The Great Republican Land Heist
In April 2014, The Bureau of Land Management had begun impounding Cliven Bundy's cattle herd for failure to pay past due grazing fees. Bundy has for years allowed his cattle to illegally graze on a half-million acre-parcel of public land near his ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada. The allotment, known as the Gold Butte Range, is a publicly owned and accessible National Conservation Area.
Bundy, in response, contacted the press and invited them to witness the coming "Range War" on Gold Butte. More than 100 men and women arrived at Bundy's ranch in support, bringing semiautomatic guns, assault rifles, and Don't Tread on Me flags. The ensuing stand off between Bundy's militia and the BLM ended shortly thereafter with the BLM backing down citing "threats to public safety." While Bundy and his Militia may have won this battle, the larger war may be yet to come.
Land use in the West has always been a contentious issue. The Homestead Act, the National Park Service Act, and the ongoing water wars are just a few examples. Government agencies including the U.S. Forest Service, the Department of the Interior, and the BLM are responsible for maintaining public areas which are often deemed ecologically sensitive, while other interested stakeholders including corporate rancher's, farmers and property developers decry excess government regulation and bureaucratic bloat as anathema to progress.
Currently, there is a growing Republican effort to transfer control of federal lands to the states. If this happens, this may allow for what was once considered public lands (including national monuments such as the Grand Canyon, currently under protection of the National Parks Act) to be licensed to private operators. One such example is the Grand Canyon Escalade development, a $ 1billion complex of restaurants, hotels and trams proposed for the East rim of the Canyon.
This series of images was originally commissioned by Stacey Clarkson for Harper's Magazine