Nevada rancher and anti-federal government activist Cliven Bundy is slated to speak in the town of Paradise Saturday, January 20, 2018. He and Montana elected officials were invited to speak by a local group.
The Coalition of Western Property Owners bills the evening as an educational event and a chance for people to hear Bundy tell his story. They’re calling it: “Freedom and Property: Cliven Bundy’s Story.”
"Our goal is to bring to light the atrocities that have happened to people in western lands through the outreach of government agencies," says Roxanna Ryan, co-chair of COWPO.
The Bundy family gained national attention in 2014, when federal agents sought to remove their cattle from public lands following years of the family’s refusal to pay grazing fees. An armed standoff between the feds and militia members ensued, and Bundy and several of his supporters were charged with conspiracy, extortion, assault and obstruction of justice. None were convicted.
Jennifer Fielder, a Republican state senator from Thompson Falls and CEO of the American Lands Council, says Bundy’s treatment has bordered on criminal.
"I would like an investigation that will examine every bit of it, and I think there needs to be hearings," Fielder says. "These things all need to be looked at in terms of the government's interrelationships with these people."
Fielder will speak at the event about her research on the Hammonds, a pair of Oregon ranchers who also sparred with federal agencies and ignited the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016.
Other panelists include Malheur occupier Shawna Cox, Bundy’s defense attorney Roger Roots and local land-use activist Billy Hill.
Not everyone hails Bundy as a symbol of Western freedom. Ryan Busse is the national board chair of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.
"It's a dangerous set of thoughts,' Busse says. "It's an un-American group of people that represent the gutting of some core tenets of being an American."
The “Freedom and Property” event is this Saturday from 5 to 9 pm at the Old Paradise School Gym. The panel will take questions around 8:30.