The ‘Bundy principle’ cannot prevail in Oregon standoff trial

Ammon Bundy and six of his antigovernment followers will stand trial today on charges related to their armed takeover of a national wildlife refuge earlier this year. The group was protesting what they called unconstitutional management of public land.

Elizabeth Sanders, a government professor and author of “Roots of Reform: Farmers, Workers, and the American State, 1877-1917,” traces the history of this long-standing dispute over land use in the West. She says that any ‘repatriation’ of public land has to be done in an open, democratic way.


Sanders says:
“This is a very old conflict, and a big one. It began with the 19th century when the federal government kept vast publicly owned reserves in the newly forming states in the West – unlike Eastern states, which were able to own nearly all their once-public lands.

“In modern times, the public lands in the West are seen as belonging to all Americans. Western farm and mining interests have long received cheap rights to graze, mine and drill on those lands. I think most Americans are opposed to letting a few ranchers simply take over the land they want for exploitation. The federal government also cannot allow this kind of land appropriation.

“If there is ever to be some ‘repatriation’ of public lands to Western states to own and control, it clearly has to be done in an open, democratic way. It needs the participation of state and national public officials, not simply a few families grabbing and holding land that belongs to all Americans. The ‘Bundy principle’ is anarchy, theft of public land and resources. What would happen to our country if that ‘principle’ prevailed?”

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Rebecca Valli
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cell: 607-793-1025

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