Above all the hoopla that Ammon and Ryan Bundy are stirring up at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Warner County, Oregon under the flag of defending the US Constitution is their sole desire to graze cattle on land that is not theirs and not have to pay for it.
The fact that the land in question is federally owned and managed sticks in their craw because they and their minions believe that the federal government has no authority over them or anything they want to do. It galls them that the bureaucrats in Washington, DC can tell them where, when and how they do their business. Ranchers and cattlemen like the Bundy family, including their father, Cliven, have historically taken what they want and used force and coercion to hold on to it. To them having to deal with the federal government makes their ability to influence outcomes much more difficult. They believe, and probably rightfully so, that state or county level management would be less stringent and thereby less expensive.
Cattle grazing on public land is not the only use the protest is about. Mining, drilling and Off-road Vehicle users each have their constituents who fume at the denial of their intended use by the "overreaching federal government.
This assertion that the government over reaches is one that is held by most if not all Republican legislators, Governors and Mayors. While someone needs to say NO to the unbridled exploitation of the land, air and water, the private interests have grown up believing it is their right to take what is there as God-given resources for them to have. Ammon Bundy as he continued to occupy the MHWR in January 2016 said his Mormon God told him to do it.
Republicans have supported the reallocation of land control to the states for many decades. President Ronald Reagan called himself a supporter of the "Sagebrush Rebellion" back in the 1970s and 80s. There is nothing in the Bundy Agenda that is at odds with the Republican congress of the United States.
The problem of relinquishing federal control of the western lands it owns is far greater than mere grazing of cattle. The cattle will not stop eating before the plat food is severely diminished. That is why the BLM requires permits. The BLM can monitor the health of the land and the plant growth stopping over-grazing that ALWAYS occurs when there are competing ranchers.
How the Buying and Selling of everything lessens it real value. When the tuna made people sick, the seller said, "I thought you understood that that tuna was for buying and selling, NOT eating."
The problem with state control is that mining concerns and drilling concerns are far more likely to influence the state level bureaucrats to not interfere. Sale to private owners leaves open the perpetual control of the land to any use the owner chooses without concern for the consequences. That issue is where the label of Tuna! arises. Buy and sell the land, do what makes a profit, deplete the resources and move on to another location without concern for the long-term damage being done. With every exploitative interest reaching for the most revenue from the land, someone has to speak for the land itself. That is the job of the federal government.
The land is more than just sagebrush and minerals. It is beauty that tourists want to visit. It is archaeological sites. It is cultural sites of the indigenous people who lived here first. There are species other than humans who depend on the land too. The parcels of land that ware being contested do not exist in isolation. Water flows from and through these lands becomes the water of people downstream. They deserve protections too. Cows defecating in streams, pollute that water for downstream users.
When it comes to long term sustainability of land and its uses, private and weak governance leads to its depletion and degradation. It is for the corporate interests that the ranchers occupying Malheur are really fighting. They are fighting the Republican battle against the federal government. They are using the specious claim that they are now defending the US Constitution by cherry-picking sections to use as their claim of legitimacy. There can be no wonder why the FBI has not move immediately to squash this sedition. Much of the claims are in accordance with the Legislative opinions of the present Congress.