Friday, January 15, 2016

I have a lot in common with the Bundys. Here's what I'd like to say to them.

by Chris Dempsey

Like the Bundy brothers now illegally occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, I'm a lifelong rural Westerner, and I believe that if I were to talk with them, we'd most likely find we have a lot in common. 

There's the way our lives were shaped by the land, for instance. I was born in Nevada, and I grew up and now live in southwestern Idaho. Though my family worked as carpenters, we lived on small farms where we raised cows and grew hay for the winter. Like the Bundys and many of their allies, I come from hard working, blue-collar folks.

From them I learned to love the land, especially the Northwestern high desert. I've hunted the uplands of eastern Oregon from Juntura to Rome, and from Leslie Gulch to the Imnaha. Much of that country is open range where cattle graze. Thanks to ranchers, I've watered my bird dogs at troughs where ranchers had enhanced a spring, benefitting both cattle and wildlife.

I imagine that if the Bundys and I sat down over coffee, we'd start trading stories about our early years. Pretty quickly, though, our differences would emerge. They'd insist that taking over a wildlife refuge is speaking for "the people" – Westerners frustrated by the federal government. I couldn't let that stand.

I'd respond by saying: That wildlife refuge you're occupying belongs to me and to 320 million other Americans. You are trespassing, taking advantage of the hospitality and tolerance of the rest of the American people. You are abusing the rights you so readily invoke by occupying the refuge indefinitely. I would remind you that you are free to stay a maximum of 14 days, because that is the camping limit in most places, and it was put in place so that everyone can share the land.

That wildlife refuge you're occupying belongs to me and to 320 million other Americans.

And therein lies the problem. Go try to manage anything that has 320 million owners, each claiming an equal right to have a say in how it is managed.  Just try it.  Go "collaborate" with 320 million owners. 

No comments: