Oregon Land Dispute

January 7, 2016

January 7, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Farmers, ranchers, and much of rural America has been unhappy and angry at the federal government’s heavy-handed restrictions and regulations on the use of government land. A new conflict just erupted in Oregon, a state where the federal government owns more than half the land.

In recent years, our government has become far more restrictive. It used to be that grazing cattle, cutting timber – even mining with a permit – was not a problem. Not today. Environmentalists say, “Don’t touch the land. Save it for the spotted owl and the sage grouse.” It’s hard to imagine that the federal government controls 84% of Nevada, 64% of Utah, 61% of Idaho, 61% of Alaska, and 48% of Wyoming. Urban people east of the Mississippi have no idea the frustration felt by the rural residents in most of the western states.

Last year, we witnessed a major conflict between the Bundy family ranch and the government. This week, Bundy and other supporters of the Dwight Hammond ranching family of Oregon took over a national wildlife refuge in southwest Oregon. They say they are protesting a court order that will send Dwight Hammond (73 years old) and his son back to jail after they already served time. Their crime was preventive burning to protect their property from forest fires. Hammond argues that the government’s prosecution was revenge because he refused to sell the government his ranch land – which, of course, the government denies.

Rural people in the west support the Hammond family. Many of them have seen family and friends experience serious run-ins with the Bureau of Land Management. They may not agree with the Bundy-led gang that took over the wildlife sanctuary, but they certainly appreciate the support of fellow Americans.

I have said this before. It is not a good policy for the government to own so much land. It should be sold or at least some should be sold. We could use the money and private owners would put it to productive use – whether that cattle grazing, mining, lumber, or maybe a factory. They could create thousands of jobs. If we don’t sell it, give it to the states. Right now, a lot of that property is mismanaged and wasted. How many free countries would accept federal government ownership of so much land – 640 million acres?

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com. Have a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.