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Zealots on the Range
An email from an ex-student (this past Thursday) alerted me that a certain “computer person” named “Alex Hart” had posted my home address on the “Bundy Ranch”Facebook page. Previously, I had posted articles about the current Bundy situation, suggesting that indeed the BLM had been too heavy handed, that Mr. Bundy should pay his grazing fees and that many of the individuals posting “data” about public/BLM lands were simply wrong. I had been met with everything from a cacophony of “Agenda 21” conspiracy alerts to the reasoned dialogue of computer screen pundits: “fuck you”, “troll”, -and “liberal socialist.” I expected that, but, when “Alex Hart” found and posted my address–telling me, in effect, that they weren’t interested in facts or honest discussion and, moreover, that they knew where I live—a line was crossed. I “blocked” Alex Harts’ messages and sent a note to the Facebook team.
I don’t live in the cheap seats. My passion for public lands goes back decades, and I am willing to defend these lands that my hero Theodore Roosevelt had the vision to protect. As a young boy, I traveled to fish in Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge in Maine and bird watched at Brigantine NWR in New Jersey. I spoke at a US Senate hearing back in the 90s in support of protecting Opal Creek in the Willamette National Forest (now a protected wilderness). I spend many a day hiking the Siuslaw NF close to my home. In the 90s I travelled several times to the “Warner Creek Encampment” in the Willamette National Forest to help protestors, being civilly disobedient as they blocked a proposed timber sale. Yet, it was while protesting a timber sale on BLM land in Alsea, Oregon at a site “Tobe Creek” that I – came to see the high stakes involved in using your constitutional first amendment rights. As my two young daughters, my dad (a World War II veteran) and I toured the proposed clearcut site, we were videotaped by heavily – armed BLM officials. That day we used our constitutional right to protest. We did not point weapons at the BLM.
Now, having lived through the failed Reagan era “Sagebrush Rebellion” and the failed “Gingrich Revolution” (the so-called Wise Use Movement), I watch fearfully as the Koch Brothers fund the privatization drumbeat using Mr. Bundy as a straw man. As Fox News anchor Megan Kelly stated, Bundy “doesn’t have a leg to stand on.” Mr. Bundy does not have the law on his side, nor does he have history on his side and his “supporters” seemingly are more interested in a confrontation than a solution. What they don’t realize is that they are being duped, that they are being played by the likes of the Koch Brothers. As the Breitbart Unmasked site has explained: “ALEC and Americans for Prosperity have been fanning the fire under these efforts to “reclaim” federal public lands. ALEC is a conservative corporate front group, funded by fossil-fuel interests such as the Koch brothers and Exxon-Mobil, which develops legislation for state lawmakers to introduce in their legislatures. ALEC has endorsed many of the bills turning public lands over to the states”. As the Associated Press reported, “Lawmakers in Utah and Arizona have said the legislation is endorsed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that advocates conservative ideals, and they expect it to eventually be introduced in other Western states.”
Does Mr. Bundy know that the Koch Brothers graze on public lands? One brother has been trying to “acquire” nearly 2,000 acres of public lands. Tax payers do not want our public lands sold off to the highest bidder. The “faux rebellion” this time around has billions of dollars backing their propaganda, with Fox “News” fueling the fires of discontent with provocative and misleading reporting. The Bundy situation has escalated into an armed, facts-be-damned campaign of fear and intimidation.
For the record, I want NO extraction on public lands. No fracking, no oil drilling, no logging, very limited grazing, no mining; I prefer these lands be used for fishing and hiking and camping and limited hunting. These lands hold some of our nation’s most pristine water and nearly 50% of all endangered species. They offer a vision of what a sustainable future might be. I want politicians and a president who view public lands the same way that Theodore Roosevelt did. According to the National Park Service site, “after he became President in 1901, Roosevelt used his authority to protect wildlife and public lands by creating the U.S. Forest Service and establishing 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 4 National Game Preserves, 150 National Forests, 5 National Parks, and enabling the 1906 American Antiquities Act which he used to proclaim 18 National Monuments. During his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt protected approximately 230,000,000 acres of public land.”
To “Alex Hart”: you don’t have to use intimidation. It isn’t necessary and it isn’t effective. Ironically, I was on BLM lands two weeks ago, taking pictures of wild mustangs at Steens Mountain. The BLM has beautiful camp sites that I use for the very low price of $8/per night. Yet, Mr. Bundy can graze his cattle on the taxpayers’ land for $1.35 per animal/per month. He should be appreciative. For a month of camping, I would pay nearly $240 stimulate the local economy, relish in seeing the mule deer, antelope, coyotes, waterfowl and mustangs and I wouldn’t eat a single blade of grass!
No, Alex Hart, your intimidation will fail. Mr. Bundy and your supporters: you would be better advised to reject being pawns for the privatization agenda of the Koch Brothers and Americans for Prosperity. Already, the Republican controlled Congress has voted and is planning votes to weaken the Endangered Species Act, to open National Parks to oil drilling, give away BLM lands to the lunacy of tar sands extraction and hydraulic fracturing of natural gas. They want to strip the president of the American Antiquities Act. These “sagebrush patriots” should instead fight to repeal the 1872 Mining Act and reform the “Wilderness Services” department which kills predators on the public’s dime. They should recognize the economic value of National Parks and Monuments, Wildlife refuges and BLM lands. Most importantly, they should refrain from armed confrontation.
The BLM should rethink their “armed approach.” It’s frightening– but that doesn’t give you or anyone else the right to point arms at law enforcement agents. Remember, we are a nation of laws. We are also a nation of people who often disagree with each other, and that’s not a problem. We should welcome open and civil discussion.
Theodore Roosevelt had a vision of lands held in trust for seven generations to come. It is a vision which those of us who look to protect public lands will continue to fiercely defend.
John F. Borowski is a longtime environmental and marine science teacher, his pieces has appeared in the NY Times, UTNE Reader, Commondreams and various newspapers. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org