When I took up the Cliven Bundy story, just before Bundy spewed his racist farragoes, I concentrated not on him, but on the broader issue: too much federal government ownership of real property in “the tiny state of Nevada” and elsewhere.
Since then an expert has weighed in on my side: Terry Anderson of the Property and Environment Research Center.
I supported privatization of grazing lands. But I mentioned that forest land should “at least be ‘state-ized,’” that is, transferred to the states. And that, it turns out, is what the current crop of Sagebrush rebels want for grazing land.
But there’s a downside to such a transfer. Grazing fees would likely go up.
Anderson titles his piece “Careful What You Ask For.”
And that cuts both ways. The environmentalists who want to centralize even more control in Washington, D.C., think that booting out privately owned ungulates would accrue benefits to the ecosystems. They are wrong, Anderson explains:
But “no moo” may mean fewer tweets, clucks, and bugles from wildlife. As private ranchers demonstrate, good land management can control noxious weeds, improve water quality, sequester more carbon, and generate more wildlife habitat.
Yes, “cattle grazing has improved the ecosystem.”
Anderson prefers privatization.
But that remains politically unlikely. The Cato Institute’s Randal O’Toole suggests a compromise: fiduciary trusts, where the feds retain land title. Centuries of common law bolster the idea, says O’Toole, who assures us, under this form of oversight, “trustees preserve and protect the value of the resources they manage, keep them productive, and disclose the full costs and benefits of their management.”
Both of these alternates are better than current government mismanagement and overkill.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.