze on more land – which is publicly owned refuge land.
Puckett told The Oregonian/OregonLive, "I didn't know anything about it" until late Monday night.
"They didn't have my permission to do anything," Puckett said.
Bundy and the group of militants used equipment owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove 20 to 30 yards of barbed wire fence installed by that agency. The stunt, covered by a wide array of media, was perhaps the militants' boldest move since overtaking the refuge. To the militants, agencies such as the Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management are symbols of federal government overreach. Puckett acknowledged that one of his representatives at the ranch showed the militants where the fence was and allowed them on the property. But the representative did not give them permission to tear out the fence, he said.