Two primary figures in the recent armed occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon drove over from Arizona. Ammon Bundy, car fleet manager from Phoenix, AZ and unfortunately recently deceased LaVoy Finicum, Mormon rancher and father of 11 from Colorado City, AZ, wanted one thing, to steal public land that belongs to you and me. They shouted America and liberty and federal government and carried around the stars and stripes, and many in our meme and sound bite consuming society took the bait. You might say to yourself, “These are hard working, blue collar Americans standing up to the big, bad, incompetent federal government, right?” That might be what you’re hearing in your Facebook echo chamber, but nope, it is not the case at all folks.
Ranchers as a lot are hard working Americans, representative of the work ethic and grit that helped build this country, and the majority is not on board. Stacy Davies, the general manager of Roaring Springs ranches in Diamond OR, and also the marketing director of Country Natural Beef, a co-op of family ranches, had this to say, “We don’t support unlawful activity from people representing the ranching community. On behalf of Congressman Walden, I went to the refuge on that Monday morning and asked Ammon (Bundy) to leave.”
These wing bats are felons and would be thieves. They had a sweetheart deal going with us too but wanted more. They wanted the general public to subsidize their private business by letting them graze for free and if we didn’t, then screw us; they’ll just take the land by force. The lease rates private interests pay to graze cattle on public land managed by federal agencies is a modicum of what they’d have to pay a private owner to graze on similar land. This isn’t just the case in Oregon either; it’s the same all over the western United States. This was an act of greed and entitlement, plain and simple.
“Federal” has become a dirty word, especially here in Arizona. Our state is a hot bed of anti-federal government sentiment and would very likely be a coddling, cozy place for the extremists to set up shop next. You’ve either already heard, or will soon, ideas like “giving federal land back to the state”, “Arizona can manage it better than the feds”, “if the states own it your accesses won’t change”. It’s all a bunch of hooey. These lands belong to the American people, all of us. The federal government is the manager. Proponents of privatizing America’s public lands see the current political climate as an opening and they’re trying to run through it like a running back who smells the goal line. Last April Governor Ducey signed House Bill 2658 which established a committee to study the feasibility of a public lands transfer. The committee isn’t studying the feasibility. They are putting together a propaganda campaign and strategizing how to get a land transfer bill passed.
This movement is not American. It’s a greed driven attempt by a few to steal from the many, and please do not make the mistake of marginalizing it. This is an organized, well-funded, and on-going attempt to fleece the American public. Groups like the Bundy led occupants are attached to strings controlled by wealthy, entitled businessmen and politicians. Puppet masters who could care less about ranchers or the blue collar Americans they purport to represent dangle them out in front of cameras as a diversion. Pseudo-foundations like the American’s Land Council, led by CEO and elected Utah House Representative Ken Ivory receive “donations” from state and local governments to work on public land transfer legislation. These checks are written with our tax dollars. Connect those dots. Your tax dollars are being funneled to an organization that’s attempting to steal your land. How would you react if they slid someone a fifty to break into your house and grab your flat screen? Groups like the ALC also receive funding from private businesses giddy over the profit potential public land sales represent. Not hard to connect those dots.
Let’s imagine together that a parcel of sacred Native American land like Oak Flat or primo elk and deer habitat has valuable resources below it. This beautiful piece of what used to be public land, owned by all of us and managed for our mutual benefit has recently been sold to the state of Arizona. What do you think Senator McCain or Governor Ducey would vote to do with it?
I will not stand ideally by while my children’s birthright and legacy of public lands is sold off to benefit the greedy and entitled. This is not the America I want to leave for my daughters and their kids. How about you?
Here are some key facts for your edification and use:
- The states never owned these lands. Each state, at statehood, was given parcels of land by the federal government. The states never owned the land within their boundaries. The remainder of land is held in the public trust and managed by federal agencies. It belongs to all of us. See the State Trust Land’s website here https://land.az.gov/ for more information.
- State trust land exists for one reason, to create the highest economic benefit for the public school system. Public lands are managed by federal agencies for multi-use – that includes both public recreation and resource extraction. Here is the first sentence of the Arizona State Land Department’s mission statement, “To Manage State Trust lands and resources to enhance value and optimize economic return for the Trust beneficiaries, consistent with sound business management principles, prudent stewardship, and conservation needs supporting socio-economic goals for citizens here today and future generations. “
- State Trust Land is NOT public land. The rules are different. Camping, hunting, mountain biking, target shooting – activities allowed on America’s public lands are either off limits or severely restricted on State Trust Land. Sale is also restricted on America’s public lands. State Trust Land can be liquated by the state to “benefit the public school system” or more likely to continue the pocket lining of state politicians.
- States cannot afford to manage these lands. The cost of fire suppression alone would bankrupt State Trust Land departments. Again, the pro land sale sect understands this math and intends to use it later as rationale for the eventual sale and privatization of these lands.
- Pro public land sale politicians and citizens have no expectation of these lands remaining open to the general public. Well, unless they are barren of resources and devoid of benefit to private business. If feasible, they will be leased, mined, or sold. Gates locked and access to me and you lost forever.