Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Picking Your Hill to Die On...

I’m getting a lot of push-back on my stance on Cliven Bundy vs. the BLM. 

Most of it centers around the fact that the Bundy family has been allowed to graze their cattle on that land for 100 years, and disallowing other ranchers to graze land that they’ve been allowed to graze for years has caused those ranches to shut down. 

All of that may be true.

None of it changes the fact that Cliven Bundy is a tenant who has stopped paying his rent, and now refuses to leave when his landlord evicts him for non-payment.  The duration of his tenancy is entirely irrelevant.  Claims of rights revolving around the duration of his tenancy are no different than the claim of a person who rented an apartment for 30 years, stopped paying his rent, and then got evicted, that he had some sort of special right over the place because he was there for so long. 

For a bunch of libertarians, these folks picking at me on this sure have a strange concept of property ownership. 

Again, do you want to debate whether the Federal Government should own land, or this much land, in the west?  Fair enough, I’m right there with you.  I think that with very few exceptions that pretty much every acre of federal land would be better managed and better served in the hands of the respective States.  But that isn’t the topic here.  The Feds DO own the land, and as long as they own it, they set the terms and conditions of use, just like any property owner.  And just like any property owner, they can and will and SHOULD evict your butt if you don’t live up to the requirements of use.  Did they put strange restrictions on it that you don’t understand, for reasons that you think are petty?  Tough shit.  Use it by their rules or get off.  That’s how it works. 

As for the argument that seems to center around ranching being some sort of sacrosanct profession, I truly don’t understand this.  The Federal Government passes laws on a daily basis that negatively affect the ability of people to earn a living, and that destroy people’s livelihoods.  


We rarely ever hear about these things, because it’s a software engineer here that was let go because the company’s overhead had climbed to outrageous levels due to federal compliance regulations, or a waitress over there that was laid off due to a raise in the minimum wage, or a guy over there who’s hours were cut so that he wasn’t “full time” so that his employer didn’t have to buy him health insurance because of Obamacare.  These folks slide under the radar, and no one seems to think that they are “tragedies” the way that people cry and moan over a ranch or a farm closing down. 

Why?  Why is farming and ranching so goddamned sacrosanct that a software engineer losing his job is a statistic, but a farmer losing his job is a goddamned tragedy?  A software engineer has to find another job, and it’s just the way things go, but a rancher has to go get a job and people turn out with guns to face down the federal government? 

When that software engineer lost his job because of federal rules, no one turned out with guns to protect him?  Why not?  And why Cliven Bundy?  He isn’t your poster boy, libertarians.  Not by a long shot. 

Pick another hill to die on.  


  1. Not sure how to work this in but I've seen it several times.

    If the only route to someone else's property is through your property, and you allow them to access their property through yours, you end up ceding their route to them as THEIR property.

    I wonder if some people are thinking that this mechanism is in effect for the ranchers.

    1. I didn't cover the topic of easements, Angus, but you are sort of correct.

      First, property rights laws do not allow the landlocking of property. If the only way to access your property is over another's property, then they are required by law in every jurisdiction that I'm aware of to grant you an access easement.

      It does not become their property. It remains yours, with the caveat that you may not make changes or improvements to that section of your property that would deny or hinder their access.

      There is another way that this happens, called "adverse possession" where you use another person's property, improve that property, and do so for a period of 7 years without the property owner stopping you, then you actually gain legal title to that piece of property under adverse possession.

      I think that adverse possession is what a lot of people are citing when they say this, but it absolutely, positively DOES NOT apply to this situation.

      For two reasons:

      You cannot condemn public property. Otherwise, a man who used a public park or a BLM trail every year without the city parks department or the BLM telling him to stop would have legal claim to that piece of land. THis rule is common sense, and exists for exactly this situation - a rancher grazes cattle, or a hiker hikes a trail, or even builds a cabin on BLM land somewhere, and they would be able to take legal possession of that ground if the government didn't expel them in 7 years.

      The second reason that it doesn't apply here is because the government took action within 7 years to evict Bundy, which nullifies adverse possession. They didn't actualy have to MAKE him leave, they just had to tell him to leave. This, as it were, is why the permit system for grazing exists. It is a way for the BLM to track who's using their property, and to know who to evict if they're found trespassing.

      So while the argument for an easement or for adverse possession is novel, it fails any reasonable test that you might try to apply.

      In fact, it fails right off because the ground in question is public property, and you cannot take adverse possession (aka, "condemn") public property.

      If Bundy is landlocked, then the government owes him an access easement, and nothing more. That does not allow Bundy to graze cattle.

  2. I knew that easement and adverse possession didn't apply, I was wondering if people were thinking that they did.

  3. I figured. I assumed you knew, but recognized it as a good qeustion that needed answered.