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The Green Life: John Muir on Cliven Bundy

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May 06, 2014

John Muir on Cliven Bundy

John MuirCliven Bundy talks a big game, but he's nothing new. Bundy, of course, is the racist Nevada rancher whose refusal to pay $1 million in fees and fines for illegally grazing his cattle on public land protected for the threatened desert tortoise led to an armed standoff with federal agents. The BLM withdrew after being confronted by hundreds of Bundy supporters, many of them armed. " 'The gather is now over,' said Craig Leff, a deputy assistant director with the Bureau of Land Management. 'Our focus is pursuing this matter administratively and judicially.' " 

Sierra Club founder John Muir had a different view of dealing with those grazing their animals illegally on public land. In a speech printed in the January, 1896 Sierra Club Bulletin, Muir welcomed the arrival of U.S troops to put a stop to illegal sheep grazing in the brand new Yosemite National Park.

Blessings on Uncle Sam's blue-coats! In what we may call homeopathic doses, the quiet, orderly soldiers have done this fine job, without any apparent friction or weak noise, in the still, calm way that United States troops do their duty. Uncle Sam has only to say "There is you duty," and it is done. . . .

Nine Portuguese shepherds and eighteen shepherd dogs were marched across the park from the extreme northern boundary, across the Tuolumne Cañon and the rugged topography of the Merced basin to the southern boundary at Wawona, and were presented as prisoners before Captain Rodgers, who had charge of the troop guarding the park. 

These shepherds submitted to being driven along over hill and dale as peacefully as sheep, notwithstanding they had a little previously been boasting of their fighting qualities and the surprising excellence of their guns, and with what deadly effect they would use them if interfered with in their divine right of stealing pasturage. But when they were calmly confronted by a soldier, armed with the authority of the United States and a gun of much surer fire than theirs, they always behaved well, and became suddenly unbelligerent.

PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and dad. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber


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