Saturday, July 12, 2014

Part 1

The War on Wolves, American Public Wilderness Lands, Climate Change, Global Environment, Special Interest Groups, 
and The U.S.A. Congress 
What is the Deep Root that Connects All of Them? 


There is a lot of ground to cover here, beginning with current issues and moving backward. In this manner, we can best make the connection of what exactly is going on in the U.S.A. in regards to our wilderness, wildlife, climate change and the policy makers in Congress, who appear to be favoring financial profit versus protecting our nationally owned public wild lands and treasures.

This is an editorial series with links to published news. Facts will be presented, and as facts, they cannot be disputed. 

The western U.S.A. is under siege. 

We ask that you please read, become incredibly informed, and vote during the 2016 elections, if you are a resident of the U.S.A., and you do not wish to see your national heritage, your birthright as an American, sold off to the highest bidder at the behest of misguided zealots who happens to hold office in our Congress. 

Vote them out. We must. Our future depends on it. 

The two articles below give us a background on an attempt by the far right in Congress to wrangle American public lands out of the control of the U.S.A. Federal Government jurisdiction . These lands belong to every single American citizen, not to a group of radicals who believe that the states should control our collective wildlands.

Part 1
The Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act ~ S. 2363, Selling off our American Public Lands, 
Public Grazing and Cliven Bundy

Reposted from Think Progress:

Photo credit : Shutterstock

By Claire Moser, Guest Contributor to Think Progress

July 10, 2014 2:09 PM ~ Updated 2:17 PM

After a busy few months trying to impeach Attorney General Eric Holder, increase carbon pollution, and wipe out limits on campaign contributions, Tea Party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is now working to sell off America’s national forests, parks, and other public lands.

On Tuesday, Cruz filed an amendment to the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 (S. 2363) to force the federal government to sell off a significant portion of the country’s most prized lands in the West. The amendment would prohibit the federal government from owning more than 50 percent of any land within one state, and requires the government to transfer the excess land to the states or sell it to the highest bidder.
Federal lands make up one-fifth of the nation’s landmass and over 50 percent of the land Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Alaska. Under Cruz’s proposal, these states, which are home to some of the country’s most beloved national parks, forests, wildlife areas and iconic natural resources, would be forced to either pass the costs of managing these lands along to state taxpayers or, more likely, give them away or sell them off for mining, drilling, and logging.

Cruz’s amendment is the latest in a radical effort by right-wing lawmakers to give control of America’s public lands to states or private industry. The movement garnered national attention earlier this year with the help of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who spurred a standoff with federal officials after refusing to pay more than $1 million in grazing fees owed to taxpayers. Bundy notoriously refuses to acknowledge federal authority, telling CNN in April that “I’ll be damned if this is the property of the United States. They have no business here.”

The amendment aligns Cruz with the other 15 incumbent members of Congress who agree with Bundy that America’s public lands should be seized by the states or sold off for drilling, mining, or logging. Highlighted in a new series from the Center for American Progress Action Fund, these “Bundy’s Buddies” support the extremely costly and unconstitutional proposals to seize and sell off America’s public lands, which are also far from mainstream views of Americans in the West.

Although Cruz attached the amendment to a bill intended to benefit sportsmen by expanding hunting, fishing and shooting opportunities on public lands, sportsmen do not support efforts to seize or sell off federal lands. Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA), who have voiced support for the sportsmen’s bill on its own, have condemned land seizure efforts as “a radical cry to wrest our national forests and prairies away from public ownership.”

Steve Kandell, Director of Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project, also made it clear that fishermen and sportsmen don’t support land sell-off proposals when praising the recent introduction of a bill from Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), also a cosponsor of the Sportsmen’s Act. In a press release, Kandell said that “public lands shape the American identity, support local economies and perpetuate our sporting heritage. They should not be sold.”

Although the Senate voted 82-12 to advance the Sportsmen’s Act on Monday, a dispute over amendments like Cruz’s stalled the bill earlier today, with several of the bill’s Republican cosponsors voting to stop its progress. A frustrated Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who yesterday told Politico that “Republicans have not provided a list of ‘reasonable’ amendments,” today described their position as “bringing to this body a new definition of what it [means] to sponsor legislation.” The bill’s prospects for passage seem to be dimming rapidly.

Claire Moser is the Research and Advocacy Associate with the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress.
Tags: National ParksPublic LandsTed Cruz

Reposted from The Southern Poverty Law Center:



To hear much of the media describe the Cliven Bundy standoff with the federal government in Nevada this spring, the armed confrontation over Bundy’s refusal to pay cattle grazing fees was unique, a shocking conflict joined by militias and others on the radical right that came close to turning into a bloodbath.

And it was, in terms of its utter brazenness. Rarely have even the most militant of members of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement been photographed aiming sniper rifles at the heads of law enforcement officials. Almost never has a group of heavily armed right-wing radicals, facing large numbers of equally heavily armed law enforcement, forced the government to back down.

