Most all major news outlets in America, if they even cover it, have couched the disturbance between the Bureau of Land Management and Cliven Bundy as one based on the Bundy Ranch refusing to pay for grazing rights on Federal property. Yet, a similar incident between the U.S. Forest Service and Kit Laney in New Mexico, in which the Forest Service claims part of the Laney Ranch is on Federal property, has the same basic principle at stake and it has nothing to do with grazing rights or boundary disputes. Those issues are moot points if we answer a more basic question; what legal authority and for what purpose does the Federal Government have to “own” property in the United States?
As Woody Guthrie’s ballad proclaims and in spite of his Communist beliefs, the idea that public property is your land and is my land, is more in line with the original intent of the Constitution when understood in the context as being between the Federal government and citizens of the United States. In other words, public land belongs to the people, not the government and the national government’s authority over it is limited by the US Constitution.