Land Use

Battle Over Western Lands is Far Bigger Than the Bundy Controversy

|

Federal control of land
American Lands Council

The recent face-off between the Bundy family and its supporters on the one hand, and the Bureau of Land Management and its enablers on the other, is hardly the first word in the tussle between westerners and the federal government over control of land. The battle has probably been inevitable since western settlers ceded control of the lion's share of the open spaces around them to distant Washington, D.C. in return for admission to the union. Now, those spaces aren't quite so open, and their inhabitants are more assertive—and see themselves (often with good reason) as better stewards of their turf than distant officials who seem to pride themselves on inefficiency and lousy accounting practices.

So, why the fuss? As the Congressional Research Service points out in a 2012 report, "more than 60% of the land in Alaska is federally owned. … Nearly half of the land in the 11 coterminous western states is federally owned. … In the rest of the country, the federal government owns 4% of the lands."

Nevada, home of the Bundy standoff, is 81 percent federal land. Even in the open West, that can be confining.

This massive absentee ownership, concentrated in half of the country, created conflicts from day one. Debates raged over use of that land, access to resources, taxes, and whether such vast areas should be held by government authorities in general, and distant officials in particular.

At the Christian Science Monitor, Brad Knickerbocker writes:

In Salt Lake City Friday, representatives from Utah, Idaho, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Oregon, and Washington met for a "Legislative Summit on the Transfer of Public Lands."

"Those of us who live in the rural areas know how to take care of lands," Montana state Sen. Jennifer Fielder said at a news conference. "We have to start managing these lands. It's the right thing to do for our people, for our environment, for our economy and for our freedoms."

In other words, today's revival of the "Sagebrush Rebellion" is as much about political philosophy as it is about great stretches of the largely-arid territory west of the 100th meridian splitting the Dakotas and running down through Texas.

Without a doubt, Utah takes the lead in the effort by westerners to assert local control over land and its resources. Last year, state lawmakers passed the Transfer of Public Lands Act, essentially demanding that the federal government surrender the two-thirds of the state controlled by Washington, D.C. Utahns explicitly did so as part of a Financial Ready Utah (PDF) movement that says "the current fiscal trajectory of the federal government is unsustainable" and foresees a day when state residents will have to pay all of their own bills.

Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory (R-West Jordan) told Reason Foundation's Leonard Gilroy:

In the 2011 session—when we realized that over $5 billion of our state revenue comes from a federal government that's broke—that's when we started to flesh out how serious those numbers were. Something on the order of 40% of our state revenue comes from an unsustainable source in our federal governing partner. We looked at the magnitude of this risk and started to think about how we could broaden our revenue base and get to a point of economic self-reliance.

Controlling the land and resources is a big step in that direction.

The "Legislative Summit on the Transfer of Public Lands," gathering representatives from nine western states in Salt Lake City, was organized by Ivory and borrows its terminology from that Utah move, showing that concerns about reducing financial reliance on the feds and gaining local control are spreading. Planning for the conference predates the Bundy standoff and the gathering addresses broader issues—but it certainly got a nudge from headlines and tense video of federal agents facing off with locals over land use.

So, what started as a simmering problem over the control of land and resources has only been fueled by the growing prosperity and sophistication of westerners. They see little reason to leave their fate in the hands of a stumbling federal government that can't balance its books.

The Bundy controversy is almost a blast from the past, adding an old-timey veneer—maybe an obscuring one—to a conflict that remains very current and pressing for westerners.

NEXT: Biden Lands in Ukraine as Violence and Hostage-Takings Resume

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. …and see themselves (often with good reason) as better stewards of their turf than distant officials who seem to pride themselves on inefficiency and lousy accounting practices.

    WRONG. The Dumbfuckistanis are too dumb to manage their lands. Or anything else about themselves, come to think of it.

    1. I bet you know steak doesn’t come from WalMart…they have a truck out back.;)

  2. So let the states buy federal land at fair market value. That way the Red states can repay some of the money they drained from Blue state taxpayers.

    1. Wait, idiot. *you’re* the one who supports the system whereby taxes on the ‘rich’ (which mainly fall on your blue-collar union-dues paying buddies) to ‘pay for civilization’.

      Oh, and fuck that shit – the federal government mandated that most of that land be turned over. I’ll refund their purchase price.

      1. Turn it over to the states and let them auction it off.

        1. Why the states? I don’t see how state governments have any more legitimate claim on the land than the Federal government. Just open it to private homesteading and mining claims.

