Ideology of divesting public lands not right fit for Whitefish

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What kind of Flathead Valley do we want to call home? In the not so distant past, we became an unwilling host to ideologies steeped in violent threats and the dogma of “The National Policy Institute.” Our community observed, scrutinized and emphatically rejected the abject convictions of Andrew Anglin and Richard Spencer. Action overcame indifference, and resolve surmounted the threats. “We the people” resoundingly let them know that neither their teachings nor their postures were welcome in Montana or the Flathead Valley.

Enter the Bundys.

We all are familiar with the hostile standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada, and the armed occupation and documented destruction of public property at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, places that are owned and, yes, managed by “we the people.”

In January of 2018, Cliven and Ryan Bundy, along with their cadre of home-grown body guards, came to Paradise, for a “Freedom and Property” rally. They seized an opportunity to espouse their agenda of individual sovereignty and divestment of public lands with the endorsement of American Lands Council CEO and Montana State Senator Jennifer Fielder. Promoted as an open public event, I — along with a number of members of the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers — attended.

This week, in Whitefish, Ammon Bundy and numerous proponents of public land divestiture, including Montana State Rep. Kerry White, will be speaking at a conference titled “A New Code of the West — Cleaning Out Corruption from the Crooked Corral.” The selection of Whitefish seems ironic, as the economic engine of both the town and the Flathead Valley depend on the surrounding public lands, including businesses like hotels, shops and restaurants. The region’s vitality is absolutely incumbent upon its national parks, U.S. Forest Service lands, and designated wilderness areas, all of them public lands owned and managed by “we the people.”

It would be easy to dismiss the Bundys, as they extol a simple life of spirituality, family and patriotism. The reality is that their extreme actions and objectives are funded by the deepest dark-money pockets in the country. Similar to Anglin, Spencer and their white-supremacist friends, the Bundy-American Lands Council agenda relies on intimidation, support by a few and apathy of the majority. All are unacceptable and equally menacing to the future of the republic and “we the people.” Their culture is contrary to the rule of law, hates egalitarian ideals and is the enemy of public land. Their ideology is not welcome here. Not in our town. Not in our valley. Not in our state. Montana is for public land lovers.

Tom Healy lives in Whitefish with his wife and wirehaired pointing griffons. He is the Region 1 board member for the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.

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