Wednesday, November 06, 2019

DuBois column: An attack on Westerners and freedom of speech

An attack on Westerners and freedom of speech

The Hearing

On the very day I am writing this column, a subcommittee of the House Committee on Natural Resources is scheduled to hold a hearing, the title of which is No More Standoffs: Protecting Federal Employees And Ending The Culture Of Anti-Government Attacks And Abuse.

And some think elections don’t matter?

Look at what the Committee posted on their Facebook page three days before the hearing:

“Extremists – sometimes encouraged by elected officials – treat our federal employees as enemies and subject them to illegal threats and abuse. The people who protect the public lands we all love need protection themselves, especially when anti-government rhetoric leads to real physical abuse. Join us at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 22, for our hearing on combating anti-government extremism in all its forms and protecting our Public Lands.”

This is what the Committee posted on the day before the hearing:

“Remember the heavily armed Bundy militia taking over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon a few years ago? Public Lands managers have faced HUNDREDS of threats, attacks and even murder attempts over the past few years. We're holding a hearing on Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. Eastern on the serious human consequences of anti-government rhetoric.”

I wonder if they believe pro-government rhetoric is just as dangerous?

There are three non-agency witnesses scheduled to testify, and their written testimony does not reflect the hyperbole used by the Committee majority.

The first scheduled to testify is former County Commissioner and rancher Dan Nichols, who opposed the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and is no friend of the Bundys. In his written testimony, Nichols says:

“There are lessons to be learned from the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, as well as Harney Counties experiences with the government’s management of public lands resources. It is important to note that the majority of ranchers in Harney County did not support armed occupation of the Refuge. But at the same time, there are legitimate grievances with federal land management policies. Without a forum in which to air and address these concerns – and a fair, collaborative process by which to resolve them – we continue to push more people toward the hostile, unacceptable approaches adopted by individuals such as the Bundys. Much of what is often described as being “antigovernment” is really coming from a place of feeling excluded or on the losing end of unbalanced natural resource management.”

The second person scheduled to testify is Dr. Peter Walker, a professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon, and the author of the book Sagebrush Collaboration: How Harney County Defeated the Takeover of the Malheur National Refuge.
In his written testimony, the professor makes two points of interest. 

First, Dr. Walker states: 

“It is important to note that while the media at the time often described the militants as ranchers, in fact only one of the outside militant leaders, and only two active local supporters, could even plausibly be described as working ranchers. The overwhelming majority of outside militants and local supporters had no direct interactions with federal resource management agencies. The occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was primarily an ideologically-based anti-federal government political movement, not a movement of ranchers, loggers, or other resource users.”

Dr. Walker asserts, “As a nation we are enormously fortunate that by chance the militants chose Harney County.” Why? Because, “the outside militants had no idea Harney County was recognized nationally as something of a poster child for collaborative approaches, including building positive relationships with federal workers.” 

One can only speculate what the final outcome would have been had the occupiers selected a different area in the West.

The third non-agency presenter was Katie Tubb with the Heritage Foundation, who explained why there is so much potential for conflict in the management of federal lands:

“…management of these massive and diverse lands is disjointed, being spread across multiple departments and bureaus governed by a complex of overlapping and often conflicting laws, missions, and regulations as well as historical uses and arrangements predating certain federal laws. Different administrations have interpreted and implemented the same laws guiding management in drastically different ways to either encourage access to federal lands or heavily restrict their use. Special interest groups leverage these complexities to pressure elected leaders and bureaucrats to enact policies that benefit powerful constituencies. A litigation culture all but invited by broad, unclear, or outdated laws has led to perverse incentives.”

Notice her testimony does not list “anti-government rhetoric” as a significant or primary cause of conflict. Ms. Tubb uses the rest of her testimony to provide many examples of instances where local groups and entities have come together to resolve conflicts.

The hearing was chaired by Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM). In her opening statement, Rep. Haaland unfortunately chose to emphasize the theme of “anti-government rhetoric” and launched a partisan attack on Senators Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) for some of their public statements and on former Utah Governor Gary Herbert for signing land transfer legislation, and by implication blaming them for contributing to the “culture of threats and violence.”

Ranking minority member John Curtis (R-Utah) was having none of this. In his opening statement Rep. Curtis took issue with the “assertion there is a widespread problem of anti-government threats and abuse occurring in the West.” Rep. Curtis stated that “calling for local ownership and control of public lands does not embody an attack on the federal government” and that “the vast majority of my constituents impacted by federal land management decisions are hardworking taxpayers raising families and contributing to their communities.” “Land owners and users who disagree with specific management decisions should not be made to feel that somehow they will be placed on a government watch list” said Rep. Curtis, and “vilifying Westerners and those who disagree with federal management decisions” does nothing to contribute to the proper stewardship of the land.

Clearly this hearing was designed to be part of the larger left-wing attempts to silence those who disagree with current government policy, and it is sad to see Rep. Haaland participate in this effort to limit diversity of opinion on public issues.

Until next time, be a nuisance to the devil and 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 ( and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship and The DuBois Western Heritage Foundation

This column originally appeared in the November issues of The New Mexico Stockman and The Livestock Market Digest.


Anonymous said...

About the same time as the standoff, protesters disrupted the 2016 public opening of bids at the GOM lease sale. The Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals was either pushed or tripped in the mayhem. Federal employees working the opening of bids were injured when protesters stormed the dias and pushed back tables in an attempt to disrupt the event. The opening of bids is now closed to the public and done via live streaming. Bet that was not discussed in the hearing.

Frank DuBois said...

Thanks. I didn't listen to the whole damn thing, but that is the first I've heard of the incident you described.

Floyd said...

Interesting that the committee leadership structured the testimony on the basis of "...Rep. Haaland unfortunately chose to emphasize the theme of “anti-government rhetoric...”
Did anyone in this committee take time to define the word "government" as being used by the committee and the witnesses? Most people incorrectly assume that "government" means the system established by the Constitution that includes leadership by Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches. Our liberal progressive's tend to assign new meanings to good words without letting people know what it now means. I would suggest that the word "government" as used by those nice folks employed by the "government" only means the assembled government employees and agencies. People like Rep. Haaland are simply ancillary staff that is used to provide money and opportunity to the real government meaning the agencies and employees.
Their accusation of "anti-government" appears to be applied to anyone who threatens their job security and access to the taxpayers cash.