Ranch standoff barely scratches the dusty surface
DENVER | Behind the hoopla surrounding Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s standoff with the Bureau of Land Management is a growing resentment over the federal government’s status as the largest landowner in the West.
“This is so much bigger than one rancher in Nevada,” Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory, who heads the American Lands Council, said in an April 23 online debate sponsored by The Salt Lake Tribune.
How much land does the federal government own? A 2012 Congressional Research Survey said the federal government owns about 640 million acres, or 28 percent of the nation’s land mass. Roughly 90 percent of that property is in the West.
Put another way, one out of every two acres in the West is federally owned. In Nevada, the federal ownership figure is 81.1 percent; in Alaska, 61.8 percent; in Utah, 66.5 percent; in Oregon, 53 percent. In Connecticut and Iowa, the federal government owns 0.3 percent of the land.
“The federal estate is larger than France, Germany, Poland, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom combined,” said Robert Gordon, a senior adviser for the Heritage Foundation. “It is too big and was never intended to be preserved as one big park, but the left is strangling use of it and with it, rural America.”
Although Nevada has received most of the national attention since Mr. Bundy’s clash last month with BLM agents, the heaviest push to wrest control of federal lands is coming from Utah. In 2012, Gov. Gary Richard Herbert,