The reaction to the Bundy Ranch showdown proved hostilities between civilians – specifically ranchers – and the federal government is not limited to Nevada. Land disputes in Texas and protests in Utah have highlighted what many see as undue intrusion by the Bureau of Land Management into the rights of ranchers who have used the land for generations.
Outrage has reached a boiling point among some in Utah who depend on federally owned land for their livelihood and who feel the government is now making their way of life virtually impossible.
“I’ve been riding a horse and taking care of them … ever since someone could hold me on the horse,” rancher Preston Johnson said, explaining he had hoped to pass his lifestyle down to his children.
The San Juan County rancher’s concerns come just days after a nearby protest against the BLM’s failure to act on requests that it reopen a canyon that has been off-limits to motorized vehicles since 2007.
He cited the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act as the basis for his claim to use the land, though he notes that he and other ranchers are facing mounting opposition by the BLM. Under the guise of protecting endangered animals or some other ostensible emergency, he complained that federal agents are resorting to the use of force to enact new restrictions on ranchers across the American West.
His mother, Sandy, agrees.
“The government has pushed us and pushed us ‘til we’re tired of being pushed and we’ve done the things we need to do like pay our grazing fees and everything,” she explained.
Failure to pay such fees, officials claim, was the basis for an armed standoff at the Bundy Ranch.
Some critics contend the BLM is working toward the full removal of ranches and cattle from the millions of acres it currently owns.
As for Preston Johnson, he made it clear that he has no intention of voluntarily capitulating to the encroaching federal bureaucracy.
“I’ll stay here ‘til they have to run me off,” he concluded, “with everything they got, because I ain’t going nowhere.”