The Shutdown in the West
The feds closed the doors on private properties two weeks ago. The message was: this is ours, we own it, and we can lock you out. This was a surprise in the East but not in the West. The rural West has put up with arbitrary regulations of vast tracts of land for over a century. The shutdown of national parks and monuments goes along with the their tendency on all federal land in the West to arbitrarily turn off the water, stop access to various areas, and curtail economic activities frowned on by urbanites. If you don't like it, they will see you in court.
The Federal Government owns 653,299,090 acres of land, 29% of all the land in the United States. Washington D.C. put a lock on the whole thing. 54% of all government land is in the Western states, or to put it another way, the feds own 47% of the West. By contrast, the government owns only 0.24% of the land in the entire Northeast, which explains the media's lack of interest in government land management. Alaska accounts for another 222,000,000 acres under federal control, 38% of all federal land ownership. Land owned by the federal government in Alaska exceeds the total size of Texas. The Federal Government owns only 7% of the rest of the United States outside of the West and Alaska.
The Forest Service manages 193,000,000 acres of public land. Timber harvests in our national forests have declined 78% from 1987 to 2011, 11.3 to 2.5 billion board feet. This is basically the period of time during which the Spotted Owl developed erectile dysfunction in 2nd growth timber. The timber industry in the West has been devastated. Entire towns have shut down. Tens of thousands of third and fourth generation loggers and sawmill workers and their families have been displaced. The Forest Service decides when and where to log and how much.
Long-term sustainable harvesting is 12.2 billion feet. Current harvest levels are insufficient to maintain forest health, control epidemic levels of insect damage, and limit wild fire risk, according to the Society of American Foresters. The urban elite claim that commercial activity in public forests in inappropriate and only benefits large corporations. Most of the left slope of the Bell Curve just change the channel when the subject comes up but the environmentalists go to court. The aim of the Forest Service is not the health of the forest or the economics of western rural communities. They are under the dominance of urban environmental and recreational groups. The only logging that is considered beneficial is clear cutting ski trails.
158,000,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land and 100,000,000 acres of Forest Service land are used for livestock grazing, according to a report put out by the University of California, Davis. Cows eating dry rangeland grass is as traumatic for environmentalists as loggers cutting down trees. Scores of lawyers with a desk and a mailing list are filing lawsuits to stop grazing in specific locations or altogether on federal land. Their literature show pictures of the Midwestern dust storms of 80 years ago, dry seasonal creek beds, aerial shots of the Mojave Desert and so forth that they say proves overgrazing by greedy ranchers. They insist that grass belongs to wild horses and buffalo.
Up until the 1960s America's myths centered around cowboys and Indians, mountain men and frontier settlers. The term "cowboy" is now a slur indicating reckless, dangerous, and dumb, like George W., while immigrants are upright, honest, hard working, and sensible. The rancher has oppressed the immigrant homesteader trying to make a home for his family in Grand Teton National Park in decades of grade B movies. First-generation settler children run down the road crying "Shane!" from TV sets in millions of living rooms -- right after "Sex in the City." The homesteaders that in fact ran their cows in Jackson Hole have been removed, not by bigger ranchers, but by rich urbanites that contribute to the environmentalist lawyers who work to empower the government with the force to get rid of cows and cowboys and shut Grand Teton National Park when they want to.
Federal grazing permits are attached to base property, private land with the ability to feed some number of cows through the winter, and are necessary for the ranch to operate in the arid west. Grazing leases are highly regulated. The carrying capacity of the range is considered, Environmental Impact Reports are prepared and voluminous files are compiled. But all of the oversight and redundant activity is insufficient to satisfy the vegetarians, animal protectionists, defenders of a generic earth, those offended by possible excessive testosterone in the work force, and, of course the indignant hikers who have stepped in something.
The fact that numerous policies have been tried by Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, et al, to improve on a farmer stewarding the land that maintains the balance in his bank account makes no impact on those that are saving the earth and all sentient beings. At present we have the Rural Economic Vitalization Act (HR 3432) being promoted which urban activists say would economically vitalize cattle country by allowing environmental groups to purchase grazing leases and then retire grazing as an option thereby eliminating grazing on public lands, and, as a bonus, get rid of all the auxiliary support businesses and the towns that supply the ranches. Eliminating grazing would bring economic vitalization to cattle country in the same way that curtailing logging brought prosperity to timber communities. The harassment and uncertainty caused by environmentalists have had the effect of some ranchers giving up. Ranchers getting out of the cattle business has resulted in their deeded property being subdivided and developed into housing, the very thing the environmentalists say they are trying to prevent.
The Veteran Memorial in Washington D.C. caught the attention of the dozing media when it was shut to veterans, but there are 108 national monuments. Executive Orders allow the president to designate national monuments without local input or congressional approval. A national monument is a "protected" area arbitrarily designated by the president and just as arbitrarily designated by the executive as to whether or not it can be used for grazing, hunting, logging, picnicking, or rallies.
The public thinks of the Washington Monument when they think of national monuments, but in the West the concept is out of control. Bill Clinton elicited some notice when he designated the Escalante-Grand Staircase in Utah a national monument, 1,880,461 acres, and shut off development of large deposits of low-sulfur coal that would have competed with deposits controlled by Indonesian campaign contributors. Clinton made 16 new National Monuments. President Obama is considering 12 new National Monuments, some larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined, presently being used for timber, grazing, mining, energy, and hunting, uses that will be prohibited if past experience is a guide.
The customs, traditions and the economy of the rural West are being destroyed.