Monday, April 14, 2014

Clive Bundy - Welfare Recipient


Strange how people tend to have knee-jerk reactions regarding political issues. The very same people who piss and moan about lazy welfare recipients (particularly those who remain dependent on the government for generations), can't wait to load their weapons and head off to Nevada to stand with Clive Bundy against the evil, tyrannical feds.

I wonder how much research any of these folks have done on Bureau of Land Management-issued grazing rights? Do they think the rents charged by the BLM are fair? Do they even know how much they are? This is our land, don't forget.

The fact is that if you lease an AUM (the amount of land needed for one cow and calf for a month) from the states, you will pay approximately $12.30 (in 1998, probably higher now). The fee to lease a similar amount of private land averages $11.l0 (1999). The amount to lease that land from the federal government? $1.43.

And Cliven Bundy hasn't even paid that for 19 years, his theory being that his Mormon forefathers grazed that land for generations, before there was a Bureau of Land Management, and he should be grandfathered in for free grazing rights in perpetuity.

So, why is there a U.S. Grazing Service anyway? Well, it all started back in the 1940's when public lands were open to anyone who wanted to use them. The result of that, as you can imagine, was that everyone did - until the land was degraded to the point that cattle were starving due to lack of forage. So what did ranchers do? Why, they went crying to Congress to "do something" to help them. In response to their requests, the U.S. Grazing Service (which became the Bureau of Land Management) was set up to lease individual sections to ranchers (for extremely low rates) so only their cattle would be on that land instead of competing with every Tom, Dick and Harry who owned a cow.

Today, only about 20,000 ranchers hold permits to lease federal lands and guess what? Most of them are not ranchers at all. Big corporations, like Hilton, hold some, as does the mega-wealthy Ted Turner. The United Arab Emirates rents land from us, along with big investment companies.

And these leases do not benefit American taxpayers, they cost us!

They cost in money and also in the degradation of the land itself. Look at the picture above. Does this look like primo pastureland to you? No, it doesn't - but this is what the fight with Cliven Bundy is all about. Putting too many cattle on this kind of land results in over-grazing so that eventually, the only plant left is sage brush. Also, cattle naturally tend to congregate around any scarce source of water so that it becomes a muddy mess, despoiled by urine and feces.

Cattle compete with wildlife for the use of this land. For instance, we now only have about 37,000 wild horses (where there used to be 2,000,000). The BLM keeps rounding them up and selling and/or butchering them because they are a threat to the cattle. Cattle push big grazers like deer and elk farther and higher to find forage. Many ranchers (although not all) despise wolves and bears and cougars, all of whom see cows as a food source themselves.

Tourism and recreation actually contribute far more to western economies than cattle leases. For example, in the Central Winter Ecosystem Management Area in the Kaibab Plateau, Arizona, cattle leases are worth about $46,000 annually. Meanwhile, deer and turkey hunting brings in over $1,300,000. In the same way, tourists come from all over the country, and spend money, for the pleasure of watching wild horse herds running free in the west.

So, excuse me if I don't see Cliven Bundy as a great freedom fighter and I think the Tea Party types who read the biased right-wing blogs and go rushing to Nevada to take up arms in his defense are fools. Ditto, the people who post on Facebook about how they are on his side without knowing all the facts.

As far as I'm concerned, Clive Bundy is no better than that single Mom who collects food stamps, the one conservatives hate so much.