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Book Reviews

Warriors for Our Time

Book Review by Nathaniel R. Dickinson
Warriors for the West by William Perry Pendley
Regnery Publishing, Inc. 2006

The dedication to Dave True Jr., the "Wyoming Wildcatter," appropriately introduces the impressive work Warriors for the West by William Perry Pendley, noting True's philosophy that man can develop and use our land's resources while still conserving our land's beauty and gifts. This view, needless to say, is not shared by those on the wrong side of the political spectrum. They declared the war on the West and just about everything else that is right. Fortunately, the relentless attacks by the Clinton administration inspired a dedicated grassroots response that took its members to Washington, the federal district and appellate courts, and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court. Pendley's book chronicles the fight of the Warriors under incredible odds. Incidentally, Perry Pendley played a major role as anyone who knows him will tell you that when you lock horns with him, you had better have a solid case.

The first of the Warriors introduced is John Shuler, who raises sheep in northern Montana. He became entangled in what the author refers to as the pit bull of environmental laws, the Endangered Species Act. This reviewer has written numerous pieces on this atrocious concoction, and marvels at how incompetent people can find so many threatened creatures, in so many places, in such a short period of time. And they do not seem to appreciate that for eons the rule has been that species come and species go. They must, however, be aware that any species can be listed by making observations where the habitat is marginal. They are at best pseudo-scientists manipulated by radical politicians.

Back to the abuse of Mr. Shuler — he committed the unthinkable mistake of shooting and killing an endangered grizzly bear which had attacked his sheep and then come after him. Just what is the definition of self defense? Pendley chronicles the injustice that followed in the eight-year battle. The next case related by the author had its setting near the Utah-Arizona state line, where a landowner used his property for agriculture and housing developments. Unfortunately, prairie dogs also declared ownership. There followed an extended run-around orchestrated by the once noble U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Subsequently Prebles meadow jumping mice entered into the fray — a very convenient find — allowing another sweetheart deal between the Service and environmental groups to be hatched. The plot thickened when cave bats, of which experts said their loss threatens the interdependent web of all species, whatever that all means, were thrown into the mix.

Pendley appropriately entitles the book's second chapter "Fighting Lyin' Cheatin' Bureaucrats." Reference is made to bumper stickers that state "Don't Steal — The Government Hayes Competition" and "I Love My Country But Fear My Government" — very fitting indeed. A story is related about Jarbige, Nevada, an old mining town, with John Bernt one of few hardy souls remaining. In 1996 John got his taste of government arrogance and abuse after locating five mining claims on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service, in accordance with the General Mining Law of 1972. There followed five years of government falsification of records and outright fraud. No one bothered to correct the injustice. As one said, "What a mess." Then there was what the author referred to as the "Bitter Taste in Sweet Grass Hills" — again shenanigans regarding mining claims.

In subsequent chapters Pendley artfully tackles issues such as racial preferences disguised as trust responsibilities, as related to Indian tribes and the resulting travesties, including tribal casinos and Clinton abuses of the Antiquities Act of 1906 and its statutory limits and the failure of those who followed to do anything about them.

It was good to see that the author devoted most of one chapter to that splendid gentleman, Bruce Vincent, from Libby, Montana. Bruce certainly deserves recognition as one of the first to stand up against the bureaucracies and environmental organizations that threatened the rights and livelihoods of local people. He now is nationally known as an advocate for the rights of local communities. A quote is offered at the chapter's end that should stimulate thought. "Private property rights are a quaint anachronism which society cannot afford." Obviously these are not the words of Mr. Vincent.

"Fighting 'Your Land is Our Land' State Bureaucrats" is the title of Chapter 6. Anyone concerned about property rights must read this one, which begins with the familiar Woodie Guthrie song. Pendley chronicles numerous horror stories. This is followed by a discussion of the closure of "sacred" public and private lands and justification for such actions, fighting federal government when it wears two hats (with an appropriate quote from Ronald Reagan — "If it moves, tax it, if it keeps moving, regulate it, and if it stops moving, subsidize it" — referring to government's view).

And then there are excellent discussions involving the government's bad neighbor policies, fighting the criminalization of everything (including effects on use of government lands and one's own land, equal protection guarantee, racial gerrymandering of election districts, taking without just compensation, access to private property, and illegal immigration).

The epilogue states, on behalf of the heroic individuals and entities recognized in this book — true Warriors for the West — that Mountain States Legal Foundation has been in the courts fighting for individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system. Pendley invites the reader to join us.

The "Endnotes" section contains an impressive total of 42 pages with a grand total of 883 references. This alone was a massive undertaking. The author is undoubtedly very dedicated. For anyone interested in researching property rights, environmental matters, and governmental dealings, an excellent bibliography is provided.

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