Tuesday, January 05, 2016

In Oregon, frustration over federal land rights has been building for years

B.J. Soper has seen the frustration building for years in this rural corner of Oregon. The federal government owns more than half the land in the state, as it does across much of the West. It used to be routine for ranchers to get permits to graze cattle or cut timber or work mines — a way to make a living from the land. Then came increasing environmental regulations, and the federal land became more for owls and sage grouse than for local people trying to feed their families, said Soper, 39, who lives 100 miles up the road in Bend. “What people in Western states are dealing with is the destruction of their way of life,” said Soper, a father of four who was once a professional rodeo rider. “When frustration builds up, people lash out.” “These are tough issues to resolve, because they are about people’s values,” said John Freemuth, a professor of public policy at Boise State University in Idaho, about 220 miles east of Burns. Freemuth said that in recent decades, the federal government has placed increasing emphasis on the environment, which has led to more restrictions on ranching, grazing and mining and other traditional uses of the land. That has led to frustration among many rural Westerners, who feel a sharp disconnect with a federal government run by people in urban centers. “They have a concern that they are being left behind, that their values and their concerns are really irrelevant to the urban folks around the country,” Freemuth said. Len Vohs, who was mayor of Burns from 2008 to 2010, said he, like many locals, shares the frustration with the federal government that drove Bundy and others to occupy the wildlife refuge. But he said few support their tactics, and most wish they would just go home. “The federal government has done a gross injustice to the Hammonds, which has severely damaged the long-term trust and cooperation that ranchers and foresters and recreationists have had with BLM,” the Oregon Farm Bureau, a nonprofit representing the state’s farmers and ranchers, said in a statement. “However, the illegal activity of so-called militia groups only harms the Hammonds and the rest of the community because it diverts public attention and scrutiny away from the injustice that the federal government perpetrated on this Oregon family.”...Washington Post

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