The role of the federal government in the West has often been the landlord of last resort, managing lands that are too marginal for ranchers or anyone else to purchase. The Feds have also been an agency of development, using taxpayer money gathered from wealthier coastal states to maintain western fences, roads, and water resources. The pattern of development is reminiscent of a colonial system, and has often saved western taxpayers much grief. The trouble with the Bundys was they had fomented an armed occupation to simply take what did not belong to them. They hadn't paid their BLM leases since the 1980's. They had no intention of purchasing the land - western ranchers only do that for the most valuable lands anyway - and simply asserted they had a divine right to the land, due to being early pioneers in the area since the 1870's (even though they didn't move there until the 1940's, but none of it mattered anyway, since they were intent on theft anyway, not purchase). They established armed roadblocks on southern Nevada roads and searched neighbors or anyone else who approached their ranch. And defied the law, above all, by force of arms. They need to be hammered by the full weight and authority of the Federal government, and crushed into atoms.
Reid reintroduced a bill in January that would create a conservation area over 350,000 acres of desert scrub near Gold Butte, the mining ghost town northeast of Lake Mead. The area’s colorful rocks, canyons and petroglyphs are popular with hikers, bikers and off-roaders.
Reid also reintroduced a bill that would withdraw 800,000 acres of land in Lincoln and Nye counties from oil and gas drilling. The move would ensure that Nevada artist Michael Heizer could protect “City,” a miles-long Earth sculpture he has carved and built in the desert over decades.
Democratic Rep. Dina Titus recently introduced two similar bills in the House of Representatives.
But the bills have almost no chance of advancing in Congress during Reid’s remaining 21 months in office. His next-best option is to convince President Barack Obama to protect the land by designating it part of two new national monuments.