Roundup: Bundy Ranch Back Down

BLM vs. Bundy • East Kentucky newspaper pioneer dies • Looking at farmer suicides • Guns-and-ammo taxes boosting wildlife areas

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The rural story of the week seems to be the armed stand-off between the Bureau of Land Management and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. Bundy refuses to recognize the authority of the BLM to impose grazing fees, he says, because his herd has been eating off those acres since before agency existed. So, unlike other ranchers in the area, he stopped paying. Bundy now owes the government over $1 million in fees and penalties.

If Bundy’s reasoning somehow holds up under scrutiny, I’ll have to change my tactics when dealing with meter maids. “I’m sorry, officer, I would pay the fee but I’ve been parking my car here since long before there were meters.”

Shawn Poynter

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Mourners will gather Thursday in Whitesburg, Kentucky, to refute the proverb that a prophet is not without honor except in her home town.

Pat Gish, part of the team that published the nationally recognized weekly newspaper The Mountain Eagle, will be memorialized at Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church 1 p.m. Thursday. Gish died Sunday at the age of 87.

Pat Gish and her husband, Tom, who died in 2008, published the Eagle for more than half a century, taking on government corruption and revealing the ravages of strip mining, while at the same time printing school menus and civic-club news.

At Tom’s 2008 memorial, the minister spoke of the difficulties Tom faced locally because of the way the paper took on some local leaders and questioned the power of the coal industry. The minister used the proverb about “a prophet in his own land” to explain Tom’s important and complex role in Letcher County.

It’s true that Pat and Tom weren’t always honored locally, especially by corrupt politicians, coal bosses and the people who depended on those folks for their daily bread. It’s also true that the Gish’s brand of journalism was prophetic, especially when you look at how their concerns about the environmental and political consequences of coal mining have played out.

But we also know that Pat was highly honored and prized locally, as was Tom, by many people in Letcher County who understood the contribution the newspaper made to the community.

The Gish’s son, Ben, who now edits the Mountain Eagle, said his parents saw their work in far less grandiose terms. “All they were doing, in their minds, was practicing good journalism,” Ben Gish told Lexington Herald-Leader report Bill Estep.

– Tim Marema

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A recent Newsweek cover story details at the surprisingly high suicide rate among farmers, which is twice that of the general population.

The economic challenges of keeping a farm above water are huge and can feel insurmountable to some farmers. NY FarmNet is a hotline set up to help farmers with a variety of prolblems. While not a suicide hotline,  NY FarmNet gets its fair share of callers in despair. Leonard Freeborn, who works for the hotline, can empathize with farmers. "Farming is not the beautiful thing you people in the city think it is, with beautiful cows running around and you're making lots of money,” he says. “Farming is a tough damn business."

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Almost as soon as President Obama was elected in 2008, gun advocates started predicting the government’s arrival at your door to collect the .22 hidden in you spice rack. Ammunition prices started resembling that of a precious metal. Bullets and shells, when you could find them, were a huge hit to the pocketbooks of us mere mortals, thanks to the manipulation fear has on supply and demand chain.

If there was a bright side to this over-reaction, it’s that the excise taxes on guns and ammo are responsible for record-breaking amounts of money being spent on hunting and wildlife programs.

So the next time you visit your local wildlife area have a good time, take a minute to thank both President Obama and the NRA.

– Shawn Poynter

 

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