English philosopher John Locke argued the three inalienable rights are life, liberty and property. People's Rights Oregon 5, the local branch of the national right-wing activist group formed by Ammon Bundy, asserted the third of those rights this past week when it closed on a 2.75-acre property in Terrebonne.
The property includes two rental homes, RV spaces and a former schoolhouse that more recently was converted into the Lone Pine Military Museum. BJ Soper, the area assistant for PRO5, said the property has no affiliation with PRO5 and will be owned and governed by the Lone Pine Legacy LLC, which is made up of people who paid $1,000 for a share of the company. However, in internal communications on the PRO5 weekly newsletters, the Lone Pine property is frequently referred to as a "home" for the group. When the property was pitched to the organization in February, it was explicitly tied to PRO5 activities.
"The property becomes a community center. A place where PRO5 members and the community can come together, hold events, parties or whatever the imagination can come up with," the PRO5 newsletter stated on Feb. 9 when it first pitched the sale of the property. "The idea is to create a viable fund that our members can buy into that can be left to a beneficiary down the road of the shareholders choosing."
The Lone Pine Legacy Project seeks to "generate property and wealth that can be left behind to the next generation of patriots that will have to pick up where we all left off," according to PRO5's internal communications. Since June the group has held occasional events at the property and helped landscape it. The original goal was to raise $500,000 for the down payment on the $1 million property, but during negotiations the down payment was reduced first to $350,000 and on July 8 Soper announced via his Vimeo account that it was reduced again to $200,000. At that point they'd gotten about $160,000 in funding.
"Our goal is $40,000, we need to raise $40,000 more dollars by the end of July. It's a lot of money, but if Donald Trump can raise $3 million in a night and Ron DeSantis can raise $10 million in a weekend you would think that something like this that's a good cause, we can raise $40,000," Soper said on Vimeo.
Soper said in an email the property will be used as a church and community center, and that the types of events it attracts will be up to the board of directors of Lone Pine LLC. Previously, ideas about classes, music festivals and guest speakers have been tossed out in internal PRO5 communications.
The broader PR network claims to have 60,000 members across 16 states. Locally, PRO5 claims 2,500 members in Deschutes County, but that many are inactive. The PR network is often characterized as a militia. Bundy organized armed standoffs in Nevada and Malheur County, Oregon, before forming People's Rights. Soper, who was present at the standoff in Malheur, also has been involved with militia groups like the Central Oregon Constitutional Guard and Pacific Patriot Network.
Last year Scott Stuart, current Deschutes County GOP chair and active PRO5 member, denied that the organization is a militia. The group does host firearms training, but more often asks supporters to speak at public meetings, get involved with the local Republican party and host predominantly conservative guest speakers. The local chapter has gained institutional power in the Deschutes GOP, and other members won the vice chair, secretary and treasurer spots.