          1. Give it to me. I’ll be the Land Czar. Not with the government, just the guy who auctions off the land.

            1. I found you a dollar.

              1. We’ll be retaining some land for launching stuff, of course.

                1. Hey, any improved property they can keep. its not like we’re asking them to sell Los Alamos to the first guy who comes along with $5000.

                  1. Need to store your nuclear waste? Sure, have some now unregulated land in the middle of nowhere.

                    1. Can I also use it to for filming sit-coms?

                    2. Of course! After all, we are not communists.

                    3. But WHY WON’T YOU THINK OF TEH CHILDRUNZ!?

                    4. Because nobody besides other children and Jesus Quintana would want to watch sit-coms about children?

      2. Some states are more equal than others, you see.

        The residents of Eastern states get to own 96% of their land, while the Western states get to own less than 50% of their land, and this represents equality to a prog.

        1. I really think it is irrelevant what states have how much federal land in them. State governments have no more legitimate claim to the land than federal government does.

          As I see it the problem is that the federal government owns so much land, period. Not that that land is mostly in the west. There are pretty obvious historical and geographical reasons why that happened the way it did.

          1. Oh I agree with you on that. While state ownership would only be a marginal improvement over federal ownership, it would hopefully be a first step towards privatization of the lands.

            As I said below, Shriek wouldn’t have to worry about subsidizing people in the West (esp. those “Red States”) if the feds weren’t responsible for managing land that they shouldn’t own in the first place.

          2. There are pretty obvious historical and geographical reasons why that happened the way it did.

            Explain. What was so different about the territory acquired in the west than the territory acquired outside the rest of the original 13 colonies? Not shit, that’s what.

      3. “I’ll refund their purchase price”

        Less the stupidity tax, because FYTW

    2. If the Blue States are tired of giving them money, then maybe they should stop voting to do so.

    3. The great irony: Red States get all the welfare and Blue States have all the inequality.

      1. Are you saying that welfare eases inequality?

    4. Also, one of the reasons that some of the Western “Red States” appear so dependent on the feds is the fact that the feds are responsible for managing that land, and all of the salaries paid to the federal (BLM, Forest Service, etc.) workers living in those states are considered benefits paid to the residents of those states.

      1. ^^^^^This IS the biggest reason.

    5. That way the Red states can repay some of the money they drained from Blue state taxpayers.

      Fuck Blue State Taxpayers…they don’t like it they can have some of those fiscally conservative Blue State lawmakers curtail those give away programs.

      And always….NEEDZMORECHRIZTFAGYOUOBAMASUCKINGFUCKWIT

    6. So let the states buy federal land at fair market value. That way the Red states can repay some of the money they drained from Blue state taxpayers.

      Washington Oregon and California are Blue states genius.

      But sure OK market value you said.

      Undeveloped acreage with no power no water no roads out in the middle of nowhere. I will pay market value sure. That kind of land is my favorite kind of land to develop. So let me check market prices for land like that.

      $25 to $50 an acre is market value. Sound like a good price to me. Sorry it is so cheap but that is what happens to the price of land when you don’t develop it.

    7. Let them stop feeding blue state pussies and watch the latter rape, kill and eat each other.

      Popcorn, please.

  3. So let the states buy federal land at fair market value.

    There’s no market for land in chunks that big. Try again.

    1. I keep hearing there are vast untapped minerals and energy resources in those lands.

      1. Hmm, I wonder why they’re untapped.

      2. As he said, there’s no market for land in chunks that big.

        1. Paul.|4.21.14 @ 3:01PM|#

          As he said, there’s no market for land in chunks that big.

          Yes there is. A market for dirt cheap land is still a market.

          1. Pls. point me to the recent sales of land in chunks bigger than, oh, 100,000 acres.

            Setting market value requires reference to actual transactions similar to the one at hand. Since, you know, market value is determined by what has actually been paid in market transactions.

            1. The west is all cut up and surveyed into sections (1 mile by 1 mile) and even smaller government lots.

              No reason to sell it off in larger chunks then that.

              The legal description for the deeds would be just 3 numbers. Township, Range and section.

              You would be surprised how turn key ready such a public land auction would be. It is almost as if the Fed government intended to sell it off all along.

            2. Pls. point me to the recent sales of land in chunks bigger than, oh, 100,000 acres.

              Put up 100,000 acres for sale in Washington state and i can find you 10 buyers with money in escrow and have an LLC facilitator that slits the land up to those buys in a month.

            3. Circular argument. There are few 100,000+ acre sales because the government owns those and isn’t selling.

              Hold a well publicized auction and see what happens. But before we do, pass a law limiting owning of large tracts of land by non-citizens – otherwise the Chinese could buy up a lot of land with that trillion $ of US debt.

