NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

April 26, 2014

Standoff in new Old West

(Continued)

So, still a writer instead of a cowgirl, I’ve been doing more research on the Bundy situation. These are the issues:

Who should control the range. From the movies, we remember the early range wars between cattle and sheep ranchers, between cattle ranchers over water rights. But many Western states, when they joined the Union, were treated differently from our Eastern states. Congress reserved vast amounts of land for the federal government, which seems in conflict with the very concept of statehood. The federal government owns 84 percent of Nevada (including the part on which it tested atomic bombs).

Ranchers were given the right to graze their cattle on the land. One Western friend I contacted argued that any ranchers who believed they had a contract with the federal government should check with the many Indian tribes across America that made the same mistake.

Bundy was accused last week by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, of not paying his fees and taxes; the delinquent tax charge turns out to be untrue (lyin’, lyin’, lyin ... .), and it’s hard to follow the fee issue. If the federal government tells you to get your cattle off its land, to whom would you pay the fee while you resisted? Bundy supposedly says he’ll pay it to the state, which he says should be in charge of Nevada land, not the feds.

Animal rights. Initially, as a reason for reclaiming Bundy’s land, the feds expressed concern about the “threatened” desert tortoise having to share the range with cattle. This same federal government has reportedly euthanized hundreds of the reptiles because of lack of ongoing funding for its Desert Tortoise Conservation Center in Southern Nevada.

Meanwhile, wild-horse protection advocates say the government is rounding up too many mustangs, while allowing sheep and cattle to feed on overgrazed federal land. The ranchers normally pay fees for the use of the land, while the horses run free for free.

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