A man who has claimed 10 acres of federal land in central Oregon says he’ll comply with a summons to appear in court, but he’ll die rather than give up the land.
“If they want the land, they can take my life,” Ken Medenbach told the Herald and News newspaper. “Our forefathers died for these rights 200 years ago. I’ll die for them now.”
Medenbach said he has been avoiding authorities but probably will appear in court Tuesday, although he plans to challenge the authority of the judge to hear the case.
Meanwhile, Larry Bottoms, a neighbor of Medenbach’s, has filed a similar claim to 20 acres of federal land with the Klamath County clerk.
Medenbach laid claim on April 18 to 640 acres of U.S. Bureau of Land Management land next to his own 2.5-acre parcel in northern Klamath County between La Pine and Gilchrist. He began cutting down trees and hauling them in an old beer truck.
Last week, a federal judge in Eugene, Ore., issued an order for Medenbach to get off the land and appear in U.S. District Court next Tuesday.
This week, Medenbach reduced his claim to 10 acres, saying he feels that is a fair share of the 30 million acres of federal land in Oregon for each of the state’s 3 million citizens.
Medenbach, 42, describes himself as a born-again Christian and member of the Central Oregon Regional Militia, a group dedicated to preserving the right to bear arms. He refuses to get a driver’s license or building permits and says he keeps a semiautomatic rifle for protection.
He has said God told him to take the land. He claimed it under the belief that the federal government can hold property only for military installations and post offices.
Outside his home is a barricade made of discarded refrigerators filled with sand and gravel. There also are dozens of water heaters and 27 cars that don’t run.
He earns about $400 a month working at odd jobs and has total assets worth $2,800, according to a financial statement.
“It appears at times that he is looking for a confrontation,” U.S. attorney Jim Sutherland said. “We are doing what we can do to avoid a confrontation. But on the other hand, he is in violation of federal law, and we need to do something about it.”