              The real thing is the water rights. Without legal access to water, it is very hard to do anything productive in a desert.

      3. The FMV of resources you are not allowed to access is zero.

        What you are trying to get the states to do is pay the FMV of the land when it is no longer subject to federal restrictions. That’s not FMV, because that doesn’t exist (yet). Its like saying I should pay the full cost of a restored classic car, for a totally unrestored junker.

        1. while *I* would say the fair market value would be based on the estimated future earnings from the property – the government at all levels likes to use a FMV estimation in their eminent domain actions that discounts the value of the property to the developer they’re stealing it for and only count how much the stuff is worth as if the development was not happening.

          1. So, to finish that comment.

            We should use the government’s standard here. Sauce for the goose and all.

          2. *I* would say the fair market value would be based on the estimated future earnings from the property

            Which, as the property sits today subject to fed control, is zero.

            1. My point. Buttplug wants to sell the land IAW expected future value from development – that’s how we’ll ‘repay’ the states that ‘give us money’.

              My point is that the government likes to ignore that calculation when using eminent domain so we’ll ignore it here and give the gov the current value of the land – which will net the federal gov almost nothing once the cost of auctioning it off is factored in.

              1. My point. Buttplug wants to sell the land IAW expected future value from development – that’s how we’ll ‘repay’ the states that ‘give us money’.

                Yeah. Shrike has very little understanding of what “Market Price” means when applied to land.

                In market price those future values are priced in though….they are just really really really low and far lower then what Shrike is thinking they are.

                No one is going to pay the price for proven and discovered minimal resource when they are buying unproven and undiscovered mineral resource land. And if no one is going to pay that price then it is not market price.

        2. That’s not FMV, because that doesn’t exist (yet). Its like saying I should pay the full cost of a restored classic car, for a totally unrestored junker.

          Excellent metaphor.

      4. I keep hearing there are vast untapped minerals and energy resources in those lands.

        yup…ie undeveloped.

        You said market prices. Market prices of undeveloped land with vast untapped mineral and energy resources is cheap cheap cheap.

  4. I was watching an economic debate on YouTube this weekend, and some prog proffered an inexact quote by Thomas Jefferson about taxing income geometrically to keep it from becoming concentrated.

    He was wrong.

    Thomas Jefferson said that property (land) should be taxed geometrically, and specifically because Jefferson essentially feared a kind of fiefdom of wealthy landowners who would leave their land untouched, uncultivated and unproductive while people sat unemployed. He saw this as unjust.

    Say what you will about Thomas Jefferson being morally correct about taxing large landowners because they’re leaving their lands pristine and untouched, but the man was definitely about getting land used, working and productive for the economic betterment of all.

    The idea that we’d have BILLIONS of acres owned by the federal government left uncultivated while unemployment sits at 8% would have Jefferson rolling over in his grave.

    1. I can think of lots of other things that would have Jefferson spinning like a top. We should hook some power lines up to that grave.

    2. But, but…OPEN SPACES!!11

      1. What’s comical is that it was a progressive trying to sandbag with a TJ quote to make TJ appear unlibertarian.

        Thomas Jefferson, a guy who was pretty much small government all the way, certainly said shit I disagree with. But if you look at the context, it was always in the service of keeping commerce moving, eliminating barriers (he saw feudal-landowners as a barrier) and keeping the land productive and cultivated.

        1. I think that there is some place for government maintaining open spaces. It’s not just so hippies can go hug trees. The Eastern National Forests are a pretty good example. When the mountains were completely logged, the rivers got very dirty, fish died and flooding became a much bigger problem in downstream areas (I’m mostly talking about New England because that’s what I know about).
          Maybe there are better ways to go about it, but preserving the headwaters of major rivers seems like a public good to me.

          1. I think that there is some place for government maintaining open spaces.

            So you think there is a legitimate government claim to “some” land but not others? I think the best thing is to give the federal land located within state borders to those states. Let the citizens of those states decide what to do with the land.

            Just my personal opinion.

            1. Give it back to the Indians. I mean, at least they might do something useful with it, and some of them have decent claims on the land in question. Beats the feds owning it, anyway.

              1. Give it back to the Indians.

                That would actually be my preference. They have a legitimate claim to the land.

              2. Give it back to the Indians.

                Unless there are some really, really old Indians hanging around, you wouldn’t be giving it “back” to anyone who had ever had a claim to it.

                1. Unless there are some really, really old Indians hanging around, you wouldn’t be giving it “back” to anyone who had ever had a claim to it.

