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Protests and confiscated cows

Nevada Appeal editorial board

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has forced a confrontation with state’s-rights protesters by confiscating a couple hundred cattle in Central Nevada from a couple of ranchers in a long-standing dispute.

For the BLM, it’s matter of collecting a bad debt. The agency says the ranchers owe money dating back five years for grazing fees and fines – as much as $300,000 in the case of Jack Vogt of Lida.

For the Nevada Committee for Full Statehood, it’s an act of federal tyranny. The group doesn’t recognize the federal government’s authority over federal lands, so there’s no such thing as “trespassing” by the ranchers or their cattle, and the BLM has no business charging them outrageous fines.

We’re always intrigued by the state/federal debate over Nevada’s public lands. One reason is that it seems to be an argument over who gets to make money from land that is intended for everybody’s use.

In this case, it appears to be a couple of ranchers who use public lands to raise their cattle but haven’t gotten around to paying for that privilege for several years.

We wonder if the Full Statehood folks would be picketing on behalf of, say, a couple multi-million-dollar ski resorts if the resorts didn’t bother to pay the U.S. Forest Service for using public lands.

Somebody has to be the landlord. Now, and for the past few decades, it’s been the federal government. Until that changes, the people who use public lands should expect to abide by federal regulations.

On the other hand, even the federal government needs to follow due process. We haven’t seen any court orders to confiscate cows.

So the BLM has forced the issue by taking an illegal action – just the kind of thing that makes the protesters’ point.