Editor’s note: This posting was authored by Pat Ford. Many years ago, Pat served as the executive director of ICL. Most recently, he was the executive director for Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition. Pat lives in Boise, Idaho, and periodically contributes to the ICL blog.
We have entered the next phase, call it the court-plus phase, of what national and regional media will call the Bundy story. But surely they are an act, not the story.
Conservation groups and people must play in the Bundy act-rallies and counter-rallies, rebutting their claims, satirizing their fantasies, repairing their damage. And, if we can, keeping the more polished and funded public land grabbers pinned to the large piece of the Bundys they own.
But we must step outside that act if we wish Americans-let’s say, western Americans under 35 whose public lands views are still forming-to emerge from it more tied in the hearts, their emotional beings, to public lands. The Bundy theatrics are too toxic to allow that from within them.
As the opening moves in court make their slow news, I’d pull the story back to the real Malheur Wildlife Refuge for a new 40 days in a new key. The birds starting to come into Malheur are the reasons why our nation has shaped this refuge step-wise into being over 110 years. The more Americans take in its water and wings, without human voice and also as described on-site by people who know it, the more they will attach some of their hearts to public lands. Video, video, video: show Americans spring on this stage, where birds playing for their lives will put the vagrant, departed bad actors to the sideline.
I would ribbon two human stories out amidst the water and birds. First, local people and veteran visitors, native and non-native, saying why they love it, the good it does, their roots in its landscape and flyway. Second, people who work or worked at Malheur, saying what they do, and why, and what they work to achieve. No Bundy talk, just their voices, of and for the refuge and its wider lands and skies. If these people disagree, let them. The present-day refuge was made by conflict, a lot of it, and so will its future be made. Malheur is not, the public lands are not, the conflicts. They are the containers, the holders, which carry land and people forward through conflicts people will enact and changes lands will make, always.
Malheur’s birds and water, and people who know both. No scripts, positions or message massage, just good videography and editing. And, on this channel at least, with sweet clarifying relief, no Bundys.