                  Most of the Indian lands were originally owned by the tribes. Those tribes are still around. If not, then turn over to the states.

                  1. Considering most Indians don’t believe in property ownership, and those that did actually sold us the land, no.

                    1. Considering most Indians don’t believe in property ownership, and those that did actually sold us the land, no.

                      They don’t? You must talk to different Indians than I do.

                    2. Generalizing grossly, the Indians had nothing like real estate property ownership back in the day, so its hard to say they had property rights in the land. Just didn’t compute, for the most part.

                    3. That’s a fallacy.

                      Tribes have always been territorial – they have an area they consider ‘theirs’.

                      Its not as formalized and accurate as our expectations for title records, but I don’t believe there is a group of humans in the history of humanity that didn’t think they ‘owned’ the land they lived on.

                      This whole ‘nobody can own the land’ nonsense is hippy talk.

                    4. “Tribes have always been territorial – they have an area they consider ‘theirs’.”

                      And how did they assert their territorial rights? It was generally by beating the shit out of competing tribes who also felt they claimed that land.

                      So…why exactly should the US give this land back to these tribes…And…er…to whom? Should we give the land to the tribe WE took it from, or to the tribe THEY took it from?

                  2. I don’t see any difference between that and paying reparations to blacks for slavery. You’re giving something to someone who was never subject to the original condition.

                    1. You’re giving something to someone who was never subject to the original condition.

                      When the original treaties were signed, they were signed with tribes, not individuals. The borders of the Indian lands were known, so you could restore those lands to the tribes. You are giving land back to the original tribe, not an individual.

                      If that goes against your sensibilities, then transfer the land to the states. But I think if the Feds tried that, there would be massive lawsuits from the tribes.

                  3. Or, like the mashantucket pequots, will come back from extinction pretty damn quick when there’s some money to be made off the name.

                    1. Calling Elizabeth Warren ,Pocahontas are you out there?

            2. I’m not convinced of the legitimacy of government’s claims to any power or possessions. But on the assumption that we will have some sort of government in any case, I don’t think that maintaining land for legitimate public purposes is high on the list of bad things that governments do.

              In the case of the eastern national forests, the land was mostly purchased from private land owners, so I suppose the claim on the land is as legitimate as anything government does, though people might argue about whether it is a proper role for government to fill.

              1. he land was mostly purchased from private land owners, so I suppose the claim on the land is as legitimate as anything government does

                Most of the western lands came to be owned as a result of wars. The Bundy land was ceded from Mexico to the US in 1848. So as far as legitimacy goes, I guess that is a good as any.

                The question is what should the Feds do with it now that they have it? If the land was taken from the Indians, give it back, otherwise give to the states, as the Constitution does not allow for Fed ownership of land except for carrying out its enumerated powers.

                1. I certainly agree that most of the land held by the federal government should not be and only a little bit is needed for constitutional functions.
                  But I don’t like giving it to states very much. State governments have no business owning land that they don’t need for their essential functions either. I say let individuals make claims on the land. Any government owning huge amounts of land is absurd.

          2. I think that there is some place for government maintaining open spaces. It’s not just so hippies can go hug trees.

            Absolutely not. It’s so I can go kayaking, hiking, camping, target shooting and four-wheeling.

            *spits into spitoon*

            It’s too bad so many environmental groups keep trying to shut those activities down, too.

            1. Private entities do all of that much better than any government park.

              I don’t know about you, but whenever I try to go to a federal institution because I’m on vacation, those government workers that are supposed to be running those parks are also on vacation, depriving me of any enjoyment I might’ve been able to have at that federal park.

              1. National Forests are (or are supposed to be anyway) quite different things from parks. A forest with some logging trails doesn’t need anyone to run it. In my experience with national forests, you can pretty much go in there and do pretty much what you want.

                I agree that most of it would be better handled by private entities. My initial point was simply that there are some legitimate public purposes to some national forests beyond just conservation or recreation.

              2. My personal experience in National and State Parks has been almost uniformly positive. Then again, I’m mostly concerned with getting into backcountry and wilderness areas, which don’t require much in the way of staff or maintenance. But I’m not sure that private entities would do wilderness conservation better than government.

                1. Private entities don’t shut down their parks (except under political pressure) when the federal government has a tantrum.

    3. If land were taxed that way, the government wouldn’t own so much of it. They’d be passing up on a potent revenue source.

      At any rate, that type of system might make more sense when wealth creation was tied more closely to land use. It doesn’t make much sense in a high tech economy.

    4. Thomas Jefferson should read the Theory of Idle Resources and quit being such a Keynesian.

      However, the super-correct libertarian response is that “untouched and uncultivated” land isn’t owned at all.

