Ammon Bundy, son of the criminal Cliven Bundy, summed it up best. He said he is taking the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge – a place so special it qualifies as a Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve – hostage until federal officials give federal land to the extractive industries.
He said he wants the land turned over to locals so:
“…ranchers [can] get back to ranching and the miners back to mining, putting the loggers back to logging.”
Currently, the refuge is managed for the people of the United States, which means loggers, miners and ranchers can’t run roughshod over our interests.
But Bundy doesn’t value our interests. What’s more, he doesn’t want us to have a voice.
That’s the thing about public lands. All projects on public land must be proceeded by public comment. What’s more, regular people can sue to stop projects that violate an agency’s rules.
Bundy doesn’t like that. In fact, the land grabbers from Utah Rep. Ken Ivory to failed Idaho Lt. Gov. candidate Jim Chmelik really, really don’t want the public to have a voice.
They argue that our voice interferes with mining, logging and ranching. And sometimes it does.
Take for instance the recent lawsuit by the Nez Perce Tribe against the U.S. Forest Service over a logging project adjacent to their reservation. Tribal members are worried the project will harm a fish hatchery they operate.
Or consider Morgan and Olga Wright who sued to stop a Selway River salvage logging operation from barreling through a decommissioned road on their property. Their victory over the Forest Service prevented their front lawn from becoming an industrialized thoroughfare.
Both are examples of public input slowing down extractive operations. And if that warrants taking the public’s voice away from land management, then we have a problem.
It really begs a question: who are the people opposing these projects? Are they folks from out-of-state? Big-city interlopers? No. They are locals.
Therein is the irony. Bundy’s plan of giving land to the loggers, miners and ranchers would actually reduce local control. Instead of a government bureaucracy mandated to take public comment, wealthy landlords could do whatever the hell they wanted, regardless of the effects on local people like you and me.
Bundy’s advantage is that most people don’t understand this. Certainly the major media outlets from back east don’t. That’s why he gets away unchallenged with claims that he is doing something admirable when all he wants is divestiture – an auction to the highest bidder that will lead to corporate ownership of the land.
That would be bad for you, me, and most Americans. The ultimate irony is that it would also be bad for Ammon Bundy. If a corporation bought the public land his father is stealing forage from, the executives of that company would be far less lenient toward daddy than the Bureau of Land Management.
For some reason, Ammon hasn’t really thought that through, which isn’t surprising. Apparently, he also forgot to pack snacks.
Derek Farr, Executive Director