A lot of area cattlemen are talking about last week’s Nevada stand-off between rancher Cliven Bundy and the federal Bureau of Land Management over access to decades-old grazing lands and related fees.
The federal agency is claiming Bundy owes money for cattle grazing. Bundy points to the Constitution and prescriptive rights that limit the federal government’s authority.
The dispute led to an armed showdown.
In the wake of the federal agency’s decision to back down, local cattlemen are asking could the same thing happen here.
Area ranchers have long been concerned about federal and state agencies usurping authority over longtime grazing lands in Okanogan and Ferry Counties in the name of so-called endangered species. They say they’ve also been challenged by over-regulation in the name of salmon, steelhead, lynx, deer, habitat restoration and most recently, wolves.
State and federal agencies, joined by non-local environmental groups, claim they need to regulate land use in Okanogan and Ferry Counties to prevent destruction of natural resources and enhance wildlife habitat.
The local division is a mirror image of the situation in Nevada.
Area cattlemen point to the federal Bonneville Power Administration’s use of ratepayer money to buy land and donate it to the Colville tribe for “creation” of fish habitat where none previously existed. They point to state and federal agencies’ increasingly “closed” policies for grazing and other activities. And they point to the undue influence non-local organizations have on curtailing land uses employed here for more than 100 years.
Local cattleman have previously claimed the state Department of Fish and Wildlife has used strong-arm tactics to force them into unbearable regulatory compliance. Of course, the state denies the allegations and says its only following laws set forth by elected officials.
To avert a similar stand-off from occurring here, state and federal officials should work with local agencies and cattlemen to establish a common-sense approach for land management.
The approach needs to take into account more than just fish and wildlife. It also needs to take into consideration long-time land uses, economic impacts and the impact on the local families that live, work and recreate on the land here.