      1. is that “untouched and uncultivated” land isn’t owned at all.

        Does this mean if I buy land to let it sit fallow, it really isn’t mine?

        1. That was Locke’s theory, not sure about Jefferson.

          1. That was Locke’s theory, not sure about Jefferson

            Is is the libertarian view though, as Tak Kak suggests? It would seem to me to violate the NAP to take land because it was not being used as someone thinks it should be.

            1. See also: Susan Kelo and the city of New London. I don’t recall thinking the supreme court came down on the side of libertarianism there.

              1. I don’t recall thinking the supreme court came down on the side of libertarianism there

                I was asking about the libertarian position, not the Supreme Court position. Would fallow land still belong to the purchaser?

                1. Why not – is there some obligation to maximize revenue from real property?

                  Should I have an easement to take control of some of my yard? What if I’m not renting out the extra bedrooms in my house?

                  Ownership means, if it means anything, that you can do what you will with what you own – only subject to externalities you impose on others.

                  I have no problem with the federal government not developing the land. I have a problem with the federal government owning the land in the first place. they’re not a land-bank.

                2. “Ownership” simply means the owner has exclusive rights to any profits generated via improvements created on the defined parcel. It’s how you avoid Tragedy of the Commons scenarios. Choosing not to improve a parcel does not mean the individual foregoes ownership.

            2. Fence it or mark the boundary in some way if you want to have a legitimate claim to it.

        2. Right, although you are entitled to your money back as that would be fraud.

          You’d (or the prior owner) have to first “emborder” it (that is touch it and make it obvious that you’ve touched it). That doesn’t imply maximizing the revenue from it though.

      2. the super-correct libertarian response is that “untouched and uncultivated” land isn’t owned at all

        I don’t think so. Right now I’m pretty sure I own land that is as untouched and uncultivated as it gets. It was National Forest land 30 years ago, has never even been logged, etc. I own it because I paid for it. What I do with it, or don’t do with it, doesn’t affect my ownership of it.

        1. I own it because I paid for it. What I do with it, or don’t do with it, doesn’t affect my ownership of it.

          That was my thought as well.

        2. And people “own” plots on the moon.

          Just buying it from someone means nothing.

        3. What I do with it, or don’t do with it, doesn’t affect my ownership of it.

          Well, actually no. Adverse possession. If you abandon your plot long enough, and someone else is making use of it … technically they could claim ownership.

  5. It isn’t just a state and federal dispute. States and provinces have also shown to be less capable as stewards than leassees. Indian lands, grazing lands, traplines, logging lands, etc. should be given to long term leasees as fee transferable title.

    1. The first step to this would be turning this over to the states.

      It ain’t a *great* option, but the state government is less likely to be pressured to let the land lie fallow by out-of-state coalitions.

      Of course, neither will be great about fairly auctioning this stuff off without undue porking and back-room dealing.

      1. If Utah wants to do some type of old-style “Sooner” land grant, I’m in.

      2. the state government is less likely to be pressured to let the land lie fallow by out-of-state coalitions.

        That may be true, but the exact same pressures are going to keep it from being transferred to the states in the first place, so it is sort of irrelevant.

  6. I take offense to that. We separated from Dumbfuckistan following the Dumbfuck Uprising of 1987. We are now citizens of the People’s Republic of Dumbfuck, and are known as Dumbfuckers.

    1. I want to hear the National Anthem.

      1. Its “the Internationale” played on fart-kazoos.

    2. Dude, it’s not nice to diss California like that.

    1. He is the natural man.

      1. Is he free to gambol?

        1. Apparently not.

  7. This post makes me think of the contrast between the Biltmore Estate and pretty much any government-owned park or whatever.

    For anyone that has ever been, you pretty much know what I mean. For those that haven’t, it’s quite simply awe-inspiring.

  8. To elaborate a bit, no government has any incentive to improve or efficiently utilize -any- space it owns, because no matter what they do to it, the land won’t actually earn them a return on investment.

    1. The explicit purpose of many National Parks is to prevent development of the land beyond the bare minimum necessary to access and preserve it. Say what you will about whether that is a good idea or a legitimate role of government, but my experience is that they’ve done a pretty good job of it.

      1. I think this is largely true. Whatever you think about the existence of national parks, they aren’t exactly the low hanging fruit that libertarians should be going after first. If all the Fed did was national parks, some regulation of actual interstate commerce, a defensive military and customs and immigration, that wouldn’t be such a bad situation.

