We are occupied by the occupiers & Trump tramples on lands transfer

by Frank DuBois

The Bundy Bunch

Is this a Bundy bungle or Bundy bravery?  I’ve been going back and forward on this for two weeks.

I wrote in November of last year about the injustice of the trials and sentencing of the Hammonds for burning 140 acres of federal land. Steve Hammond and his son were tried, convicted and had served their prison terms. However, the feds appealed, saying the ranchers had been prosecuted under an anti-terrorism law that mandated minimum sentences of five years. The feds won and the Hammonds have headed back to prison, as terrorists.

We all know this is not really about fire.  After all, the feds offered to drop all 22 charges if the Hammonds would just sign over two thirds of their ranch to the government. Think of the abuse here.

Oregon Farm Bureau President Barry Bushue said this “is an example of gross government overreach, and the public should be outraged. He said the “verdict is also hypocritical given BLM’s own harm to public and private grazing lands, which goes without consequence.”  Bushue continued, “This prosecution will have a chilling effect across the West among ranchers, foresters, and others who rely on federal allotments and permits.”

To the extent the actions of the Bundys and the locals brought attention to this grave miscarriage of justice, so much the better.

Then came the occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Still there were some positive, educational articles about the history of federal lands, the benefits of livestock grazing and so on.  Reporters were actually using terms like allotments, permits, etc.

When it became evident the occupiers were there to stay, the dam broke.  The Environmental Kingdom ruled by the envirocrats and the environmental groups felt threatened. Stories started appearing about welfare ranchers, artificially low grazing fees, and even how ISIS supported the militia members who were occupying the refuge. Individual members of the occupying group didn’t help themselves with some very stupid statements, and some were disclosed as convicted felons, and others lied about their personal history.

The media coverage had turned from favorable, to neutral to decidedly negative.  No longer are there discussions of why the feds own so much land in the West, the pros and cons of federal management and what alternatives there are to the current system.  Groups and their media buddies are using the militia occupation to tar other attempts, such as that promoted by the American Lands Council, to have an orderly transfer of many of these lands to state control.            

Some of the GOP candidates for President have weighed in on the issue. Ted Cruz has urged the militia members to “stand down peacefully.” “Everyone has a Constitutional right to protest, to speak our minds, but we don’t have a constitutional right to use force and violence and threaten force and violence on others,” Cruz said. Marco Rubio says “you can’t be lawless.” “We live in a republic. There are ways to change the laws of this country and the policies. If we get frustrated with it, that’s why we have elections,” Rubio says. And Ben Carson says, “I think right now the government’s handling it in the right way by not being confrontational.”

New Mexico U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich has thrown in with the “law and order” enviros by calling for federal action. In a letter to the Dept. of Justice he states he wants the rule of law restored by bringing “those responsible to justice.” He further urges the Dept. to “use all of the resources at your disposal to fully prosecute anyone who has broken the law.” On his Facebook page Heinrich says this whole episode by “armed radicals” is “only the latest example in a well-organized and well-funded campaign to seize and sell off public lands.”

As I write this, Ammon Bundy is talking to the FBI and is demanding the negotiations be in public view, while the feds want everything kept in secret.  Without knowing the final outcome, it’s hard to know how this will play out for the ranching community as a whole. Will this be just another blip on feds growing control of the people and resources of the West, or will this be a turning point towards a more reasonable, responsible and balanced solution?

Stay tuned for Act III.

UPDATE:  Not long after this column was submitted the news broke of the tragic slaying of LaVoy Finicum and the capture of the Bundy Brothers. Ammon Bundy has been arraigned and has issued a statement asking the remainder of the occupiers to stand down and go home. I believe the question I asked above is more valid than ever and is a long way from being answered.  Act III, indeed, has begun.

Trump No, Cruz & Carson
Yes on lands transfer

Donald Trump recently said he was totally against transferring federal lands to the states. In an interview with the editor of Outdoor Life Trump had the following to say:

“I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do. I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble? And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold. We have to be great stewards of this land.… And the hunters do such a great job—I mean, the hunters and the fishermen and all of the different people that use that land.”

The idea the only way something can be “great” is for it to be owned by the feds is scary to me.  And besides, wouldn’t that also apply to Hotels & Casinos?

Ben Carson says, “I think it’s ridiculous that the government owns so much land and that we should enact a program whereby we gradually begin to restore that land to the states,” while acknowledging, “we can’t do it all in one fell swoop because they wouldn’t be able to afford it.”

Ted Cruz says, “I think it is completely indefensible that the federal government is America’s largest landlord.” “I believe we should transfer as much federal land as possible back to the states and ideally back to the people,” said Cruz, making exceptions for national parks and military bases.  “If I am elected president, we have never had a president who is as vigorously committed to transferring as much federal land as humanely possible back to the states and back to the people,” said Cruz.

Till next time, be a nuisance to the devil, and now more than ever, don’t forget to check that cinch.

Frank DuBois was the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003, is the author of a blog: The Westerner (www.thewesterner.blogspot.com) and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship and The DuBois Western Heritage Foundation.