Minutes after federal officials pulled out, Bundy supporters prepared to free the rancher’s imprisoned cattle. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters/Corbis)

But, in fact, the confrontation was only the latest in a series that began in the 1970s and 1980s with clashes between militant radical rightists and the government they believe has no authority over them. In the longest view, they go all the way back to the Whiskey Rebellion, an armed 1791 uprising over federal liquor taxes that ultimately resulted in the strengthening of a still shaky central government.

In addition, the standoff, which erupted when the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) tried to seize Bundy’s cattle after he defied court orders to pay more than $1 million in accumulated grazing fees, quickly led to others, almost as militant, including a May show of force from antigovernment populists in Utah who drove ATVs into a federal canyon where motorized vehicles had been banned in order to preserve fragile archaeological remains of American Indian communities. San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman, who led that illegal protest, said later that “[i]f things don’t change, it’s not long before shots will be fired.”

Where did these ideas come from? How did the radical right come to take on issues pitting local use of the nation’s rural lands against the government?

In a sense, the antigovernment movement in America is as old as the country itself. Conceived in rebellion against imperial British authority and raised on a diet of rugged frontier individualism, the United States nurtured resistance to centralized power from the start. The Whiskey Rebellion, which ended after President George Washington marched into Pennsylvania, was the first major conflict that resulted in an increasingly centralized and powerful government. The Civil War, fought under the rebels’ slogan of states’ rights, also pitted local against federal power and, after the Confederacy lost, helped strengthen the central government. A whole series of later developments, from the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt to the civil rights movement and its resulting legislation, continued the centralizing trend.

Throughout, America’s political right almost always sided with local versus federal government, which fought a war to free the slaves and has often defended minority rights. But that historic resistance to federal authority grew far sharper and more ideologically refined with the emergence of the modern radical right in the 1970s and 1980s, in particular the racist and anti-Semitic Posse Comitatus. The Posse, whose name is Latin for “power of the county,” pushed an especially radical localism, originating the doctrine of “county supremacy” even as it married elements of the tax protest movement to Christian Identity — a heretical reading of the Bible that depicts Jews as biologically satanic and people of color as subhuman.

A North Dakota farmer and early Posse leader, Gordon Kahl, showed the violence of the movement, murdering two federal marshals coming to arrest him over unpaid taxes in 1983. Kahl was later killed in a shootout with law enforcement officials after months on the run, but the Posse Comitatus kept on going.

The Posse also was one of the first modern radical groups to take up issues of land use — the same kind of issues exploited by Bundy and the armed militias that supported him in Nevada this spring. It disrupted environmental regulatory hearings, fought farm unionization, and intervened in land disputes. Most importantly, it took advantage of the serious agricultural crisis then forcing hundreds of thousands of farmers off the land, infiltrating what had originally been a progressive movement seeking better price supports and injecting its anti-Semitism and race hate.

In the end, that hatred, coupled with the violence of the Posse, helped wreck the movement to save American farmers being battered by heavy debt, high interest rates and the Soviet grain embargo. Any sympathy for farmers was swept away as the Posse’s infiltration of their movement and its aims were publicized. The whole episode was reminiscent of the way that many Bundy supporters, from politicians to talk show and cable news hosts, fled upon learning of Bundy’s racist ramblings about the problems and supposed predilections of “the Negro” in America.

But the Posse left an ideological legacy that lives on in the radical right today, including among the militia members and other radicals who came to defend Bundy and his theft of more than $1 million from the American people. A key part of that legacy is the Posse’s rejection of federal and even state government in favor of the county and the county sheriff, who are seen as the highest legitimate authorities in the nation. The Posse also was the first to create citizen grand juries and “common-law courts” that had no legal authority but still “indicted” various enemies.

The militia movement of the 1990s and beyond was animated by this kind of localism, which also involved furious opposition to any kind of global power (the United Nations, other transnational bodies, and the “New World Order,” described as a cabal of global elites intent on creating a one-world government). It violently opposed, for instance, environmental measures drawn up in Washington that arguably economically damaged ranchers, farmers and loggers in the West. And it was also intensely interested in defending the Second Amendment, saying a heavily armed citizenry is the only defense against a tyrannical central government.

But the militia movement also drew from, and exploited, two more mainstream movements that explicitly sought, as Bundy does today, an end to all federal control of the rural lands of the West and elsewhere and battled for an expansive definition of property rights. These were the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s and 1980s and the Wise Use movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The militias also drew on the burgeoning county supremacy movement of the ’90s.

The Sagebrush Rebellion was set off by the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act that ended the longstanding practice of homesteading, effectively meaning that the federal government would retain control of huge swaths of western public lands, mostly dominated by sagebrush. It also coincided with the “unroading” of many federal public lands that came along with a process of considering a major expansion of public wilderness areas. The movement, which gained the enthusiastic support of Ronald Reagan, among others, explicitly sought state or local control of the federal public lands and reductions in the same cattle grazing permit fees that Bundy more recently has refused to pay. These fees, far lower than those charged on the private market, are already a direct government subsidy to ranchers.

