By Nathan Barton
With a new massa supposedly moving into 1600 in less than a month (assuming things go for him on Monday the 19th), lots of old issues are getting revved up again. One is the War of the West, the colonial status of supposedly sovereign states where 70 or 80 percent or more of the actual land is owned by the FedGov, and controlled by hordes of nameless, unelected but powerful bureaucrats in local and state offices, reporting to the Federal Center in Denver and to DC.
This has been put back in the public awareness with the decree, on Wednesday the 28th of December, 2016, that the Bears Ears and Gold Butte National Monuments have been created in Utah and Nevada, respectively, against the wishes of the people of those states. While I plan to discuss that more later, suffice to note that more restrictions on huge (1.5 million acres!) areas of land are placed by DC on the people, tribes, and economies of those two western states.
It has been going on since the first states from the area west of longitude 100 were admitted to the Union, beginning with California in 1850. Prior to that time, the areas were small enough and emigration easy enough, that the land “bought” from other countries (England, Spain, Mexico, etc.) and stolen from its current inhabitants (mostly AmerInd and the occasional Frenchman, Spaniard, or Latter-day Saint) was quickly sold or given to settlers, and the states as they were admitted to the Union got a lot of land – as you would expect, since they are and were sovereign nations. And this process continued for another half-century, with land being given to the railroads (crony deals though they were), to farmers and ranchers and miners, and even (some) given to AmerInd. But that pretty much stopped, actually if not legally, with the coming of Teddy Roosevelt, the great Progressive.
Of course, the very reason that so much land in 1900 or so was still in government hands was because government rules and regulations made it so: while you can live off 160 or even 80 acres in Ohio or Alabama, you can’t do that in Wyoming or Montana, but the regs didn’t take climate and soil into account. So ranchers COULDN’T own the land they needed to graze their cattle, sheep, and horses, when a single cow-calf pair requires 400 acres or more. Similar regulations limited mining and other businesses.
Now, some Westerners (perhaps it is fair to call them “naive” Westerners) hope that Trump will be an ally in disputes over this federal land in the West as reported by CNS News. These are quite beside disputes over federal government control over so-called state and private land, or tribal land, in these states. We’ve seen eight years of more and more federal land being removed COMPLETELY from productive use (except for hikers and some trail bikers and photographers) as more and more National Monuments sprouted across the West, and more and more “public land” was not used for grazing, mineral production, timber production, or energy production.
I think that they are going to be disappointed. Not that Trump may not support businesses, including ranchers. But simply, the bureaucrats will still be there, and it is in THEIR best interest that more and more land be controlled by the FedGov, and that more and more restrictions on that land continue to provide job security and give individual bureaucrats power over their communities and neighbors. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be lots of fury and noise over the issue, but I don’t think it will do anything but get worse over the next four years, just as it has for the last forty (or more).
But the War on the West, as with the War on the States, the War on Some Drugs, and the “Global War on Terrorism (and anyone we don’t like)” are all far from over.