Table of Contents:
- Bundy Case Is A Requiem For Property Rights In America
- Bundy's Lease
The sad reality is that private property rights no longer exist. You can hold your land until the government decides to take it. It’s just a much more real experience for people in the West.
Let’s look at the county where Bundy’s lease is located. Clark County, NV, at one time had 52 lease holders on federal land. Bundy is the only one left, and the only reason the government hasn’t run him off is because he’s simply refused to go.
Bundy probably made his case in a bad way and, ultimately, the federal government will win. There’s no doubt about that; he’s already lost twice in appeals. No one can fight the power of the federal government, with all the resources and options at its disposal.
What Bundy did, however, was point out that the system is broken. It doesn’t matter if the rationale is to save turtles, fish, mice or prairie chickens, the federal government is eliminating not only grazing but the entire multiple-use concept on federal lands.
Folks back East can still drive out to one of the western states, hike around and enjoy the vast country, so they don’t have a lot of concerns. However, the economies and the lifestyle of the affected western communities are being destroyed. It’s as if you made an agreement with someone, subsequent generations continued to invest on the land, and then the deal was changed.
I suppose the best analogy is to take a landowner in a state like Illinois, whose family has owned and worked a particular parcel of land for 100 years and multiple generations. One day, the government decides your land would better serve society as a state park or if it had a Walmart distribution center on it. Undoubtedly, you’d fight the government; undoubtedly, you would lose.
The reality is that for people in the West, public lands have been seen as private property to a large extent, unlike in the East where virtually all land is considered private property. The sad reality, however, is that private property rights no longer exist. You can hold your land until the government decides to take it. It’s just a much more real experience for people in the West.
If you haven’t lived in a western state, you likely don’t understand the dynamic between state rights and the oppressive power of the federal government. The federal government is not only the biggest landowner in most western states, but the most powerful player, essentially dictating what is to be done. Along with any decree is the ever-present threat of shutting down your economy if you don’t go along. The feds also don’t pay taxes on that land, so that’s a tremendous drain as well.
As I said, the Bundy family will lose, and the federal government will drive them out of business one way or another, thus removing cattle from land that had been grazed successfully for generations upon generations. Unless you’re a rancher whose livelihood depends on grazing federal lands, dealt with any of the 20 bureaucracies you must deal with in doing so, and been forced to listen to a 20-something bureaucrat threaten your lease unless you change your ways, you can’t fathom the resentment that exists in some quarters toward an overbearing, uncaring and totally unintelligible federal bureaucracy that can dictate virtually everything to you.
Bundy isn’t to be celebrated for breaking the law or for failing to pay his fees, but he is a hero for calling attention to the plight of the West as his final act. Then the Bundy family will be like the thousands of other western ranchers that have been, or are being, removed from their land on a daily basis. Perhaps, however, Bundy’s final act of defiance will bring attention to the problem of a broken system.
The views of Troy Marshall do not necessarily reflect those of beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
Editor's Note: The Nevada Cattlemen's Association provided this position statement on April 18. Click here to read.
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