Thursday, February 4, 2016

After the Bundys Are Gone

     Well, it's all over but the mop-up in Burns, OR. The Bundys and their thugs are in the wind or in the hoosegow. Maybe things can get back to normal at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the people of Burns can get back to lives without a media circus. Maybe some more thoughtful voices will be heard. We talked about whether we should even broach this topic here at 3EM, and came to the conclusion that maybe we could be one of those voices. We’ve definitely got skin in the game. The public lands of Wyoming and the West are the closest thing we have to a historic context for previous generations of our family. More importantly, they're also the closest thing we have to a legacy for future generations of our family. The public lands are our home place.
     Let's begin by getting a few things straight. First, the Bundys and their ilk never represented anyone but themselves. They certainly never represented ranchers in the interior West. My observation, based on 61 years of experience suggests that westerners in general (and ranchers specifically) tend to resist representation. Every ranch is different. Every ranching family is different. Every outfit has different needs, different goals. They are no different than family owned restaurants or family owned grocery stores in that respect. And rest assured, if you could ever get these notoriously independent folks to agree on anything, it would not be to appoint a whack job like Ammon Bundy as their spokesman.  

     Second, the last thing we need now out here in flyover country is some sort of running gun battle (metaphorically speaking) over whether there should be livestock on public lands. The hardcore greens would like to rekindle that fight because it will bring them membership and money. That’s a sucker’s game, and we should treat it with as much disdain as we reserve for the Bundys. The real work that's being done on the ground for trout and sage grouse and all the other critters out there in the sagebrush sea is being done by hunters and anglers and ranchers working together on projects that benefit us all. Working together gets stuff done.
     Finally, let's not forget what the real problem is. The problem is not a few pistoleros with tinfoil hats and conspiracy theories. The problem is a well orchestrated and well funded effort to transfer lands now administered by the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service over to the private sector. That's what they want. And they'll continue to starve those agencies for budget so they look incompetent while they say they want to “take back” our public lands. They don't want to take them back. They want to liquidate them. They want the home place. That's the problem.
So before you decide to refresh that old “Cattle Free by ’93” dogma, I hope you’ll think twice. And I hope you don't have to think twice about giving the public lands to anyone but the people who control them now – us, the American people.