        1. I’m watching Ken Burns “The National Parks”. The way in which many of the parks were created certainly raises my ire, but there is a strong case to be made from the historical record that, absent force of law, the “pristine” wilderness character of many parks would not have been maintained. Whether a bunch of hotels along the rim of the Grand Canyon would have been a good or bad thing is a separate issue, but I suspect that would have been the outcome of full privatization.

          1. Explain to me why exactly it is so important to maintain the “Pristine” wilderness of national parks?

            And by the way, most National Parks are not pristine. They have been improved with roads, drainage, erosion control, camping amenities, access, etc. If you want pristine, go check out some of the BLM land I hunt on. One single horse path and on either side, Dark timber and sheer drops. That’s pristine.

            Once you accept that the Government isn’t preserving anything, but rather selling you ITS version of pristine, you have to ask, why should the government be doing that? Especially when there are thousands of state parks and private properties that do the same thing perfectly fine.

            1. True. Check out Kerchner Caverns in Arizona. Instead of genuinely *preserving* this pristine cave in southern Arizona, the government installed a handicapped accessible ramp and turned it into a tourist attraction.

            2. Explain to me why exactly it is so important to maintain the “Pristine” wilderness of national parks?

              It’s a personal value judgement. I like wilderness. Others may not.

              And by the way, most National Parks are not pristine

              I’m well aware of that, which is why I used quotes around pristine and included the caveats up above about access. The fraction of the land used for campsites and roads is a small fraction of the total. Of course, that is the portion that the majority of people see, but that is by choice. Vast swaths of mostly pristine land lie a few miles from most trail heads.

              Once you accept that the Government isn’t preserving anything

              You’re jumping to an extreme that you yourself concede isn’t true (you mention the pristine BLM land you hunt on). The government absolutely does preserve something.

              you have to ask, why should the government be doing that

              I won’t try to come up with a rigidly libertarian argument for the National Parks because I don’t think there is one.

              thousands of state parks

              Still government.

              1. (cont.)

                and private properties that do the same thing perfectly fine

                Really? I know there are private game lands and some privately owned natural sites, but I’m not aware of anything approaching the size and scale of the National Parks, National Forests, and other similar lands. Or State equivalents. I certainly could be wrong, so please correct me if I am.

                But as I alluded to above, one of the primary reasons given for creating the early National Parks was to prevent private development, either to extract natural resources or to facilitate tourism in ways that would have preserved the feeling of wilderness (is that more accurate?) far less than government has.

                1. I should probably be more clear. You are absolutely correct that there are many government operated parks that don’t even try to maintain a feeling of wilderness. The argument that government is needed to preserve them obviously can’t apply there.

                  I have in mind land that is mostly undeveloped, with the caveats of trails, roads, and bridges needed for access, etc, and which does attempt to preserve a feeling of wilderness. I’m not aware of very many private equivalents, and again, not on the same scale.

                2. Perhaps Indian Reservations do not qualify as private lands by your definition (in reality they are sovereign nations), but I have found several reservations that I much prefer to National or State Parks for wilderness experiences. It takes a little more effort than driving through the gate and paying $20, but it is usually real wilderness, with fewer bullshit rules, unlike most National Parks. I consider one or two million acres to be equivalent in size to any National Park south of Alaska.

                3. I know there are private game lands and some privately owned natural sites, but I’m not aware of anything approaching the size and scale of the National Parks, National Forests, and other similar lands.

                  Gee, no shit? You think that might have something to do with the fact that private parties haven’t been allowed to purchase or own any such land for over a century?

                  This is the old ROADZ!!!! canard with a different sticker on the package. “We can’t have private roads, because the government owns all the roads”. Flawless logic.

  9. I have long suggested that the Federal Government offer free title in Federal land to Social Security recipients, as long as the latter relinquish any claim to or expectation of receiving Social Security payouts in the future. A few unpolluted, accessible acres here in California, where I was born and make my home, would square Uncle Sam with me; I’d be happy to take my chances with (and on) the land. This would be a good way to pay off liabilities for pensions and Medicare, too. Not everyone would accept the deal — and of course those worried that Uncle Sam would be giving away Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon would certainly oppose the plan — but I think a large enough crowd would swap promises of future payouts for formerly Federal land in the here and now, as to markedly reduce the US government’s financial exposure. Plus, that land would pass into private hands and management, which, I have to believe, would be far better thing than what we have now or can look forward to under the current arrangement.

    1. By “Social Security Recipients,” I also include those who are so close to the retirement age that they will begin receiving benefits in the next several years — who have paid into SS their whole lives and probably will see little, if any return, assuming the system is as insolvent as alleged. I am hopeful that enough people will take the offer, so as to allow the government to wind down Social Security taxes for the young, eliminating them as soon as possible so that the kids can move forward without that encumbrance, and have a fighting chance of being able to manage their own retirements successfully.

