Friday, January 15, 2016

A Divide within a Divide: Radical Fringe vs Rural Mainstream

One practical result of the armed occupation of a wild reserve in Oregon was throwing into spotlight the escalating conflict over land and resources in the US west. This is why we are now blessed with such reports in the New York Times and other major outlets. As far as The DOOMMM Club is concerned, there are several point to keep in mind as you are reading this report.

The Bundy brothers may be extreme, but they represent a radical fringe of a potentially massive movement at the periphery of US cities. According to one report by Reuters, the Bundy family is the last one of what used to be a 50 family strong rancher community uprooted by the tightening of environmental restrictions in Nevada. The family has eventually won that decades long war against federal agencies by calling on armed militias to intervene on their behalf. This and similar experiences have radicalized the members of the family and probably some other Bundy supporters making their methods too controversial even for people who generally share their agenda. However, it's the fact that so many people share this agenda that makes the US city/country clash in the west worth watching.

It's a constant refrain running thru most reports on Oregon that the gap between the radicals and the rural mainstream is mostly about the methods only. Most people interviewed generally seem to agree that Bundy are right in principle, but wrong in methods. Such a gap between the fringe and the mainstream should be considered as narrow and likely to be rapidly closed if the urban rural polarization escalates further. In some ways, the takeover has increased the polarization by triggering a counter reaction on the other side. Angry calls for an aggressive crackdown are increasingly heard on the other side. Such a crackdown, however, is likely to narrow the gap between the radicals and the rural mainstream by triggering a wave of peripheral solidarity.

Equally important is the conflating of the radicals with the wider movement to reclaim the land. As anger grows on the other side, it's important to check for signs of such a trend kicking in.

I can't help stating again that from our perspective this conflict over resources is basically also some kind of culture war between the environmentally oriented liberal city and the resource-oriented conservative hinterland. It fits nicely into the general liberal/conservative polarization in the US, having a nice potential to escalate into a nationwide clash.

By JACK HEALY and KIRK JOHNSON (JAN 10 2016, NY Times) {

Mr. Ivory, a business lawyer from suburban Salt Lake City, does not fit the profile of a sun-scoured sagebrush rebel. But he is part of a growing Republican-led movement pushing the federal government to hand over to the states millions of acres of Western public lands — as well as their rich stores of coal, timber and grazing grass.

The idea, which would radically reshape the West, is one that resonates with the armed group of ranchers and antigovernment activists who seized control of a wildlife refuge in Oregon more than a week ago. Ammon Bundy, the crew’s leader and the scion of a Nevada ranching family steeped in disputes with the federal government, said he and his sympathizers had gone to Oregon to give the refuge back to local ranchers.

Many conservatives — Mr. Ivory among them — criticized Mr. Bundy’s gun-toting tactics, but their grievances and goals are nearly identical. And the outcry has grown amid a dust storm of rural anger at President Obama’s efforts to tighten regulations on fracking, air quality, small streams and other environmental issues that put struggling Western counties at odds with conservation advocates.

Last week, Representative Greg Walden, the Republican who represents the Oregon district where the Bundy takeover is playing out, stood up in Congress to deplore the tactics of the armed protesters, but sympathized with their frustration.

“More than half of my district is under federal management, or lack thereof,” Mr. Walden said, expressing anger at the Bureau of Land Management. “They have come out with these proposals to close roads into the forests. They have ignored public input.”

In the past few years, lawmakers across the West have offered up dozens of bills and resolutions seeking to take over the federal lands inside their borders or to study how to do so. Some of the legislation has been aimed at Congress, to urge it to radically revise the laws that have shaped 550,000 square miles of national forests and terrain run by the federal Bureau of Land Management, stretching from the Great Plains to the Pacific.

The effort — derided by critics as a pipe dream that would put priceless landscapes on the auction block — has achieved little so far.

[...]

In its mission statement, the American Lands Council says its strategy for securing local control of public land in the West involves four tenets: education, negotiation, legislation and litigation.

In practice, local land disputes — fueled by deepening antagonism toward federal land agencies — now unfold like social-media passion plays. Last summer, armed groups intervened by providing security and standing guard at mines in Oregon and Montana that had received stop-work orders from the Bureau of Land Management. And in December, Phil Lyman, a commissioner in San Juan County, Utah, received a 10-day jail sentence after he led a protest ride on all-terrain vehicles through a federal area that had been closed to motorized use.

“All I did was drive down a canyon road,” Mr. Lyman said. “It seems to be getting worse, and the federal agencies, they are expanding. Their restraints are being overstepped. It’s not the way this country was set up. It’s not the founders’ design.”

About an hour’s drive from the wildlife refuge where Mr. Bundy’s group is facing off with the government, Erin Maupin and her husband, Jeff, pay the government each summer to feed their cattle on 19,000 acres of federally owned land. She said that like many ranchers, they wanted to work with the government, but that layers of grazing restrictions and environmental rules were getting out of hand.

“We want somebody to make sure we’re doing it right,” Ms. Maupin said. “But it’s got to the point where there’s no common sense in it.”

The resentments toward federal land managers feel sharpest in economically strapped rural counties from Arizona to Montana, where up to 90 percent of the lands are federally managed. People love the beauty that surrounds them, but seethe at policies that they say have whittled away logging and mining jobs, left national forests vulnerable to wildfires and blocked access to public land.

“The land policies now are, basically, lock it up and throw away the key,” said Leland Pollock, a commissioner in Garfield County, Utah, a county roughly the size of Connecticut with pine forests and stunning red-rock spires. “It’s land with no use. The local economy’s really suffered as a result. Grazing has been reduced. We used to have a thriving timber industry — that’s all but gone.”

Source = The Larger, but Quieter Than Bundy, Push to Take Over Federal Land }