opinion web
Liberal Opinion Conservative Opinion
Daily Editorials
18 Apr 2014
Rep. Dave Camp's Plan Would Make Tax Day Easier

Dave Camp's pending retirement from Congress may put an end to his long crusade to make common sense of the nation'… Read More.

17 Apr 2014
Passover's Celebration of Freedom

Few events more poignantly capture the deepest human longings for freedom than the annual celebration of Passover,… Read More.

17 Apr 2014
At HHS, Sebelius Wasn't the Problem

Last week brought the news that Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius is leaving the Obama administration,… Read More.

Shrink Feds' Share of the West


For a brief period late last week, American politics seemed to be transported back to the 1990s. The source of the time warp: Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher who was engaged in a tense standoff with officials from the federal government's Bureau of Land Management.

At issue was the fact that the feds were removing Bundy's cattle from federal lands on which he had failed to pay grazing fees for more than two decades. With both sides threatening force — armed sympathists joined Bundy; the BLM brought snipers to the scene — it was hard to avoid the memories of violent '90s conflicts like Ruby Ridge and Waco.

Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed in the Silver State, and armed conflict was avoided. It would have been to the eternal discredit of either side had bloodshed resulted from such a low-stakes fight. Disputes over grazing rights aren't grounds for summoning either armed militias or militarized law enforcement.

Bundy, it bears noting, is far from blameless in this situation. He's been in clear violation of the law for more than 20 years. And his justification for the defiance — that he doesn't recognize the authority of the federal government — is risible.

While we may not be sympathetic to Bundy's specific arguments, we are sensitive to his underlying grievance. The land on which Bundy's cattle were grazing had been used by his family for ranching since the late 19th century.

During the past few decades, however, federal officials have greatly constrained private access to those lands, while raising the attendant fees — a pattern that has happened throughout the West, taking a devastating toll on the ranching industry. That doesn't justify Mr. Bundy's one-man exercise in nullification, but it does call the propriety of the government's role into question.

The deeper issue here is the excessive control the federal government exercises over land in the American West. In Nevada, the feds own 81 percent of the state's acreage, according to the Congressional Research Service. In California, nearly half — 47.7 percent — of land belongs to Washington.

There are plenty of instances, of course, where such ownership is entirely unobjectionable. No one doubts the necessity, for instance, of Washington owning the land necessary for military installations and our national parks. But why should property that doesn't serve such vital purposes remain in government hands?

We'd like to see Washington divest itself of such holdings. The resulting income could swell the Treasury without raising taxes on anyone. And putting more land in private hands would allow residents of these states to negotiate issues like grazing rights through private exchanges — not threats delivered at gunpoint.

Bundy was in the wrong in the Nevada standoff — but that doesn't make the system he was railing against any less unjust.




0 Comments | Post Comment
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right: comments policy
Newspaper Contributors
Apr. `14
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
30 31 1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 1 2 3
About the author About the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Marc Dion
Marc DionUpdated 21 Apr 2014
Deb Saunders
Debra J. SaundersUpdated 20 Apr 2014
Steve Chapman
Steve ChapmanUpdated 20 Apr 2014

14 Dec 2012 A Miracle of Freedom

29 Jun 2010 Punishing Speech Just Got Easier

11 Dec 2013 At Long Last, a Volcker Rule for the too big to Fail