In recent weeks, a Nevada rancher named Cliven Bundy has become a national “cause celebre” among many conservatives and other folks who are concerned both about federal land policies and the militarization of our federal bureaucracies. Details here and here. Indeed, the situation is concerning and, while information is still coming out as the standoff has ended, the simple fact is that Washington owns too much of our land.
While the particulars of Mr. Bundy’s case are by no means a slam dunk given federal law and the Courts’ interpretations of those laws. Nonetheless, the standoff and the issues involved have brought to the forefront just how much of the West is owned by the federal government (85 percent of Nevada and 42 percent of New Mexico) and how poorly and heavy-handedly those lands are often managed. The issue of federal land ownership is what advocates of limited government need to focus on and should provide the basis for specific legislative and policy changes.