Ryan Bundy, the key defendant in a trial underway in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, NV, offers a uniques perspective on governmental land management in the United States. This perspective is highlighted in an article by Tay Wiles posted on the High Country News website on November 20, 2017.
Mr. Bundy has been a thorn in the side of U.S. Government land managers for at least two decades. He takes the view that grazing on public lands is a right rather than a privilege. Mr. Bundy bases this argument on the fact that for decades ranchers have used permits as capital or collateral for loans and improving the value of real estate. In his view, that makes them similar to personal property, akin to rights, rather than a mere license that can be revoked.
In his article, Tay Wiles points out, that mainstream scholars dispute Bundy’s, interpretation of how federal law treats grazing rights." Wiles cites comments from Matthew Pearce, a University of Oklahoma lecture who specializes in natural resource history in the American West and Joseph E. Taylor, a history professor at Simon Fraser University. According to Professor Taylor, U.S. law and Congressional hearings are clear and consistent on the point that the grazing leases convey privileges that the government could revoke.
No doubt, this perspective that a grazing lease offers an irrevocable right was on the mind of Ryan Bundy when he played a key role in mobilizing the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January and February 2016. Mr. Bundy and the other occupiers sought an opportunity to advance their view that the United State Forest Service, Bureau of Land Managment and other agencies are required to turn over the public land they manage to the individual states. Links to articles about that occupation are available here.