The armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in the dry prairies of Southeast Oregon by members a small militia group is the most recent chapter in the very long-running dispute over land in The West.
Our guest is environmental historian Nancy Langston, author of “Where Land and Water Meet. A Western Landscape Transformed.”
In some western states the Federal Government owns more than half the land. This set the stage for impassioned arguments between ranchers, conservationists, corporate interests, local communities and native American tribes. All have a role to play.
As for the seizure of government property, "there is very, very little local support for the militia's tactics for this kind of violent anarchy," Nancy Langton told us on this episode.
"They have nothing to do with this region and I don"t think there are many local ranchers or anybody else in the community who approve of their methods."
But there is considerable support for changing the way federal lands are managed and giving local interests a greater role. Some believe that land should be turned over to state and local control. Langston says collaboration and respect for different interests are the only ways to solve the disputes. We examine the arguments in this "Fix It" episode and suggest solutions.
The Malheur example is more important than the case of the Hammonds, the two Harney County ranchers who were sent back to prison. The argument is part of a national debate over increasing federal government power, especially during the past 40 years, since new environmental regulations were established by the Nixon Administration.
The occupiers claimed that government discriminated against local ranchers, who use federal land for cattle grazing. Is there merit to their argument, or do ranchers get over-generous subsidies from taxpayers to raise livestock on the public's land?