Officials from nine Western states met recently in Salt Lake City to discuss ways to take back control of federal lands within their borders, saying the feds mismanage it. Utah lawmakers have passed a resolution demanding the federal government cede title to federal land. This not a fringe movement. It’s going mainstream in the West, propelled by the highly visible Bundy Ranch confrontation.
“What’s happened in Nevada is really just a symptom of a much larger problem,” [Utah House Speaker Becky] Lockhart said, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
The West historically has never had much use for or trust in the federal government. Part of this is due to the huge amounts of federal land in those states, especially BLM land. People who live on the East Coast often don’t Â understand, because there is virtually no BLM land where they live. So, the issues doesn’t exist for them. However, they are quite real in the West.
People in the East don’t understand, it’s true. But after living in the West for 30 years and spending much of that time researching these issues, both academically and on the ground, I have zero sympathy for privatizing federal land or so-called “local control.” The federal government set up the BLM, Forest Service and Park Service as a response to folks just like these cutting down every tree in sight until the rivers ran dry, and grazing the arid parts of the West into ecological collapse. The only problem with Easterners who don’t “get it” is that they occasionally buy into the bullshit of phonies wearing cowboy hats. Cattle grazing is untenable economically in the arid West, period. These are a rural elite who are protecting their right to rape the land, nothing more. Their tenure in the West is no more than 150 years and in that short span, they have done an incredible amount of damage, including killing native bison around Yellowstone and more wolves than I want to think about. They need to go. The sooner the better.
Then where would our beef come from? I’m not being snarky, just wondering…
You make a strong case.
An incredibly small percentage of beef comes from the West. I think the number is 5% of cattle spend some time in the Western range, not even their whole lives. So most of the beef already comes from less arid parts if the US or overseas. It’s a lifestyle issue, and a powerful rural elite trying to hang on at the expense of both taxpayers and the environment. Donald Worster, one of the great historians of the West, and a lovely guy, made this point very well. Check out my friend David Helvarg’s piece on these guys in The Progressive, which I shared on my FB page – and I got it from another journo who covered the West for years, Jane Braxton Little. The ranching biz started when there was no refrigeration, and is heavily supported by federal subsidies or it would already be over. As it is, these guys are quietly selling out. It’s just not tenable economically. And selling off federal land is a terrible idea. Rape and scrape developers would be all over the place, even more than they are now.