Sunday, March 19, 2017
My Land is Your land
My Land is Your land
BJ and I were coming over the hill at “Homestead” when we saw them.
There were two men coming through the corral and headed on up the slope to the old rock house. We slowed to a stop as we reached them.
“Good morning,” was our greeting. “What are you fellows up to this morning?”
“We are going up to take pictures of the old rock house,” was the short terse answer of the spokesperson.
Viewing it in hindsight, the back and forth discussion at that point was somewhat akin to the signaling of bulls arriving at a waterhole. The approaching bulls will always respond to the bull that has arrived first and tries to control or deny entry. Screaming back and forth and pawing the ground in defensive defiance are the visible signals. Each will demonstrate his power until one prevails and the pecking order is reestablished.
“I am sure you fellows do know this is private land,” was the jab when courtesy on the part of the visitors was not forthcoming.
“We come here all the time when we have company visiting us,” the spokesperson responded as if he held the right to do what he wanted to do on this “public property”.
A confrontation was definitely in the offing until the real “visitor” with the camera stepped in.
“I was just so interested in all this and I had no idea this was private land,” was his defusing remark. “I surely understand and didn’t intend to step out of line at all.”
From that point, he became the featured intermediary of good will. His buddy had to fall into the conversational change.
The aggressive buddy stirred the water yet another time, though, when he started cussing the State Land Commissioner for raising the cost of “his right to hunt” on these lands.
“How much do you actually pay to hunt on state lands?” he was then asked. He had no idea other than the fact the land commissioner had the gall to raise his access fees.
“You pay a little less than two cents per acre for that right,” was the answer. “At the same time, we pay more than 100 cents for one of those acres for the right to run cattle and that doesn’t count the water, the salt, the mineral, and any degree of protection we provide from predators for the animals you hunt.”
The fact that we also rotate our cattle in a formal partnership agreement with the federal government to leave the majority of the ranch cattle free during critical mating, nesting, and fawning seasons to further enhance his hunting opportunities was not mentioned. It was clear he didn’t care nor would he have comprehended what that actually implied. That wasn’t the case of his friend.
“I had no idea of those facts,” the intermediary said.
We then did another rough calculation which suggested our total annual investment (excluding mortgages) ran another 263 cents per acre or a total of 363 cents per acre for the right to run our cattle compared to the hunters investment of about two cents. The mediator was stunned.
“When I come again I will call you when I come to visit if that is alright,” he proclaimed.
“You, Sir, will be welcome,” was the pointed, singular response.
The Heritage Foundation has come out with their updated list of countries or city states by measure of economic freedoms. Hong Kong is rated as the number one place in the world for key economic freedoms. Chile fills the last slot in the top ten rankings. Our nation, the United States of America, does not fill any of the other top ten slots.
Not only are we down the list we have the highest corporate tax rates in the world. Why that wasn’t even a subject on the array of talking points by the 2008 defeated party remains a mystery. Even lip service would have accounted for something.
It isn’t just the liberals, though, that don’t get it.
The Republicans are displaying the characteristics that southern intellectuals tried to define after the Civil War. There was rhetoric from the Grand Old Party, but, when the nut cutting actually took place, there was an eerie acquiescence that suggested there was either more bark than bite or their mental capacities weren’t as expansive as their balderdash.
It has become very clear neither party has much respect or understanding of our constitutional personal liberties. On its own recognizance, Congress is incapable of fixing the spending orgy which it created and now self perpetuates. They are so far into fiscal debauchery that two thirds of the budget is fixed and defined by legislation and extra legal regulatory burden as mandatory.
Medicaid, Social Security; food assistance, unemployment, and Medicare are all funded by taking wealth from fewer and fewer producers and giving it to an institutional class of permanent consumers. I heard O’Reilly the other night suggest that the phrasing from the Preamble of the Constitution, “promote the general welfare” gives Congress the right to create such monstrosities.
That is nonsense. There are no delegated congressional powers inherent in the preamble. In fact, the suggestion of “We the People” in the opening phrasing reminds the diligent reader who the entire work was intended. No, this government has instituted the legalized theft of personal wealth in order to guarantee an entire class of people certain rights as if those rights exist in a vacuum.
When there is no fair share commitment on the part of every citizen in every phase of government, true rights don’t exist. That is wrong and it is every bit as bad as murder, rape, and lying. It is theft, and that is a violation of personal and private property rights.
The new administration’s budget has been released.
There are many welcome features especially the recommended cuts to agencies. There will be major pushback from the congress when those reductions affect their districts, but at least we have an executive officer who understands that deficit spending has to stop.
The agency that most affects the world I live in, Interior, is being slated for a 12% reduction. That trails its sister agency, USDA, by 9% but it remains to be seen how the BLM and the Forest Service, respectively, will be affected. Since the BLM is our major landlord the expected cuts will have impact on our operation, but I view that as positive. Positive in the aspect that the new Secretary Zinke suggests he will pursue “leverage(d) private investment in federal lands” for the anticipated intensions of “creating innovative streams of revenue”.
If that means simply raising our fees for the purpose of enhancing those revenues, we will further lose the battle we continue to fight trying to stay in business. Through its management, Secretary Zinke’s land management agencies have overseen a continued attrition rate of federal lands ranchers of 1% per year. Our numbers are down a whopping 65% since the data has been summarized. Our cattle numbers are down 46% and it isn’t as if gross protein supplies produced by cattle are down. They aren’t. They have simply been made up in private land holding operations where innovation can not be fully suppressed, parallel enterprises can be installed, and revenue growth can support capitalization without reliance and or approval by the federal landlord.
The BLM and the Forest Service must begin to act like state and private land management where innovation is actually encouraged rather than quashed. Stakeholders with private property at risk must be elevated into the decision making process on the merit and basis of actual partnerships rather than a relationship that must be equated in historical terms to sharecropping with all of the baggage and suppression that it carries. Management plans must be structured to actually enhance production rather than holding it steady or reducing it by opening driving it by environmental and special interest restrictions.
But, that remains to be seen, doesn’t it?
I am with fellow federal lands ranchers all the time. The mood and the outlook must be gauged as subtly hopeful, but the optimism is held largely in guarded reserve. The data demonstrates we have lived in an atmosphere of stepwise suppression and elimination too long. We live in too many counties that have only 10 to 20% private land holdings that must carry the load for all vital infrastructure investments, but we still see federal funds intended to further reduce those holdings and tax base they inherently carry.
We also see a public and a federal bureaucracy that projects an aggressive attitude that “your land is our land”, and they have the power and the intention of claiming those rights as if they were distinct rights in a vacuum.
Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “I’d like to thank that unknown visitor. You, Sir, were reasonable which gives me hope.”