These photos show why the land currently occupied by armed ranchers is protected.

It's been four days since a group of armed men took over the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon on Jan. 2, 2016.

Ammon Bundy, leader of the armed occupiers at Oregon's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by George Frey/Getty Images News.


Ostensibly, their cause is defending two ranchers who were sentenced to prison for burning 130 acres of the refuge, calling the conviction a governmental interference on the "people's constitutional rights."

Coverage of the standoff has mostly focused on the fact that these men have guns, that they're anti-government, that Ammon Bundy's father Cliven was in a similar standoff last year, that people are calling the group #yallqaeda, and that a group of armed #BlackLivesMatter protesters taking over a government building certainly wouldn't be called "peaceful." Given our national current preoccupation with mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and anti-government presidential candidates, this coverage is understandable.

But it's worth looking at what's really at stake here.

With all the attention on the armed ranchers, few people are talking about the birds and other creatures that the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge protects.

"When you look at migratory birds and how they use the landscape, Malheur National Wildlife is critically important," says Bob Sallinger, conservation director at the Audubon Society of Portland, which promotes education and conservation around bird populations at refuges like Malheur.

A burrowing owl at the Malheur National Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo by Candace Larson/Audubon Society of Portland, used with permission.

According to Sallinger, Malheur is home to the largest sandhill crane population of any refuge in the western United States.

20,000 white-faced ibises — 20% of the world's white-faced ibis population — live there as do 4,000 white pelicans and 7,000 grebes among hundreds of thousands migrating waterfowl and tens of thousands of shore birds.

For these birds, the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is an essential stop along their migratory journey.

The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is home to thousands of grebes like this horned one. Photo by Candace Larson/Audubon Society of Portland, used with permission.

In fact, Sallinger calls Malheur the "crown jewel" of the United States' wildlife refuge system.

Malheur is one of the first wildlife refuges in the western United States, created by President Theodore Roosevelt after Audubon Society founder William Finley persuaded him to set aside the land by showing him breathtaking photos of the habitat's bird population.

Many of the bird photos interspersed in this article were taken by Finley in 1908, the year that Roosevelt created Malheur.

Photos like this one of a great horned owl:

The great horned owl is one of many species of birds threatened by the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by William Finley and Herman Bohlman/Audubon Society of Portland/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library.

And this photo of a lone white-faced ibis:

Portland Audubon Society founder William Finley's 1908 photo of a white-faced ibis at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by William Finley and Herman Bohlman/Audubon Society of Portland/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library.

And this glorious photo of a pod of American white pelicans:

Malheur National Wildlife refuge is an essential stop along many bird populations' migratory journey, including that of the American white pelican. Photo by William Finley and Herman Bohlman/Audubon Society of Portland/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library.

And this hand-painted glass slide of a northern pintail:

Photo by William Finley and Herman Bohlman/Audubon Society of Portland/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library.

As well as this delicate yellow-headed blackbird:


Photo by William Finley and Herman Bohlman/Audubon Society of Portland/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library.

And this handsome mallard:

Photo by William Finley and Herman Bohlman/Audubon Society of Portland/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library.

It's thanks to Roosevelt setting a precedent for creating protective refuges like Malheur that America retains so much of its wildlife — fowl and fauna and mammalian and reptilian alike.

Sallinger says he doesn't know if the armed occupation will cause immediate harm to the animals on the refuge, but he is worried about the long term impact.

"[The armed ranchers' occupation will] take very thin resources and stretch them even thinner now," Sallinger says. The refuge has a tight schedule and very limited staffing resources to get all the restoration, monitoring, and management tasks that they need to get done during the year.


Malheur Lake bird nest. Photo by William Finley and Herman Bolhman/Audubon Society of Portland/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library.

This includes monitoring where various bird populations nest, the effect their management strategies have on the birds, and cutting-edge techniques to get rid of an invasive carp species in Malheur Lake to allow more birds to breed there. So far, these invasive carp have eaten everything in sight in the lake and have stirred up so much sediment that sunlight can't get through to create essential food sources and allow habitat features to grow back.

Any delay in this work makes Malheur employees' jobs harder and could mean long-term harm to the wildlife in the refuge.

The occupation could also undermine the amount of work environmental groups have done to involve the community in protecting wildlife.

In 2013, the refuge brought together a coalition committed to Malheur's restoration.

Sallinger says that when he talks about shining examples of collaborative projects, he talks about Malheur first.

The coalition behind the Malheur Wildlife National Refuge wants to restore Malheur Lake as a viable habitat for the various bird populations that frequent it. Photo by William Finley and Herman Bohlman/Audubon Society of Portland/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library.

As a result, it makes him sad that the Malheur occupiers are trying to portray the relationship between the refuge and the surrounding community as one of conflict.

"The truth there is that the refuge has been working very diligently to include the community," he says.

In fact, bird watchers at the Daily Kos have a message from the bird-watching community for those who have engaged in poaching and other harmful activities around various wildlife refuges, writing:

"Malheur, Hart Mountain, Klamath Marsh, Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosemite etc etc, they all belong to us, we the American people, and no small group of armed thugs is going to destroy the great wildlife and national park system that our great Republican President Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir put in place over a century ago."

The ranchers claims to be working in the interest of the people, but it's worth noting the people don't want them there.

In its press release, the Portland Audubon Society highlights this fact (emphasis added):

"The occupation of Malheur by armed, out of state militia groups puts one of America’s most important wildlife refuges at risk. It violates the most basic principles of the Public Trust Doctrine and holds hostage public lands and public resources to serve the very narrow political agenda of the occupiers. The occupiers have used the flimsiest of pretexts to justify their actions—the conviction of two local ranchers in a case involving arson and poaching on public lands. Notably, neither the local community or the individuals convicted have requested or endorsed the occupation or the assistance of militia groups."

Occupation leader Ammon Bundy told CNN that the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is "destructive to the people of the county and to the people of the area." But what these anti-government protesters who seek to make federally protected lands available for hunters, farmers, and anyone who wishes to claim them forget is that wildlife refuges exist to protect the environment not only for wildlife, but for people as well.

It's thanks to national wildlife refuges that we have clean water and clean air.

On Tuesday, Jan. 6, the third day of the occupation, it was reported that the people of the nearby community of Burns, Oregon, were hoping that the uninvited, armed occupiers will leave. They don't want them there, and the two ranchers who were convicted of arson don't want them there either.

For the sake of the animals on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and for the people who help them, let's hope so.

Heroes
Youtube

Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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