On January 26, the occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge were arrested by Oregon state troopers and FBI agents. One rancher was shot to death in the fracas.
The lawmen were certainly justified in trying to take the occupiers into custody. But nothing has really been addressed. The occupation of the refuge was the act of country folk driven to desperation by actions of the government.
Contrary to misleading reports in the press, the protestors were not trying to grab bird habitat and somehow destroy it. The refuge was set up in 1908 to include important nesting areas for the birds. The birds do their courting on pasturelands and range outside the refuge before retiring to the refuge with their mates. This pasture land can very well remain in the hands of private farmers and ranchers. Pasture is its highest and best use and the birds just borrow it for a few weeks each year in order to socialize. That land is in practically no danger of being developed to be anything but pasture. But government agents have evidently been scheming for years to run private owners off those lands, which is the opposite of claims made by newspapers.
The problem at Malheur is shared by farmers, ranchers, loggers, miners and anyone who lives in the wide open spaces. They have been deprived of effective political representation by, as I understand it, the US Supreme Court.
Most states originally had a legislature of two houses, one house based on population and one based on county representation. That is why Idaho has 44 counties: economic and geographic interests were stuggling to have a voice in state government, and having a county meant having a state senator regardless of the population of the county. But today state senators represent districts that do not correspond to county lines. They are divided to make equal units of population. So both houses of state legislatures are now based on population only. My understanding is that the US Supreme Court destroyed the old system in favor of a pure “one man, one vote” plan. Update: this was done¬†by the decision in¬†Reynolds vs. Sims (1964) by Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren and his merry band of egomaniacs.
That means that a big metropolitan area like Portland, Oregon can utterly dominate the state legislature. The same thing will develop in Idaho, once the most rural of states. But do city people know enough about country occupations and problems of country people to be trusted to always do right by them? Certainly not.
Even though the actors in the Malheur drama were federal employees, Harney County’s lack of political power in Salem still plays a role. Bureaucrats are simply more likely to push people around who have little sway in their own state capitol.
So we have the anguish of the Malheur ranchers, and it will get worse — all across the rural states. It is the result of an out-of-touch and irresponsible Supreme Court that cannot even be bothered to consider topics that were well-discussed at the nation’s founding. So once again I second the suggestion of Sen. Ted Cruz that US Supreme Court justices be subject to retention elections. If common decency and respect for their responsibilities have little influence on the Supreme jurists, we need to give them the axe.

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