The federal government's dominance of land ownership in Western states has become untenable, says poet and rancher Waddie Mitchell.
"To have the federal government own 87 percent of the land mass in the state kind of makes them almost monarchs, doesn't it?" he asked John Bachman and J.D. Hayworth on "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV.
Mitchell was citing an oft-quoted statistic regarding the amount of land the federal government holds in Nevada. Figures from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service
show that figure is closer to 81 percent, but that is still the highest ratio in the United States.
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The U.S. government owns 52 percent of the land in Western states, according to CRS data reported in October by The Washington Post.
Mitchell said the government has encroached on land owners' rights in Western states, and that the images from the grisly sieges in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, loom large in the minds of ranchers and farmers.
"When did we decide to arm and have Taser guns on land managers that they're now calling federal agents? They call them federal agents at Waco, they call them federal agents during the McCarthy era, they called them federal agents during the Waco crisis, these [same] federal agents are very willing to Tase people, strong-arm them, and steal their personal property for their own gains, which has been set up and not really for the public good," he said.
Mitchell said he has felt the plight experienced by Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher from whom the Bureau of Land Management seized roughly 400 cattle for grazing on federal lands without a permit. Bundy stopped paying grazing fees 20 years ago over a disagreement with the agency.
The seizure of those cattle resulted in a standoff that grew tense and caught national attention. Mitchell said he has had similar frustrations, including being barred from using a trail on federal lands that runs between two pieces of land his family owns. Mitchell said his family had used that road for years.
"I didn't believe the government would do things like that, but they have shut down the road, don't let me access my own property," he said.
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