One thought on “Please, Mr. Fox, keep a close eye on the henhouse

  1. It depends on what your theory of the western public lands is. For a century or so, they were publicly-owned lands that were leased to ranchers for grazing. So a lot of the ranches in the West aren’t freehold, they’re economically dependent on being able to lease adjacent public lands. In parallel, the federal government has long been willing to sell the mineral rights in public lands, thus supporting a mining industry (which is well-paid and until recent decades was labor-intensive). The point being that a lot of the economy (employment and income) of the West is dependent on the willingness of the BLM to manage the public lands as the base of “extractive industries”. Now, the shifting of the population to cities had led to the public romanticizing this land and considering it as parklands, undermining the economy of the West. A lot of the people in the West have been harmed by this. (Though statistically it’s not a huge movement because even in Western states the cities are coming to dominate the population.)

    That has even led to the development of crank legal theories: The idea that the ownership of the land goes to whoever productively uses it. In practice, it means that if you’ve leased a certain BLM parcel for two or three generations, you have the right to lease it forever. But of course if your livelihood (and the value of your inherited ranch) depends on that lease, it makes a lot of sense.

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