Ammon Bundy mystifies many Idahoans. To them his opposition to authority is over the top. The media has presented him as a troublemaking, radical, gun-toting, militant, criminal, anti-government buffoon – or at best an ignorant cowboy.
Whatever he is, he is tiring.
One may ask: What could motivate a person to behave as he has?
The answer to that question begins in 1877, when Ammon Bundy’s ancestors settled the Virgin River country in southern Nevada. Upon arriving, they dutifully obtained legal water and grazing rights from the state. In the 1870’s the great American explorer, John Wesley Powell, proclaimed these desert lands “inhabitable.” Within ten years the Bundys and thousands of other ranchers and farmers proved Powell’s assertion correct. Their success played a large part in convincing Congress to create the Bureau of Reclamation in 1902 and later the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), further opening the West to settlement. Initially these agencies’ relationships with ranchers were simple and symbiotic. However, with the “environmental movement” of the 1970’s, the government began citing environmental exigencies that required federal “ownership” and administrative “control of the public domain” within the Western states. Over the next fifty years, the BLM moved from being the beneficiary of the ranchers’ accomplishments to a persecutor of their everyday existence.
Cliven Bundy, Ammon’s father, asserted there was a fundamental problem with the BLM’s claim to the land. The US Constitution requires the federal government to 1) “purchase” the land; 2) “by the consent of the Legislature of the State,” 3) for exercising the federal government’s “authority over all places” purchased, such as property for military forts and postal roads (i.e., today’s freeways). The BLM (and other environmental agencies) have done none of this. The Constitution of Idaho itself states: “All property and institutions of the territory [of Idaho], shall, upon adoption of the constitution, become the property and institutions of the state of Idaho.” It cannot get any clearer. The US Congress accepted the state and its constitution on these terms. These clauses had been conveniently ignored by the federal government on the grounds that the nation’s founders could not foresee the future; therefore, the Constitution must be flexible and accommodate a federal response to environmental issues. In fact, the founders recognized there would be reasons to alter the Constitution. For this purpose, they placed the Amendment process in the document.
This democratic tool has been routinely disregarded throughout the nation’s history, but, regarding the Bundys, resulted in the BLM taking their cattle in 2014 to pay fees and fines that had been levied against the family. As over fifty fellow ranchers gave in to federal edicts and left their holdings, Cliven Bundy, along with Ammon and his brothers, considered the ramifications of an act of “civil disobedience.” Arrest, jail, trial, prison? Or keeping their land and rights by exposing the silent and perpetual overreach of government and constitutional law? Cliven and his family, as circumstances unfolded, chose both. He and his family were staying put and so were his cattle. Still, the Bundys were shocked when hundreds of federal officers arrived in military fashion, including snipers and helicopters. They had ignored the county sheriff’s calmer threat assessment and developed their own instead. Word got out, and people from all over the nation poured in to support the Bundys, the vast majority unarmed. Those few who were, had the legal right to be so and never used their weapons. After two weeks of crisis the Clark County Sheriff rightfully stepped in to end the confrontation.
The occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, two years later, occurred under similar circumstances. When the protesters arrived, they found the facilities unoccupied. A few protesters brought guns; Ammon Bundy did not. When all was said and done, the Bundy’s were acquitted of all charges by the jury in Oregon. In the Nevada court, the judge pronounced a mistrial and declared the government’s actions “shocked the conscience of the court,” “violated the universal sense of justice,” “due process rights,” and was a “miscarriage of justice.” In other words, the federal government had developed a habit of severely overextending itself, at least in this case, just as Cliven and Ammon Bundy had claimed. The judge was speaking directly to the FBI, the National Park Service, the BLM and their attorneys. They had been acting outside the spirit and letter of the law. Even the left leaning Ninth Circuit of the US Court of Appeals affirmed the verdicts, and the Bundy’s were finally set free. The reader is strongly invited to do a fifteen-minute internet search of the names Larry Wooten and Dan Love. You will be appalled.
Only the public and the press still have not acquitted Ammon Bundy. This, despite the fact he served two years in prison, including one year in solitary confinement – “guilty until proven innocent.”
Ammon Bundy is not “anti-government.” He is for good government. His acts of civil disobedience show a singular courage, fortitude, and fidelity to the rule of law. He has the principles, gifts, and ability to administer our rights, privileges, and opportunities as Governor of Idaho – working with and respecting the state’s legislative and judicial branches exactly as stated in the Idaho and US Constitutions, and with profound respect for the amendment process for needed change. It is time to recognize him not only as faithful American, but as leader of American values.
Go to VoteBundy.com or his public appearances and get to know him, and then vote as you see fit.
This Op-Ed was submitted by Rick Hydrick. Op-Eds do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of those at the Idaho Dispatch.
Tags: Ammon Bundy, BLM, Cliven Bundy, FBI