The Battle for Public Land: Malheur to Seattle


It is the recent push feared and fought by so many, over education policy to city infrastructure. Now it’s hit our public lands – our national lands, which we all own.

The standoff at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge has left many scratching their heads, wondering what this is all about, and WHY, for goodness sakes, the Federal Government doesn’t just arrest those who are illegally occupying Malheur! Well, it’s not as simple as all that – and it has forced us to look at the big picture of privatizing publicly owned assets.

Event in Seattle

Yesterday I met downtown with over 100 supporters of Malheur and our Public Lands to make a little noise and strategize. DSC00638

There was singing, and there were speeches:
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There were signs that said it all:
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There were several speakers, but I was I was struck by the words of Mark Heckert, who described the situation at Malheur. He mentioned meetings the “occupiers” have had with sympathetic elected officials in Washington, and then he he talked about the involvement of a group whose mention gave me chills: ALEC. Here’s a five minute video:

Seattle Parks

The privatization of public lands has also been an issue in Seattle Parks recently. We at the Seattle Nature Alliance have spoken frequently about groups who say:

We just want our piece of the pie – after all, we pay taxes, right? We should be able to do what we want with some of that huge park system.

From Parks planning to give over a portion of a mature forest to a privately owned zipline, to a private group converting a natural area to a mountain bike park, to off leash dog advocates lobbying to convert parts of parks and beaches to off leash areas, to to the Parks Department opening up Natural Areas and Greenspaces to “New Uses” – the issue is the same.

Our public natural areas should not be used in ways that are exclusive, or high impact. Public land belongs to all of us. We should share it equitably and sustainably.

What next

At the rally, I only heard one person shout out “Arrest ’em and lock ’em up!” I was expecting much more of an angry pushback. Goodness, I have certainly felt that way in private.

But the mood downtown was different. There was an urgency. At first I was a little discouraged, but I began to realize those who spoke really understood the big picture. We are in trouble.

Ultimately, it is a good thing this is happening now. I think we may owe those occupiers at Malheur a nod of thanks for waking us up to what is, and has been going on, for some time.

rally sign

To those who love our public parks, wildlife refuges, national forests and parks: Wake up. they are being taken away, and they will soon be gone forever, unless we organize and act. Right now.


Related reading:

Images – Mark Ahlness (more here)
Video above – Conservation Northwest (more here)

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