Where we go from here...
I’m not sure if I have ever been more shocked than I was yesterday when I heard the verdict in the trial of the seven militants who staged an armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Like you, I was left wondering how a band of bullies who filmed themselves trying to provoke a bloody showdown with law enforcement, destroying public property, and desecrating Native American artifacts could be found not guilty?
Legal scholars may debate this verdict for years to come. But for Oregon Wild, and for all Americans who love our National Parks, Wilderness Areas, Wildlife Refuges, and other public lands, the more important question is where do we go from here? For us, the answer is we can’t let the Bundys win, we must dig deep and expand our work to defend America’s public lands.
Ammon and Ryan Bundy (and many others involved in the Malheur occupation) still face charges for their role in the Bunkerville stand-off in Nevada. They are not yet walking free. And this verdict in no way legitimizes the Bundy’s twisted interpretation of The Constitution.
But I am worried that grazing, logging, and mining interests will use this ruling to promote their schemes to transfer America’s public lands to the states and counties. They know full well those entities don’t have the resources to manage them and would have no choice but to privatize. And I am deeply concerned for the safety and wellbeing of the scientists, rangers, and law enforcement officers who work for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Forest Service, and other agencies. We don’t always agree with them, but no American should face violence and intimidation for doing their jobs.
Throughout our 40 year history, Oregon Wild has always stood up to threats and intimidation from bullies who would despoil our state. We are not going to stop now.
We are going to work even harder to defend our beloved public lands. Thanks to support from the Wyss Foundation, I am proud to report we are expanding our programs and hiring a new Public Lands Fellow to work with outdoor recreation enthusiasts, outdoor businesses, state and local elected officials, communities of color and others to ensure America’s public lands remain public and open to all.
But this alone will not be enough to protect our national heritage. All who cherish public lands must advocate for them and demand that our elected leaders respond with courage to those who believe “might makes right.” Now is not the time to shrink from this fight. We must call on Senator Wyden, Senator Merkley, Governor Brown, and President Obama to protect more of our public lands for future generations.
I hope you will join us.
For the wild,