Let’s begin with a map.
Here are some explanations.
The United States government has direct ownership of almost 650 million acres of land (2.63 million square kilometers) — nearly 30% of its total territory. These federal lands are used as military bases or testing grounds, nature parks and reserves and Indian reservations, or are leased to the private sector for commercial exploitation (e.g. forestry, mining, agriculture). They are managed by different administrations, such as the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the US Department of Defense, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Bureau of Reclamation or the Tennessee Valley Authority.
This map details the percentage of state territory owned by the federal government. The top 10 list of states with the highest percentage of federally owned land looks like this:
New Mexico 41.8%
You can find this here.
The Bundy family is grazing its cattle on federal lands for free. It refuses to pay. This is a property rights case on the surface.
We need to get beneath the surface. The real problem can be seen on the maps. The federal government exercises ownership over land that it should not own.
If the federal government auctioned off this land to the highest bidders, using the money exclusively for paying off the federal debt, the nation would be a lot better off. But the government refuses to do this.
My hope is that this showdown in Nevada will raise this question: “If a private owner controlled access to the land, would the Bundy family work out a deal?” I think it would.