Washington Legislature Report is a Strong First Step in Ending Domestic Terrorism

Matt Shea (R-Spokane), a member of the Washington State House of Representatives, has been kicked out of the Republican caucus for planning, engaging in, or supporting Cliven Bundy domestic terrorism. It’s about time elected officials stood up to his family efforts to take away our public lands. . . Ralph Maughan, editor
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Last week, the Republican Party of Washington unveiled a detailed investigation finding that state legislator Matt Shea (R-Spokane) “participated in an act of domestic terrorism against the United States” in aiding and abetting the Bundy militants in their takeover of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016. In response, Republican House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox called for Shea’s resignation, and Rep. Shea was expelled from the Republican caucus.

According to the report, Shea was also was an active participant in the 2014 Bunkerville incident in Nevada and a 2015 armed insurrection in Priest River, Idaho. The report states,

“Representative Shea, as a leader in the Patriot Movement, planned, engaged in, and promoted a total of three armed conflicts of political violence against the United States (US) Government in three states outside the State of Washington over a three-year period to include 2014, 2015 and 2016. In one conflict Representative Shea led covert strategic pre-planning in advance of the conflict; continued support to an armed occupation conflict of a Federal Government facility that lasted 41 days resulting in devastating financial, physical and emotional harm to a community and its residents; and the loss of one life.”

As shocking as this is, Shea is only one of many local and state politicians linked with the Bundy movement and its armed efforts to take possession of federal lands. Idaho Rep. Heather Scott was also named in the report for planning, engaging in, or supporting three separate armed conflicts within the United States. And, according to media reports, former Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore has been an outspoken proponent of the Bundys, and traveled to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016 to support the militants. Phil Lyman, now a Utah legislator, was jailed for his role in leading an illegal off-road-vehicle ride in 2014 through the sensitive cliff dwellings of Recapture Canyon while he was a San Juan County Commissioner. State representative Bob Thorpe of Arizona was one of five Republican legislators who organized a caravan in 2014 to support the armed insurgents at Bunkerville.

The domestic terrorism report names names and lists particulars; named political leaders should be subjected to criminal investigation to determine whether they violated any laws.

The anti-government sentiment is also alive and well in Washington, D.C. The interim director of the BLM, William Perry Pendley, wrote an op-ed instructing federal law enforcement, “[L]ocal law enforcement bears primary responsibility for enforcing state and federal law,” and federal law enforcement officers “are there to assist” while ‘[m]aintaining that deference” to local officials on public lands. It’s an upside-down worldview, but it specifically implements the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, whose Statement of Positions explicitly directs, “County Sheriffs…should take their rightful position and use their authority to assist in the transfer of control of the [federal] land, and prosecution of violation of citizens’ rights by federal authorities.”

The Constitutional Sheriffs too have been linked to the Bundys’ occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and one of their members, Sheriff Glenn Palmer of Grant County, Oregon, reportedly sided with the armed militants during the Wildlife Refuge takeover.

In response to Pendley’s remarks, conservationists and the outdoor industry have begun to call for Pendley’s ouster.

Meanwhile, back to Representative Shea: the new report states that Rep. Shea actively participated in the 2014 armed standoff at Bunkerville, Nevada, wherein Cliven Bundy’s family called in militia support to prevent federal officers from rounding up his long-trespassing cattle and racking up $1.3 million in unpaid fines and rent while degrading fragile habitats for the rare desert tortoise. Federal courts ruled in 2013 that this grazing is illegal, have rejected the claim that the federal government cannot own public lands as baseless, and have ordered the Bundys’ cattle off. Federal circuit court precedent states that “No individuals have a right to graze livestock on the federal land at issue without authorization from the United States” and “[a]nyone who enters or uses federal land [for livestock grazing] without authorization is in violation of federal statutes and regulations, and is a trespasser.” State courts subsequently dismissed claims that the federal lands the Bundys had grown accustomed to using were actually state property. Where are the federal prosecutors, to bring contempt of court charges for the Bundys’ ongoing livestock trespass? Where are the federal marshals, to march the Bundys off to court?

The report finds that Rep. Shea helped plan the stockpiling of arms and munitions and making arrangements for snipers – against the federal government. The Washington legislature is right to recognize this as domestic terrorism.