      1. I also include those who are so close to the retirement age that they will begin receiving benefits in the next several years — who have paid into SS their whole lives and probably will see little, if any return, assuming the system is as insolvent as alleged. I am hopeful that enough people will take the offer, so as to allow the government to wind down Social Security taxes for the young

        Why would they want to do that when they can always just raid everyone’s 401Ks? There’s always more money for them to steal. At least for a while longer.

  10. When Nevada became a state in 1864, this was put into its own Constitution (you respect constitutions, don’t you JD?):

    “Third. That the people inhabiting said territory do agree and declare, that they FOREVER disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States; ?..”

    And in the Babbit case before the Supreme Court, the court upheld the federal government’s rights to regulate grazing include “…stop[ping] injury to the public grazing lands by preventing overgrazing and soil deterioration,”

    And do cattlemen overgraze? Of course. Even Beef Magazine (no puns here) said so:
    “At least six out of 10 of your neighbors overgraze every pasture every year. That’s the finding of a survey I conducted in 1999 by randomly selecting 500 commercial cattlemen and asking them to describe their grazing practices.”
    http://beefmagazine.com/mag/beef_stop_overgrazing

    So what’s your beef, JD (now pun intended)? Are we a nation of laws, or just some? Do Constitutions have validity…I know you think an older one than the Nevada one does. What’s next up for debate, the Louisiana Purchase?

    1. So the BLM which the government should have allocated for private ownership is overgrazed.

      I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.

    2. Why did the federal government force Nevada to turn over possession of all of it’s public lands to the federal government as a condition of statehood?

      Was that fair?

      1. Lincoln needed the electoral college votes in 1864.

        For bonus reading, compare the Constitution to the process by which West Virginia became a state

      2. What does fair ever have to do with anything in the free market? Nevada wanted entrance into the Union, and they were willing to pay that price. They were not forced into anything.

        1. What does fair ever have to do with anything in the free market?

          What does government land grabbing have to do with anything in the free market might be a better question.

      3. By the way, Indian tribes sold Manhattan Island for $24 worth of trinkets. Was that fair? Do they get a do-over?

    3. It is also well established that undergrazing is harmful to grazing land. Just as rotations are used to manage nutrients and herbicides on farmland, rotations are used to manage grazing land.

      As for the law, if we respect equality, we find that the right of ownership belongs to the occupier of a piece of land. As such the government had no moral authority to claim this land.

  11. I have an idea. It might sound crazy, but I thought it is at least worth throwing out there.

    I am not sure if my sources are correct, so please correct, if anyone knows the true numbers.

    Anyway, from what I found on google, the Feds own 650 million acres of land.

    And it seems there are currently around 225 million adults in the USA.

    So just divide all of the fed land up equally to adults. That around 3 acres per adult.

    You don’t want your land? Sell it to highest bidder!

    Yes, I know, if not for the all benevolent oversight of our federal saints in DC, we would rape the land and Mother Gaia would die a violent death.

    1. Some 3 acres are better then other 3 acres.

      Better to just auction it off and write people checks.

      Note: Your solution is better then keeping the status quo.

      1. Yeah, the feds own a lot of Idaho, but a lot of Idaho is also mountainous wilderness that would be very difficult to develop. That would suit some people just fine, but certainly would not be as commercially valuable as some other equally-sized parcels.

    2. Someone better fucking tell the African Americans out there who are still bitching about their 40 acres and a mule.

  12. So privatize the land through true auctions designed to maximize the value for the current owners, the federal taxpayers. But of course, paying for the land or even the use of the land doesn’t seem to be in these guys’ plans. No giveaways. The land belongs to the government that represents all of us, however imperfectly. It doesn’t belong to Utah and it certainly doesn’t belong to that free-loader, Bundy.

    1. It seems like Bundy has a better claim on the land than the US Government (or Utah), he actually uses it.

      It’s not like he’s a federal employee living off of the taxpayer.

    2. How did the federal government get the land in the first place? Did they pay for it? Why do they have any more claim to it than Bundy, whose family has been grazing cattle there for 130 years?

      1. Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo or Manifest Destiny – choose whichever answer you like.

        That just begs the question of how did Mexico get title to the land?

        In the end, ownership is about who has the guns, not some abstract notion of morality or God choosing you to be the winner.

