Guest Opinions

Did Statesman story show us the real Ammon Bundy and his family? No, it didn’t.

Pat Finnegan
Pat Finnegan

I was disappointed in the recent article about the Bundy family by Nicole Blanchard. Although diverse opinions are expressed, readers are led to believe the Bundys’ behavior is merely the exercise of free speech; whereas, I believe, the Bundys’ actions are nothing but domestic terrorism.

After a career in law enforcement and retiring as a special agent with the U.S. Forest Service during late 2014, I am immensely proud of our federal lands and the dedicated employees who work to protect and manage them. However, as a law enforcement professional, second only to public safety, fair treatment of all people pursuant to the U.S. Constitution is paramount.

While Bundy seems to accept portions of the U.S. Constitution, he ignores critical components therein. The Property and Supremacy Clauses of this powerful document provide ample authority for federal ownership and administration of lands. In addition, our Constitution grants authority to the U.S. Congress to enact specific laws that authorize and direct federal agencies to manage and regulate the use of lands and natural resources within their respective jurisdictions. Further, the state constitutions of Nevada, Oregon and Idaho contain clear language to disclaim any right or title to federal lands within their boundaries.

Ammon Bundy led an armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon in 2016. Kelsey Grey

The 2014 Bundy standoff involved the lawful and necessary removal of cattle owned by Ammon’s father, Cliven Bundy, from BLM lands, pursuant to Bundy’s failure to pay grazing fees, and other offenses. That the cattle were unauthorized to graze BLM land, and that Cliven Bundy remains unaccountable to American taxpayers for the damage his cattle caused to public rangelands remains undisputed.

With respect to his grazing trespasses, federal courts consistently, completely and correctly ruled against Bundy. Pursuant to the roundup of Bundy’s trespass cattle, the armed standoff — whereby Ammon, his brother Ryan and Cliven Bundy summoned armed supporters who terrorized the local community, interfered with the lawful duties of federal officials and threatened their safety — constitutes a cascade of wanton criminal acts.

After efforts by the BLM to de-escalate the violence in Nevada, Ryan and Ammon Bundy incited the armed takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon during 2016. Government officials and the public were threatened with violence, Native American heritage sites were desecrated, and federal property was damaged and destroyed.

Subsequent errors by judges and alleged mistakes by prosecutors and investigators that freed the Bundys of consequence did not diminish the seriousness of their offenses or vindicate them. They and their supporters remain freeloading domestic terrorists who intimidated, threatened and harassed Americans, while their cattle continued to damage public rangelands and armed occupiers destroyed American property at taxpayer expense.

The article portrays Ammon Bundy and his supporters as another group of friendly Americans with anomalous opinions. However, the Bundys have proved that they will incite, justify and participate in violent, illegal acts. If we Idahoans don’t learn from history that the rhetoric of Ammon Bundy and his followers might incite the next Timothy McVeigh to wreak violence on good Americans, shame on us.

Pat Finnegan, of Grangeville, is a retired U.S. Forest Service criminal investigator and currently the principal investigator and consultant with Bluwater Solutions LLC, a private investigation business dedicated to natural resource protection.