Not long ago, most of the right wing was outraged at what was taking place at the Bundy Ranch. The event brought my attention back to a topic from the era of President Ronald Reagan: The Sagebrush Rebellion. The issue being who should manage public lands and how they should be managed.
The short version of the debate is that many Western states and their citizens feel the United States Bureau of Land Management was infringing on traditional grazing territory by forcing various rules and a permit system. On the surface, it does seem that for profit business should purchase rather than simply consume public resources like pasture. However, we are talking about hundreds of years in which that land was freely grazed. Perhaps, the federal government was putting too much strain on families who had used those grazing land for years. Maybe the states would be better at managing the land as they are closer to the industry that makes use of it.
At one point, many felt Mr. Bundy was simply a thief for not paying the grazing permits. After all, he was essentially taking the raw materials (grass) without paying for it and producing a finished product (cattle). The average person understands that you can not simply take trees from public land and make lumber with them. Thing is, there is another side to the story.
Due to the story about the Bundy Ranch, it is difficult to find references to the other folk who feel BLM has over stepped its authority. But if you google long enough, you will learn that BLM does not have authority over only federally owned land. It has authority over land it manages. This includes land on Native American reservations. In deed, there are Native Americans whose cattle have been seized for not paying grazing fees to graze their cattle on land owned by their tribe.
Consider the story of Raymond Yowell. The 81 year old former Chief of the Western Shoshone National Council has been assessed. His social security has been garnished and his herd has been taken. All because he did not pay a fee to graze his cattle on what seems to be tribal land established by the Treaty of Ruby Valley of 1863.
Obviously, the issue at hand is much larger than the just the Bundy Ranch. And yet, those who claimed this issue was of up most importance are now running away and denouncing Mr. Bundy. Why? Because the man seems to be a complete racist lunatic.
My question to those who once supported the issues that Mr. Bundy brought up is why run from those issues now? If your original interest was the issue itself, nothing has changed. I conclude that those who have run from the issue since Mr. Bundy’s rant were never all that concerned with the issue itself.
I am sad that the matter will now fall from the press and less pressure will be applied to address what many feel is an over stepping federal agency. We really ought to be talking about how to satisfy the needs of traditional public land use with maintaining the environment and we certainly should protect the agreements we have made with the many tribes.
While plunging and occasionally plundering in to this brave new world, we should not loose sight of old world culture. It is our very foundation.