Western View: Behind the Sagebrush Rebellion

Taylor Hillman Features, Western View

Sagebrush Rebellion
The spectacle of armed cowboys seizing a wildlife center is over; there will be trials, but the main event moves off center stage with the majority of the country wondering what the heck that was all about. Well, It’s about a movement to privatize federal land.

Western View: Behind the Sagebrush Rebellion

Some large cattle ranches still exist as they did in the late 1800’s. But now, those ranchers apply those hard-won lessons about over-grazing, water management and soil conservation.

The ranches have their cattle graze on the public land surrounding the home property. The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 created this system with permits sold to the ranchers for low grazing fees. These fees average $1.69 per animal, per month. Privately owned grazing land rents for whatever the market will bear, and is often $20 per animal per month. So the BLM fees are a bargain. But the rancher is renting the land and has to follow the rules of the landlord, and some of them resent that. Likewise, miners who hunt minerals have to follow the rules of the BLM, and some of them resent it, too.

The BLM has to deal with all the other interests – recreation use, like camping, fishing or hunting, and environmental concerns, such as protecting endangered species, which may conflict with the ranchers and miners, or any other private development.

That’s where this movement to privatize federal land comes from. These people would sell this amazing resource to the highest bidder. If that happens, imagine what we would lose. The least of which is recreational access. The big thing that comes to my mind is control of our water resources and snowpack in the mountains. Do you want it owned by someone like Ted Turner? He already holds 2 million acres in Montana. The Mormon Church? They want it, and they already own a lot of Utah. Anonymous Chinese corporations?

But that’s who wants to buy that land. A Utah senator said it best: privatizing federal lands “Its like having your hands on the lever of a modern day Louisiana Purchase.”

We can’t allow this. We’d be throwing away our children’s birthright.

I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West.

Note: The High Country News, an outstanding journal covering the west, has been following the sagebrush rebellion since it began in the 1970’s and has published an outstanding series about it athttp://www.hcn.org/topics/sagebrush-rebellion . Author Hal Herring wrote an interesting and informative essay, titled “Can we make sense of the Malheur mess?” which is well worth reading athttps://www.hcn.org/articles/malheur-occupation-oregon-ammon-bundy-public-lands-essay .