The Bundy-led insurrections, far from being isolated incidents, are simply the best-publicized of many acts of bullying and intimidation perpetrated by public-lands ranchers. In Nevada, three separate bombings targeted BLM employees in Nevada at their homes and offices in 1993 and 1995. In Oregon, the Hammond family made “a thick file” of death threats against Malheur National Wildlife refuge managers in the 1980s and 1990s; the Hammonds later had their federal grazing privileges revoked. In Nevada, ranchers effectively laid siege to the BLM’s Battle Mountain office in 2014 and 2015 over livestock trespassing onto public lands closed to grazing. In Piute County, Utah, Sheriff Marty Gleave threatened to arrest Forest Service employees in 2016 if further cuts were made to the number of cattle his relative was permitted to graze on national forest lands. This kind of behavior is not uncommon in the realm of public lands ranching.

The Washington state legislature is showing other government agencies how it’s done in calling out domestic terrorism within their jurisdiction. Now it’s time for some leadership in Washington D.C.

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Erik Molvar is Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project, and environmental conservation nonprofit dedicated to protecting and restoring watersheds and wildlife throughout the American West.






  1. Dale Houston Avatar
    Dale Houston

    Unbelievable is the harm that BLM and other state/federal agencies are doing to destroy the essence of wildlife that provides a critical balance in nature.

  2. Bruce Bowen Avatar
    Bruce Bowen

    I hope that the republicans mentioned above responded with justice in mind. I am thinking, however, that they were probably more concerned about the damage being done public relations wise, to their faltering party.

    So here we stand on the brink of 2020, a new year, with the most monumental ecological, economic and spiritual crisis at hand. The very life of the planet is at stake but the corporate supported boys and girls in congress will not move to do much to help the earth. In fact they recently voted to finance a huge energy deal to support the fracking industry and the recent global climate meeting was another fiasco. Chris Hedges over at truthdig.com describes this ongoing heresy much better than I can.

    The propaganda of the right wing zealots is filled with (as Alduous Huxely said) false, garbled or and incomplete evidence, avoids logical argument and seeks to influence it’s victims by mere repetition of catch words, by the furious denunciation of foreign or domestic scapegoats, and by cunningly associating associating the lower passions (like hate, suspicion etc.) with the highest ideals, so that atrocities come to be perpetuated in the name of God and the most cynical kind of ‘real politic’ is treated as a matter of religious principle and patriotic duty”.

    So as H.L. Mencken stated ” It is a natural tendency of the ignorant to believe what is not true. In order to overcome that tendency it is not sufficient to exhibit the true; it is also necessary to expose and denounce the false”. We better hurry up and kick some political ass and denounce the over bearing corporate economic system that heaps injustices upon us or we will be the metaphorical herds of sheep that get shorn and turned out into the cold.

    We should not forget the metaphors before us- like all those high rise buildings in the eastern USA. They are the out picturing of a single minded, hierarchical social elitist structure, and the corporate moguls on the top floors look down on us and grandmother earth.

  3. Lyn McCormick Avatar
    Lyn McCormick

    Domestic terroism goes both ways and it seems like the root of the problem lies on the doorstep of the regulatory agencies. I just read an article in WyoFile News about a conflict between a private landowner and the Forest Service / BLM over grazing allotments that triggered a horent’s nest of issues between the parties because BLM failed to follow through and finalize an easement through the private property. Also, the jury in the Bundy case said Cliven Bundy was stupid to not pay his permit fees but they could not overlook the prosecutorial and judicial bias that was so obvious during the trial, as well as the “whistle blowers” testimony about agency corruption at the local level and the exculpatory evidence that was withheld by the prosecution during the trial. Also, when the agency was asked why they let the Bundy permit issues drag on for so long, the agency said that the State nor the Agency had the $ (millions) to equip (helicopter) and round-up 900 head of Bundy cattle. Seems like a lien and paying a few cowboys on horseback could have gathered the cattle and shipped them to auction for alot less than several million dollars. Sorry, I can’t recall the source for that last piece of information – so much fact-checking to do these days, my goodness !

    1. Hiker Avatar

      I disagree, while our federal agencies may not be perfect, they are better than welfare ranchers doing as they please with our land. To solve all these issues let’s just get rid of ALL grazing on public land. It costs too much on every level.

      1. Lyn McCormick Avatar
        Lyn McCormick

        That’s the point; govt. created “welfare ranching” Stop subsidizing a private free-market enterprise, especially feudal-landowner Corporate welfare. Legislation has been proposed, or has already passed, to subsidize the hemp industry. You can see where that is headed.

        1. Hiker Avatar

          The subsidies are allowing ranchers to graze on public land. There is no “private free-market enterprise” here at all. It’s all done at taxpayer expense on OUR public land. The answer is NOT to stop government but to stop grazing on public land. Just think of all the wildlife habitat that would be created!


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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