January 21, 2016

In defense of American public lands

Award-winning author Ursula K. Le Guin has lived in Oregon for more than half a century, and has regularly visited the region surrounding the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for 45 years. Ever since armed militants took over the refuge in a dispute over ranching fees on public lands, Le Guin has “been following the situation very closely,” she said in an email to ThinkProgress.
So when she saw an article titled “Effort to free federal lands” in the Sunday Oregonian, she did what any self-respecting, world-renowned author would do.
She wrote an epic Letter to the Editor that was a spirited defense of American public lands:
The Oregonian’s A1 headline on Sunday, Jan. 17, “Effort to free federal lands,” is inaccurate and irresponsible. The article that follows it is a mere mouthpiece for the scofflaws illegally occupying public buildings and land, repeating their lies and distortions of history and law.
Ammon Bundy and his bullyboys aren’t trying to free federal lands, but to hold them hostage. I can’t go to the Malheur refuge now, though as a citizen of the United States, I own it and have the freedom of it. That’s what public land is: land that belongs to the public — me, you, every law-abiding American. The people it doesn’t belong to and who don’t belong there are those who grabbed it by force of arms, flaunting their contempt for the local citizens.
Those citizens of Harney County have carefully hammered out agreements to manage the refuge in the best interest of landowners, scientists, visitors, tourists, livestock and wildlife. They’re suffering more every day, economically and otherwise, from this invasion by outsiders.
Instead of parroting the meaningless rants of a flock of Right-Winged Loonybirds infesting the refuge, why doesn’t The Oregonian talk to the people who live there?
Ursula K. Le Guin
Northwest Portland
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