Public Lands Sportsmen Rally Against Bundy Event

Montana members of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers attend anti-public lands conclave featuring lawbreaking Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy

PARADISE, Mont. – Backcountry Hunters & Anglers members from Montana united in support of America’s public lands and waters this evening at an anti-public lands event headlined by scofflaw rancher Cliven Bundy.

Billed as a property rights forum by an anti-public lands group, the Coalition of Western Property Owners, the gathering featured appearances by Bundy and several of his followers, as well as Montana State Sen. Jennifer Fielder, CEO of public lands transfer proponents the American Lands Council. Fielder represents Sanders County in western Montana, location of the town of Paradise and the site of today’s event.

Montana sportsmen and women from Sanders County and across the state showed up to reaffirm their commitment to U.S. public lands and offer strong criticism of the lawless approach espoused by Bundy and his supporters. Following the recent dismissal of federal charges related to an armed standoff over Bundy’s failure to pay public lands grazing fees, Bundy and his followers walked free.

“I grew up on a ranch,” said BHA National Board Chair Ryan Busse, who attended today's event. “When someone stole things or grazed cattle on a place they did not have permission, we called them thieves. I was raised as an American, and I was taught that our founding fathers wanted to shift power from British royalty and give it to the people. When people want to return this power to the corporate royalty of today, I call that treasonous.

“I came of age on the vast public lands and meandering public streams that Teddy Roosevelt helped conserve,” continued Busse, who lives in Kalispell. “When people want to take that most egalitarian gift from us and sell it to powerful business conglomerates, I call that that the most anti-American BS I have ever heard. Period. And I’ll not let a bunch of two-bit criminals who are doing the bidding of trillion-dollar corporations and shady politicians steal the soul of this country.”

BHA member Mark Faroni runs Triple-M-Outfitters out of Dixon.

“As a resident of Sanders County for the past 35 years and a licensed outfitter who utilizes public lands for both business and personal enjoyment, I am 100 percent against the transfer of federal public lands to states,” Faroni said. “The reality is if states were to assume control of public lands, states like Montana, Idaho and Wyoming with sparse populations would not be able to foot the bill for upkeep, fire maintenance and fire prevention. Soon enough, just like a private landowner who can’t pay his bills, the states would be forced to sell these lands to private individuals, who – don’t kid yourself – would most likely lock us, the public and rightful owners, out of them. My biggest fear is that politicians like Jennifer Fielder will rob my children, their children and generations to come of the great experiences I’ve been so fortunate to enjoy on these lands.”

Affirmed Tom Healy, a member of the Montana BHA chapter board and Whitefish resident, “The Bundy agenda relies on three factors: Intimidation by them, acceptance by a few, and apathy of many. Public lands sportsmen are here to counter that apathy – and to utterly reject any calls to accept or advance their values.  Our public lands are the greatest asset possessed by common Americans, crucial to our traditions and key to our identity.”

Bundy has made no secret of his plans to continue undermining the American public lands system, an approach that relies upon allies in Congress and the administration as well as the support of well-funded entities like the ALC.  

“Senator Fielder has a right to her own opinions about public lands, misguided as they may be,” said BHA President and CEO Land Tawney. “However, it’s despicable that she is aligning herself with known lawbreakers like Cliven Bundy. Regardless of political stripe we should be engaging in constructive dialogue about our public lands, not attempting to bully those who manage them. Nothing is more American than our public lands. They should be a unifier – not a divider.”

BHA strongly criticized the dismissal earlier this month of charges against Cliven Bundy, his sons and a supporter. BHA was formed around an Oregon campfire in 2004 and has emerged as the strongest and most influential citizens’ voice in the ongoing conflicts over management and continued public ownership of North American lands and waters.

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