  13. I know it’s popular to think of the Bundys as Revolutionary War Minute Men staving off the vicious Red Coated BLM, but consider the BLM’s stated mission is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

    According to what I’ve read, the Bundys graze their cattle on that land, and don’t bother paying their fees. I hate to say it, but these people are deadbeats and they are stiffing you and me. You see, they don’t own the land, WE do. And the BLM are our on-site management that collect the rent for us, the absent landlords. Would you seriously pull a gun on a Sheriff who’s evicting a non-paying tenant from your living room? That’s idiocy.

    1. Leaving the Bundy’s case aside, there’s no reason that state and local governments can’t take stewardship of the land.

      A lot of the frustration of ranchers in Nevada is that the lands are being managed by officials in distant Washington who are influenced by distant political groups that don’t live out there. The local people’s interest in their local land are being vetoed by the whatever is going on in the imaginations of environmentalist groups thousands of miles away instead of people who actually live there.

    2. And the BLM are our on-site management

      I’m going to bring up firing them and bringing in new managers at the next shareholders meeting. Oh wait…

  14. Back when the West was all unoccupied frontier, perhaps it made sense for the federal government to be the titualar “owner” of the land.

    But it’s not like the federal government purchased it from the Indians. And it’s not like they’ve been spending money on it’s upkeep all these years. They “acquired” the land by default. Because the government is the presumed “owner” of anything that nobody else has claimed.

    There’s no moral reason why the states shouldn’t have a right to take over management of it, especially because many of those states are now far more populous than they were at the time they became states.
    Las Vegas, Reno, Phoenix, Tucson, and Denver are all sprawling metropolises. Why should Nevada, or Arizona, or Colorado not have the right to manage the lands currently being managed by the BLM?

    I’ll even give you national parks and wilderness preserves. But the BLM? Why does it exist? All of these states are totally capable of managing their own territory.

    1. American history is full of range wars – often over access to water. Rivers don’t know about state boundaries or international ones. Most of the development of the west was due to Federal government “interference” like building the Hoover Dam. The Colorado River crosses a few boundaries of interstate commerce.

      1. So the people of Nevada are supposed to be what, perpetual chattel, because the feds built the Hoover dam?

        What exactly is the case for why the BLM and not the State of Nevada should be making decisions about who has to pay grazing fees and how high they should be?

        1. So the people of Nevada are supposed to be what, perpetual chattel, because the feds built the Hoover dam?

          An especially shitty deal considering 75% of the generated electricity goes to California, and the rest gets split with Arizona.

  15. “Those of us who live in the rural areas know how to take care of lands,” Montana state Sen. Jennifer Fielder said at a news conference. “We have to start managing these lands. It’s the right thing to do for our people, for our environment, for our economy and for our freedoms.”

    Self-serving pieties. What is at stake is the ability to make profits from ranching and mining, because moving the land to state control would drastically lower the level of environmental regulation.

    I doubt moving Utah BLM land to state control would enable to state to raise 5B of tax revenue and thus wean itself from the Grant-in-Aid teat.

    What is at stake, although never articulated, as the Lockean theory of freehold via first possession, whereby any family that runs stock on a track of land for two generations, thereby acquires a moral right to freehold said land, regardless of what the law says.

    If the BLM hangs tough, and uses violence to settle scores with defiant ranchers, the Democrats may lose the Senate in November 2014. This is why the BLM backed off. If the Senate stays Demo, I predict that the BLM will return in 2015, with drawn guns. I fear a repeat of Waco.

    1. What is at stake is the ability to make profits from ranching and mining, because moving the land to state control would drastically lower the level of environmental regulation.

      Well, duh. But if that’s what the people who ACTUALLY LIVE in Nevada want, then why is that a bad thing?
      Why do a bunch of environmentalists in New York get to decide what rural ranchers in Nevada are allowed to do. Especially given that the people of Nevada do NOT have the same degree of control over rural New York? That’s the point of the map above. The west is largely owned by the feds, so people in the East get control over how it gets used. The east is locally and state controlled, so people in the West do NOT get a voice in how THAT land is used.

  16. Does anybody remember the Sagebrush Rebellion? I bet this guy does. http://news.google.com/newspap…..64,4428400 Some things never change.

  17. Prairie Land that does not have Buffalo or cattle to bust up the sod and fertilize it quickly turns into desert in ten years or less.
    There is a TED talk on this with dozens of video examples where the government in it’s infinite ignorance has done more damage to the Great Plains in one generation that took thousands of years to create.
    Example after example of how more government is always less.

  18. JD is one of the best things about reason. The man rocks.

    Just reading a number of progressive commenters screaming that all these people should have been shot. Pretty disgusting, but not surprising.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.