A member of the family that engaged in armed standoffs with authorities in disputes over the use of federal lands in Nevada and Oregon is expected to speak Saturday at Modesto Junior College.
Ammon Bundy is scheduled to appear at 3:45 p.m. at the Range Rights and Resources Symposium in the Ag Pavilion on the college's west campus.
Bundy is not the only big name to appear at the two-day symposium.
U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, spoke Friday for about 30 minutes. The President Trump supporter bashed the mainstream media for what he called their bias and dishonesty and said the only collusion that took place during the 2016 presidential campaign was between the Democrats and the Russians.
Nunes was not listed on the program and spoke before a friendly audience of about 50 people.
But he and other speakers also talked about property and water rights and overly burdensome government regulations that harm farmers and ranchers.
Water is a critical issue locally because of the state's proposal to increase the amount of water that flows down the Merced, Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers, which would leave less water here. Opponents say the proposal will devastate the region's ag-based economy.
The Bundy family has come to embody "the deep and bitter debate over public land policy in the West — seen either as right-wing extremists or stalwarts in standing up against federal government overreach, depending on whom you asked," according to a New York Times article.
And while Ammon Bundy may be lauded at the symposium, members of the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity plan to protest outside of the Ag Center from 3 to 4 p.m. The Center for Biological Diversity called Ammon Bundy an "anti-government militant" in a news release.
"We don't let the Bundys go around the West and spread misinformation and fear," said Ryan Beam, with the Arizona-based nonprofit. "Public lands belong to all of the people of the United States, not just the members of the public making a profit off those lands."
Beam said he plans on recruiting protesters from the Earth Day celebration being held at Graceada Park.
The Bundys rose to prominence in 2014 when the Bureau of Land Management took cattle from Ammon Bundy's father's Nevada ranch in a dispute over unpaid fees for grazing the cattle on federal land. Cliven Bundy said he did not owe the fees. Hundreds, many of them armed, joined the standoff in support of the Bundys, which ended when federal agents withdrew.
In 2016, Ammon Bundy, his brother, Ryan, and other supporters took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016. A jury acquitted the Bundy brothers and five of their supporters later that year of all charges related to the takeover.
And in January, a federal judge dismissed the charges against the Bundys from the 2014 armed standoff in Nevada because prosecutors had withheld evidence.
The annual symposium came to Modesto this year because of John Duarte, the owner of Hughson-based Duarte Nursery.
Duarte spent several years fighting the federal government after running afoul of environmental regulations for planting wheat on farmland he owns in Tehama County, about two hours north of Sacramento. He was accused of damaging seasonal wetlands, though previous owners had planted wheat.
His fight drew the backing of property rights proponents, farmers and others who accused the federal government of being overly zealous. Duarte settled his case last year by agreeing to pay $1.1 million and avoid the risk of a trial and potentially owing the government many more millions of dollars.
It costs $75 to attend the symposium, but lunch may not be available for those purchasing tickets now. Tickets can be purchased at the symposium with cash or check or at rangerights.com.