The Wise Use movement was essentially an extension of the Sagebrush Rebellion, which was more or less shut down by court rulings finding management of the lands in question was the responsibility of the federal government. It was kicked off by a 1988 conference hosted by anti-environmentalist timber activist Ron Arnold, and it was supported financially by resource extraction industries. Although its primary aim was to expand private property rights and reduce environmental regulation of public lands, the movement in many places essentially melded into the county supremacy movement first popularized by the Posse Comitatus.

The most dramatic example of that came in Catron County, N.M., where radical local officials passed a total of 21 ordinances between 1990 and 1992 that attempted to supersede federal authority on public lands. The ordinances asserted that all Forest Service roads in the county were “public property,” made it a felony for citizens to alter the terms of grazing permits, and gave the county the right to condemn and manage public property for county use, among other things. The county’s 1992 land use plan declared that “federal agents threaten the life, liberty and happiness” of county residents and promised to defend “private property rights and protectable interests held by individuals in federal and state lands.”

The Catron County rebellion brought with it numerous threats against federal officials and environmentalists. Hugh McKeen, a county commissioner at the time, put it like this to an Albuquerque Tribune reporter: “This rebellion this time — we’ve had the Sagebrush Rebellion in the past, we’ve had many skirmishes, but this one will go to the end. It will go to civil war if things don’t change.”

By 1994, militia organizers in the county were warning of the looming New World Order, local activists were burning UN flags, and racist leaders were giving speeches to large crowds, according to The Second Revolution: States Rights, Sovereignty and Power of the County, a critical 1997 book. Carl Livingston, another Catron County commissioner, told a reporter: “If a move was made, let’s say for example, a local rancher here, the government threatened to confiscate his cattle, there’s no doubt in my mind they would meet with some kind violence.”

That same year, on Independence Day, a similar confrontation occurred in Nye County, Nev., when County Commissioner Richard Carver illegally bulldozed open a National Forest road that had been closed by the federal government. “All it would have taken was for one of those [forest] rangers to have drawn a weapon,” Carver boasted later. “Fifty people with sidearms would have drilled him.” The action, dubbed Sagebrush II, brought a federal suit over control of public lands in the county. It ended with a judge ruling that federal lands don’t belong to the states.

The militia movement, which first appeared in the mid-1990s, adopted many of the goals of these previously existing movements. Tarso Ramos, an analyst of the extreme right, put it like this in 1996: “While the Wise Use Movement remains distinct from white supremacist and paramilitary groups like the militia, they are linked by crossover leaders, an increasingly overlapping constituency, and some common ideological views — most notably belief in the illegitimacy of the federal government and assertion of state and county ‘rights’ over federal authority.”

The militias, however, described the struggle in the wild conspiracist terms that the movement has become known for. Many of them alleged that the United Nations was planning to create a “biosphere” in North America that would require the murder of millions of people to make way for an oversized nature park. More recently, other militias, along with conspiracist radical groups like the John Birch Society, have attacked Agenda 21, a nonbinding UN sustainability plan that they describe as a plot to impose global socialism in the name of the environment.

Another major land use conflict arose in 2001, when federal officials, facing a severe drought and concerned for the endangered suckerfish, cut back severely on the water allowed farmers downstream from Klamath Falls, Ore. The decision enraged farmers, who lost millions of dollars as a result, and enormous numbers of people, including many from militias, flowed into the area. Protesters forced open the irrigation floodgates four times before federal marshals were sent in. At one point, there were more than 10,000 people there, many of them mouthing the militia message that the federal government had no right to impose controls.

And, as in so many conflicts, some of them spoke of war. A member of the Southern Oregon Militia, for instance, wrote a widely read E-mail fantasizing about militia snipers murdering BLM operatives with impunity. Militia leader J.J. Johnson roared, “We are at war. We did not start this war but, having no choice but to wage it, let us wage it well. … This may become one of the greatest rescue and re-supply operations ever — and more important than the Historic Berlin Airlift.” A Klamath Falls police officer was more extreme, saying in a speech that he saw “the potential for extreme violence, even to the extent of civil war. … I am talking about rioting, homicides and the destruction of property.” He was suspended from his job.

Nine years later, in 2010, yet another such conflict came up when the U.S. Forest Service closed off most motor vehicle access to the San Juan National Forest in Colorado. Militia members and sympathizers mounted an armed protest outside Forest Service offices. Many made the kinds of wild claims the militia movement is known for — that the government was leveraging Colorado’s public lands against U.S. debt to China, that the closures were somehow preparatory to the imposition of martial law, and that the United Nations was secretly involved in events.

Even the local sheriff, Dennis Spruel, joined in, embracing the idea of county supremacy and discussing the conflict on such outlets as “The Political Cesspool,” a radio show that has hosted a Who’s Who of the racist and radical right. “The sheriff, he’s the ultimate law enforcement authority because he’s elected by the ultimate power, and that’s the people,” Spruel said on the show. “If the federal government comes in and violates the law, it’s my responsibility to see that it stops.”

This is the ideology that has informed much of the radical right for the last three decades, and it is also the set of ideas that was behind the radicals who nearly created a massacre when they faced down law enforcement officials on the Bundy ranch this spring. And as this ideology continues to spread in a large and highly energized antigovernment movement, it will certainly drive other, similar battles.

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