Back in the early 1990s, when I was a reporter for the Lake Havasu City Herald newspaper in Arizona, I drew the wrath of the Bureau of Land Management when I authored a news article that was headlined, “This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land, It Was Intended for You and Me.”
The article chronicled the plight of an elderly couple who explored the desert on their ATVs gathering arrowheads, spent ammunition and the like. Following a feature article I wrote about the couple, armed rangers of the BLM conducted a raid of the couple’s home and confiscated the collection of artifacts the couple had gathered over the years.
The couple was cited into federal court under what has become a federal statute that prohibits the public from removing virtually anything from public lands.
As a kid who grew up in Southern Idaho, I spent a great deal of time playing and exploring desert areas. Back then, in the early 1950s, the BLM had no armed “rangers.” The primary function of the BLM was to suppress range fires on desert lands.
The agency founded by Congress under the Taylor Grazing Act is administered under the U.S. Department of Interior, along with the U.S. Forest Service.
Over the years, like all government agencies, the BLM continued to grow and garner more political power, and the time-honored Smokey Bear image gave way to gun-toting federal agents.
Not only did the BLM authority grow, so did its lust to acquire more and more public lands used for grazing and recreational purposes.
Before the ink on my article was dry, the BLM’s top bureaucrats railed to the wind and to my employers that the “tone” of my article did not present the image the agency thought it deserved. Quite the contrary, the article portrayed them exactly as what they had become, a land-grabbing, out-of-control bunch of bureaucratic thugs who continued their overreach to limit and restrict the public’s use of these multiple-purpose lands intended for our use and enjoyment.
The government’s ever-growing overreach resulted in what Idahoans and land users in adjoining states termed the Sagebrush Rebellion. The overreach continues today as the bureau continues to close roads and restrict the public’s use of our public lands.
The recent confrontations at the Bundy ranch in Nevada and Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are an extension of the Sagebrush Rebellion.
Such confrontations clearly are not the solution to the problem. Only a political rebellion sufficient to garner the attention of Congress will halt the zeal of these bureaucrats. Congress should take actions to disarm these out-of-control thugs before more tragic death takes place.
Robert Miller lives in Boise. He has been a writer for United Press International, news director for KTFI (NBC) Radio in Twin Falls, managing editor of the Bonner’s Ferry Herald and owner/publisher of the Gem Newspaper in Quartzsite, Ariz. He retired in 2010.