Bundy’s Whitefish visit met with protests

October 14, 2018

Public land advocates and a group supporting its tranfer to private ownership spoke their minds at two separate events Saturday in Whitefish.

Kalispell-based “This West is OUR West” hosted a day-long seminar of featured speakers, most notably Ammon Bundy, the leader of the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016, in which one man died, and a participant in a standoff against law enforcement officials at his father Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada.

Bundy was introduced to the gathering of about 80 people as a car-fleet manager with three sons and three daughters who currently lives in Emmett, Idaho.

“The issue we are having is that states aren’t subsidiaries under the federal government,” Bundy said. “Rather, they are political units with plenary jurisdiction.”

Plenary jurisdiction means a complete power over a particular area with no limitations.

“We wouldn’t need this meeting if we would understand that,” Bundy said, “They (federal government) are going beyond their jurisdiction in so many ways. The U.S. Territory was designed to be temporary until states had enough population to stand on their own.”

Bundy claimed that state jurisdiction is what keeps governments from stepping over their boundaries.

“It’s a jurisdiction that protects our liberties,” he said.

Bundy heads a movement to transfer federal land - be it U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management - to state control.

This has alarmed advocates of public lands, who counter that state-controlled land is much more likely to end up in private ownership.

Hal Herring, who lives in Augusta, Montana and has written for publications such as the Atlantic Monthly and is a contributing editor at Field Stream magazine, spoke of what he considers the dangers of too much state-owned land at a recent meeting of Flathead Wildlife, Inc.

“The federal government does a good job of keeping land public,” Herring said. “States don’t typically have the money to manage much land if one was on the hook for a fine, they’d go broke trying to pay it, so instead, they’d just sell it,” Herring said. “Federal land is the last great cash cow in this country and there are plenty of people that would love to get their hands on it.”

A coalition of groups gathered in Whitefish’s Depot Park Saturday morning to oppose the principles of “This West is OUR West.”

The Montana Wilderness Association, working with the Montana Wildlife Federation, Montana Human Rights Network and Love Lives Here, each touted the virtues of public land and what it means to them.

Grete Gansauer, the Northwest Montana Field Director for the Wilderness Association, led the rally.

“We love our public lands, our neighbors and we reject the sale of our public lands,” Gansauer said to a chorus of cheers.

Whitefish City Council member Melissa Hartman was emotional as she quoted John Steinbeck’s memorable ode to Montana, “I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.”

Hartman implored the crowd to vote, and told them how public land unites Montanans.

“There are so many things dividing us, but what unites us is that we love the land. We may have different political beliefs, but we still hunt together, fish together, hike and bike together.

“Thirty percent of Montana belongs to us,” Hartman said to more cheers. “We need to protect our public lands.”

Reporter Scott Shindledecker may be reached at 406-758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.comw