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Monday, January 11, 2016

Crackpots in Cowboy Hats

The title, "Crackpots in Cowboy Hats," is from a New York Times opinion piece by Timothy Egan. The entire column can be found here:

One of the great things about America is its public lands: national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, wilderness areas and other special places set aside to preserve nature and the plants and animals that live there. They are meant to be open spaces preserved for human recreation and as habitat for the plants and animals that call these areas home.

Unfortunately, a small group of crackpots has decided to take over a wildlife sanctuary in Oregon until the federal government accedes to its demands that public lands be turned over to local management. Wow. These demands are so ridiculous that they leave me dumbfounded. Why in the world would the federal government turn over public lands to a small group of people? What about the word 'public' do these clowns not understand? What about the rights of people -- the majority, by the way -- not included in the select group of fools that thinks it should be given control over public lands? They have no more right to take over public lands than I do. These lands have been set aside for the enjoyment of the public, not to exploited by a few numbskulls that refuse to recognize the authority of the federal government.

Unfortunately, this group of law-breakers is just the latest in a deliberate -- and growing -- gun-toting campaign aimed at seizing public lands and exploiting them for their private benefits, from grazing and mining to logging. I, and I would guess the vast majority of the American public, do not want public lands turned over to a select few crackpots for exploitation and their personal enrichment.  

Is it not enough that public lands are already leased to cattle ranchers for grazing, at prices far below what other ranchers pay to use private lands to graze their cattle? And at least one rancher owes the government more than $1 million in grazing fees. His refusal to pay, and the feds' refusal to either collect payment or remove his cattle from federal lands in 2014, is a major reason for the current stand-off. The current group of thugs, emboldened by the government's non-response to the last incident, is led by a son of the Nevada rancher -- the chief crackpot in a cowboy hat.

I love our public lands. Yellowstone National Park is my favorite place to visit. These lands, and the resources they hold, do not belong to us as individuals, as corporations or as special interests. They are there for the enjoyment -- not for the consumptive use, raping, pillaging or financial benefit -- of individuals or special interest groups.

I grew fed up with the attitude of many ranchers toward wildlife that might set a toe on public lands used for grazing. These misguided ranchers don't hesitate to kill wolves, bears or other 'undesirable' wildlife that might threaten their cows. So I have given up eating beef.

I know that federal officials are trying to avoid a confrontation in the current stand-off. They don't want to do anything to turn this group of gun-toting thugs into martyrs for their misguided cause. But how about doing something to hasten their surrender, such as turning off the heat and phones in the building, and cutting off access to the building by reporters and sympathizers? They should refuse to allow any new supplies to be delivered to the crackpots. But instead, they have allowed more gun-toting crackpots to enter the area held by these American terrorists.

Now ask yourself this: If a federal building were taken over by armed Muslims -- 'terrorists in turbans' -- or armed black men, would the response be the same? Would officials just sit back and try to wait out the invaders? Would they be offered safe passage back to their homes, as was done with the crackpots in cowboy hats? Would officials allow reinforcements to join the initial group of trespassers?

I think we all know the answer to those questions.