The Bundy Ranch vs. Federal Land Management

Understanding the conflict surrounding the Bundy Ranch requires that folk understand it’s not all Broke Back Mountain.  In that popular movie, ranchers would hire folk to take their critters to forage on federal land and make sure nothing ill happened to those critters.  This has been a tradition for decade upon decade.  Gradually, ranchers were made to purchase permits to continue the tradition.  So what happens when those permits become essentially unobtainable?

That is what seems to have led to the crisis at the Bundy Ranch.  The Nevada ranch has been told it can no longer graze its cattle as it once did.  In fact, it was told this decades ago.  Over those years, peaceful resolve has not been achieved.  The Bundy Ranch remains at odds with the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

While the changes BLM made to the rules are not completely understood, it seems clear they revolve around an effort to protect an endangered desert tortoise.  Towards that effort, the rules for grazing in the 600,000-acre Gold Butte area in 1993.  Since then, BLM and the Bundy Ranch have been at odds and unable to find resolve.  While BLM describes only a rule change, I suspect the Bundy Ranch choose not to comply due to necessity.  Perhaps the new rules make it impossible for the ranch to continue its long history of raising cattle in the area.

Claiming it was a last resort, BLM has taken to confiscating animals it claims are grazing illegally.  This has outraged a portion of the public and moved it to protest strongly.  Confrontations between federal officers and protesters now teeters on serious violence.  Videos released to Youtube now document dogs and tazers being used against protesters.  Reports indicate members of various militia are pouring into the area to support the Bundy Ranch against what they feel is tyranny by the Federal Government.

I see the dispute as the challenge to protect to seemingly opposite interests.  On one hand, there is a long standing relationship between ranchers and the federal government which allows ranchers to graze their cattle on land managed by BLM.  In addition to funds received by BLM through a permit program, grazing cattle helps to maintain the land, decrease the chance of brush fire, and promotes US based business.

On the other hand, the land does not belong to the Bundy Ranch.  Without paying the permit fee, the Bundy Ranch is effectively stealing from the land owners.  Those owners being the tax paying public.  If the representatives of the people who own the land feel the new rules are necessary to protect endangered wild life, then it would seem the land owners have spoken through their representatives.

I think the conflict is clear, but wonder if BLM is accurately reflecting the opinion of the land owners.  I wonder if the rules created by the representatives of the land owners accurately reflect public concern.  It would seem to me that before BLM went about confiscating cattle, they should have taken a step back and asked if they could better determine public concern.

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