What’s Missing from America’s Public Lands?

This letter to the Herald Times of Meeker, CO may be a little over the top but it points to an important concept: Consent of the governed.

The writer states that the West Douglas roundup is “currently taking place without allowing timely input from the public, who legally own these public lands.”

Public comments are usually invited on new/proposed resource enforcement actions, sometimes referred to as wild horse gathers and removals, but those projects don’t address—and can’t change—the resource allocations and management priorities that drive the actions.

Yes, the American people have a voice in their government through their elected representatives.  But do those representatives call the shots on America’s public lands?

Not necessarily.  They may establish a framework through the legislative process, such as the WHB Act, but the grunt work is carried out by the unelected bureaucracy that operates with another set of rules that they invent, known as federal regulations.

Those rules fill in the gaps or correct perceived deficiencies in the statutes.

Can the bureaucracy be influenced by special interests?  Of course.

The rules for wild horse management seem to reflect that.

For example, the statute defines a range as the amount of land necessary to sustain an existing herd or herds of wild free-roaming horses and burros, which does not exceed their known territorial limits, and which is devoted principally but not necessarily exclusively to their welfare in keeping with the multiple-use management concept for the public lands.  No change from 1971.

But a regulation says they are at the discretion of government: Herd management areas may also be designated as wild horse or burro ranges to be managed principally, but not necessarily exclusively, for wild horse or burro herds.  Only four out of roughly 200 are.

The writer makes a good point.  Can regulations override statutes?  Can the bureaucracy put special interests above the will of the people?

That is the case that should be taken to court.

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