Leave it to Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, to take advantage of an escalating bad situation in Oregon to espouse his views on how “federal” land management “strips hardworking Americans of the ability to profit from their labors.”
Let’s get one thing straight: This is not federal land. It is public land. The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is owned by Americans from Anchorage to Miami. It is not owned, and never has been, by the likes of the gun-toting seditionists who are holed up in the refuge headquarters. Whether it’s the Malheur Refuge, or the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, or the City of Rocks National Monument, America’s public lands are managed for the benefit of millions of Americans — not just the parochial “profit” interests of the livestock, logging and mining industries Labrador champions.
Americans own our public lands, and we’ve hired the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to provide the stewardship that will provide all of us the benefits we as a nation have identified that those lands should provide. Clean water. Clean air. Open space. Wildlife. Fish. Recreation. Every day the stewards of our public lands balance as best they can these resources and values.
These public lands were secured from the depredations of profit-driven industries by the vision of people like President Theodore Roosevelt, who recognized that without proactive steps these lands would be overrun by those who see nothing but a bottom line of their personal wealth. Thanks to the reservation of public lands, we in Idaho still can enjoy cedar trees that were old when Lewis and Clark came through and rivers that are as wild as they were when Idaho became a state. This good fortune was not an accident. It came about by the foresight of others before who long recognized that too often “profit” translates to muddy streams, clear-cut hillsides and overgrazed deserts.
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Equally disturbing is Labrador’s attempt to trivialize the crimes for which the Hammonds were convicted. The transcript of the Hammonds’ court case is clear on the magnitude of the crimes for which they are now serving the remainder of their sentences. One of the basic foundations of this great nation is the rule of law. The Hammonds broke the law and are now paying the price.
Labrador’s labeling the felonious actions of an armed mob as “civil disobedience” is an embarrassment for the citizens of Idaho. Idahoans deserve public officials who respect the law instead of providing a platform for those who believe that they have a right to force their minority opinion upon the nation with the threat of armed violence.
There’s no patriotism involved in the Oregon situation. Those championing the seditionists want to turn back the clock on Idaho and America’s public lands to nearly a century ago, to when wildlife, clean water and clean air came in poor seconds to “profits.”
Kevin Lewis, of Boise, has spent a lifetime recreating on public lands throughout the West.