Friday, May 6, 2016

NPR explores land rights for Western ranchers as a political issue

David Greene reported this morning from central Montana under the headline, "In Big Sky Country, Land Rights Are a Major Issue for Montana Ranchers."  While the transcript is not available online (as far as I can tell), the podcast is and, in short, the segment does a good job of conveying the perspectives of western ranchers.  They explain, for example, that the U.S. government is paternalistic toward them, second guessing how they run their ranching operations.  I admit that I went into the story with some empathy for ranchers, and I felt even more after hearing the story.  After all, as I have wrote on Twitter and on this blog soon after the Bundy Bros. & Co. took over the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, it seems hypocritical for me to defend the BLM too rigorously when I don't have to negotiate with them to feed my family.

But emotions on these issues do run high on both sides, and so I should not be surprised by some of the comments on the story ... but I was, especially, I suppose, by the tone:
a bunch of Red State whiners asking for more free stuff? Some of them, yet sounds like more people worrying about earning a livelihood. 
But if a grocer in inner city Chicago whined linked this, what would the Red Staters say?? They wouldnt hear it for a second, rather they would say change jobs. Why isnt this advice sufficient for the Ranchers?? 
Or what if a small business owner with a business degree where to make environmental policy for Yellowstone National Park? Bad idea right, but the red staters think a businessman is all knowing, which is why they elected Bush, nominated Romney and Trump. 
These ranchers need to learn the ways of big business, get some lobbyists to help them. That is how it works. If you have bad policy, well then you have to grease the wheels of DC and get what you want.
Note the explicit rural-urban comparison.  Also, on the "change jobs" point, isn't it the case that if too many ranchers change jobs, we'll have more agricultural production in fewer hands than we already do? That doesn't seem like a great solution to me.  Plus, there's more hatefulness where this one came from.

But there is also this, siding with, offering an apologia for the ranchers:
You may want to listen more to what these ranchers have to say as opposed to assuming you have a full understanding of the issues at hand. Most of what they are talking about doesn't even relate to federal land -- it relates to government regulation on PRIVATE land as well. I guarantee that if anyone spent a few days with some of these ranchers and really understood a lot of the issues they were facing, their views would change dramatically. These aren't Cliven Bundy types who want to essentially steal from the public -- they are people trying to run their businesses and support great communities and face very real (often unnecessary) challenges ... and often those challenges are causes by people from far away who don't really understand the issues but for some reason assume they do.
So little empathy to go around, everything polarized in red v. blue terms.  Yuck!

This report is part of NPR's "The View from Here" series.  

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