There are arguments pro and con — more con, we think — to the idea that state governments should take over federally owned lands in western states.
A group of western Republicans met in Sandy, Utah, this weekend with the intent of pushing state-takeover of federal lands, claiming that states can do better at managing the properties for natural resource development, recreation and forest-fire fighting.
Sen. Jennifer Fielder, a tea party favorite from Thompson Falls, became a spokesman for the cause, contending that the feds once took good care of western lands, but they no longer do because of “politicized science,” that prompts feds to risk forest fires and to fight efforts to encourage gas, oil and coal extraction.
Just who would operate the forests when the state takes over isn’t clear, but the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks would seem to be a likely candidate. That’s odd because Fielder and her tea party friends have pictured FWP as a bunch of thugs aimed at thwarting the best interests of Montanans.
But whatever arguments for and against the state-takeover, there can be no debate over the actions of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who refuses to leave federal lands that his cattle have grazed on illegally for 20 years. Bundy and armed thugs have threatened Bureau of Land Management agents who want to put a halt to Bundy’s theft of taxpayer land for his cattle. Thousands of ranchers around the nation pay the federal government to let their cattle graze on taxpayer-owned land. Bundy says he doesn’t have to.
As we see it, Bundy had three options:
• Go to his elected representatives and ask them to pass a law declaring that he has the right to graze on taxpayer-owned land for free. He did that — and lost.
• Go to court, asking a judge to rule that BLM is out of order in asking him to pay grazing fees. He did that — and lost.
• Pay his grazing fees like every other rancher. He refuses and instead picks up firearms to ward off agents who legitimately want him to fork over the money he owes.
Don’t get Bundy wrong. He’s not contending that the federal government is overstepping its authority in its actions. He’s contending that there is no federal government.
“I don’t recognize the federal government,” he said.
Not since Jefferson Davis has there been such contempt for the federal government.
So there has been uniform revulsion of Bundy’s unpatriotic attitude, right?
Sadly several conservative politicians, including some running for office in Montana, took up his cause and tried to make him look like a freedom fighter.
There was then gasping for air and faux shock when it came out that Bundy was not only a raging demagogue but a frothing-at-the-mouth racist.
Whoever would have thought?
Bundy unloaded his repulsive thoughts on The New York Times, and then promptly said the paper misquoted him. Oops. The comments were videotaped.
The Times got them right.
We hope that the mainstream politicians were duped into supporting this bully are embarrassed, but we suspect not.
Bundy and his views ought to be discarded from public discourse. Then Fielder can continue her legitimate discussion about the future of federal lands in the West.