Who actually owns the land on which the Bundy cattle ranged? Does the Bureau of Land Management? Does the federal government? Does the “public”? Do the Bundys who have worked the land for over a century?
Technically it is PUBLIC land and not GOVERNMENT property like a military base. But the BLM established its claim to much of the rural west with the power of the federal government behind it decades ago. It was part of the great federal land grab of the 1930s and 1940s. Now – and this is key – the BLM controls mineral and water rights in much of the rural West. That is big time wealth and power and it is not something the federal government will ever give up the rights to easily.
This land should be in private hands. Of course because the land was usurped so long ago this presents problems. Who gets to buy the land now if it is returned to the people? Is there an auction? Is there a lottery? The problems are huge logistically.
The only solution I can think of – and I’m only half joking on this – is to give the control of BLM land (by privatizing the land with deeds, etc.) to the native American tribes which used to live on the land. Let them lease the land in the private sector to ranchers and miners or whomever. At least we’ll know who owns what and who has a legitimate claim and who doesn’t.
Property rights simplify things. They make things clearer. Having vast swathes of increasingly valuable land administered by a Washington DC based agency which hands out leases on what must seem to some as at least a somewhat arbitrary basis is a recipe for confrontation.