This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
One of Thomas Jefferson's most famous quotes that seems to be especially apropos at this point in time is: "When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny."
I find this quote to be particularly interesting in light of recent events in Oregon, and the Farm Bureau's Grazing Conference in Richfield on Thursday, coupled with The Salt Lake Tribune's articles by Brian Maffly about that event and what had become essentially its primary objective: to strike fear in the hearts of ranchers. The dramatic headline of Maffly's first article about the event was: "Officials meeting with Utah ranchers to find solutions that won't involve 'more bloodshed.'"
According to that article:
Thursday's conference is geared toward "proactive" solutions, rather than the "reactive" gestures gaining traction in some circles.
"We want people to look at a way to address these problems that won't involve confrontation and lead to more bloodshed," [Farm Bureau Executive Director Randy] Parker said.
He was referring to the Jan. 26 shooting death of Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum, who had been imploring Utah ranchers to assert ownership claims to their grazing allotments and to tear up their federal contracts.
There is no question, regardless of prior scheduling and planning, the primary objective of the conference became to discredit the theories of Dr. Angus McIntosh, who has been commissioned by the National Federal Lands Conference to give educational workshops about property rights.
Although the emphasis of those workshops is on ranching, McIntosh makes very clear that the principles also apply to logging, mining, hunting, recreation, access, and affect anyone who may claim any form of "right," including simple access to lands held by the federal government that are typically referred to as "public land." In his presentations, McIntosh focuses on important definitions, including statutory definitions to the effect that properly defined "public lands" are those lands "open to entry and settlement." He makes many distinctions, and discusses the "split estates" that exist in lands held by the federal government, including the forage estate, the water estate, mineral, timber, and access estates.
Both state and federal governments were well represented at the conference to strongly reinforce the message, and seek to rein-in any possible rogue elements. Although none of Utah's congressional delegation were able to attend the meeting in person, they were well-represented by a full contingent of staff, emphasizing how critical this issue is currently viewed to be.
According to Assistant Utah Attorney General Tony Rampton, and Brian Maffly's reporting of Rampton's position:
"McIntosh contends ranchers have established a 'property right' to the forage through years of 'beneficial use' and easements to move cattle.
"That's nonsense that will lead to serious trouble for ranchers who buy it, according to Rampton."
Although, in a "meeting after the meeting," Forest Service Attorney Terry Padilla seemed to concur with many of McIntosh's points, and praised the opportunity that had been provided to hear from McIntosh, according to Rampton, any notion that ranchers have any form of "property right" to graze and utilize the forage on their grazing allotments is a myth, because according to Rampton, "No such right exists."
According to Rampton, any attempt to take any position to the contrary will "have consequences," and according to Rampton, "will do nothing but harm individual ranchers and destroy their livelihoods."
Based on the timing, context and manner of the messages communicated by Tony Rampton and Randy Parker, with significant help and inflammation from The Salt Lake Tribune, the message communicated both to ranchers and to the general public could not possibly be more clear. And in my opinion, this is what that message is:
"As ranchers, you have no property rights in your grazing allotments. And the federal government is willing to kill you, and take your cattle, ranches, any claimed property rights and destroy you if you make any attempt to stray from the path dictated by the government."
That is undoubtedly the message the federal government has been attempting to send for the past several years, and especially within the last two months. And Tony Rampton, Randy Parker and The Salt Lake Tribune have certainly stepped up to the plate to help deliver that message.
In conclusion, let us not forget Thomas Jefferson's statement: "When the people fear the government, there is tyranny."
Based on this message, could our situation be any more clear?
Todd Macfarlane is an attorney, rancher, writer and political activist. He represented Mary Bullock and other ranchers in long-standing struggles with the federal government, and he currently represents the LaVoy Finicum Family.