Monday, January 4, 2016

All Americans own Western lands

A new Sagebrush Rebellion, again involving armed men, shows that the federal government is going to have to act to enforce the law.
I learned as a reporter covering the West for Associated Press, and living in seven states from Alaska to Arizona, that some people believe that because they live closer to this land that they have more say in its management than those in other states.
In fact, someone living in Portland, Maine, has as much right to the management of this land as people like me who live in Colorado.
Much blood was spilled taking the Western states, and the rest of the nation, and no one has any personal right to any public land. In many territories they agreed to give some of their land to the nation in order to become states.
Washington required a share of the land to cover the cost of deploying the U.S. Army to unsettled areas to protect them from the Native Americans who lived there. Critics would say steal the land.
The federal government pays millions to nearly 2000 local governments to replace taxes they would receive they were private land.
In return, if private land owners want to use federal land to graze cattle, or do anything else to make money, they must pay fees.
The right-wingers, led by the Bundy family, want “the federal government to give up its unconstitutional presence in this county.”
In other words, those of us who live else in the nation, meaning the majority, would be granting the right of ownership to national land. All this without a vote.

Here is a description of the land seized:
Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established on August 18, 1908, by President Theodore Roosevelt as the Lake Malheur Reservation. Roosevelt set aside unclaimed government lands encompassed by Malheur, Mud and Harney Lakes “as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds.” The newly established “Lake Malheur Reservation” was the 19th of 51 wildlife refuges created by Roosevelt during his tenure as president. At the time, Malheur was the third refuge in Oregon and one of only six refuges west of the Mississippi.
This political battle has a long history, and it has ended in violence on some occasions. In 2014 the leaders of the revolt escaped punishment.
This is a different country in 2016. The sight of rogues of whatever political view marching around with automatic rifles will not be well received on network news or YouTube.
It reminds us of a period in our history when rustlers stole cattle and anything else they want. They also drove farmers on land they wanted to graze cattle on. Perhaps the nation needs President Obama to become a real-life Shane.

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