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The Oregon Standoff, Explained


By Hunter Wallace

This is about two things: the federal ownership of land in the Western states, which is at truly insane levels compared to the East, and the extremes to which radical Greens in the Obama administration have discredited environmentalism:

“This week, the Ammon Bundy-led seizure of a federal wildlife refuge thrust Oregon’s ranchers into the spotlight. While I don’t agree with the occupiers’ tactics, I sympathize with their position. Being a rancher was always challenging. And it has become increasingly difficult under the Obama administration. …

Money isn’t the only challenge. Raising cattle requires a lot of land, much more than most ranchers can afford to own outright. I lease about a third of the space I use from private owners. But most ranchers aren’t so lucky. The federal government controls a huge amount of land in the west (more than 50 percent in some states, like Oregon), and many ranchers must lease that space to create a sustainable operation.

Utilizing federal land requires ranchers to follow an unfair, complicated and constantly evolving set of rules. For example, a federal government agency might decide that it wants to limit the number of days a rancher can graze their cattle to protect a certain endangered plant or animal species, or they might unilaterally decide that ranchers can’t use as much water as they need because of a fight over water rights. Or they might take over land that once belonged to the state or private individuals, imposing an entirely new set of restrictions. …

Most of the time, those regulations are written by people with no agriculture experience, and little understanding of what it takes to produce our nation’s food. The agencies that control these lands can add burdensome regulations at any time. Often, they will begin aggressively enforcing them before ranchers have a chance to adjust.”

While I am a strong supporter of reasonable laws that protect the environment in light of our history (i.e., dumping toxic waste in our rivers or hunting species like the buffalo and passenger pigeon to extinction), that’s not what is going on here. There is an opposite extreme: radical Greens that want to destroy the coal industry, block the Keystone Pipeline, halt drilling in the Arctic, protect the three-inch delta smelt, designate ever more land as “national monuments” far beyond what is necessary, etc.