This property is featured in the Summer 2021 issue of LAND magazine. Click here to find out more.
The access to and acquisition of land has driven much of American history. From wars and treaties, immigration and settlement, land has been woven into the very core of what it means to be America.
Something about land lives deep in the American psyche. Since the early 20th century, most Americans have resided in urban areas, yet the allure of an agrarian life makes the family farm or ranch a touchstone of American culture and politics. Cowboys, the rugged knights of the American West, have remained an icon of American culture. Disagreements between owners and preservationists over land use have become battles over the meaning and destiny of America itself.
America grew and defined itself by growing into its abundant lands. Land inspired American independence and spawned American democracy while securing its rise as a world power. Land symbolized opportunity to generations of Americans, starting with colonists who never had the chance of owning property in Europe as the huge country gleamed in their eyes and its frontier drew them out west.
Being a landowner means being a fundamentally important instrument of the American foundation while providing a stewardship of natural resources and a part of national culture alike.
Today, being a landowner also comes with the seemingly relentless drumbeat of outside pressures and squabbles from individuals and organizations serving agendas of their own.
In the United States, property owners are protected under what is known as a “Legal Bundle of Rights,” basic rights afforded to any owner of real state. The bundle consists of:
The right of possession
The right of control
The right of exclusion
The right to derive income
The right of disposition
In the American West, home to vast private land holdings, landowners have spent decades protecting their rights to privacy, access and management of the natural resources native to their land. Ongoing disputes with outside organizations over public access to roads on private land, management of wildlife, compensation for wildlife damages in the form landowner hunting permits, water rights and the introduction of predatory species are all too familiar points of contention over which endless amounts of hours and dollars are spent.
By nature, rural landowners tend to be people who dedicate their time maximizing the productivity, health and enjoyment of their land. It’s a community who will lend a helping hand to a neighbor when needed but also respects their neighbor’s privacy, hoping for the same in return. Energies are focused on the task of protecting and improving their valued investment through responsible stewardship and hard work. These private lands are managed and cared for with a sanctity often times lost on lands with public access.
“If you don’t control your environment, somebody else will.”Grant Cardone
Conversely, organizations advocating for issues of public land access, hunting or wildlife management and other conservation-minded groups are well organized and funded. They are in a constant stage of research, planning and execution of their agendas, as that is their primary mission and full-time job. This particular dynamic tends to put the private landowner into a reactive and defensive position when these groups press for legislation or legal decisions that will adversely affect the landowner since his or her time and energy is usually focused on the management and enjoyment of their property.
We have witnessed this firsthand in New Mexico, where recent efforts to change legislation that could have impacted landowner hunting rights were aggressively pursued by non-profit conservation groups and local politicians. When our brokerage, Beaverhead Outdoors Ranch Group, spearheaded a campaign to inform landowners of the proposed changes, we found that an alarming number of constituents weren’t aware of the proposed changes. Fortunately, through our efforts and the efforts of several other stakeholders, enough awareness was raised in time to mount an effective defensive and prevent the legislation from moving forward.
As landowners, cowboys, hands, outfitters, real estate brokers and suppliers, we are all stakeholders in the steeped American tradition of ranching, farming and recreational land use. It’s easy for us to go about our daily tasks forgetting there are groups at work effecting change that could impact our investments and way of life. We would be well served by becoming more aware and more organized ourselves, refuting disinformation, controlling the message and being more engaged in the process.
The resources needed in these efforts are already at our fingertips. By participating in Fish and Wildlife meetings, becoming active members of cattle and farming associations, paying attention to proposed legislation and communicating with our peers, landowners and stakeholders have the opportunity to take a proactive position and get in front of these issues before it’s too late. Find the legislators in your area who share your values and let them know who you are; their advocacy is critical and there is great power in numbers.
Let’s enjoy our private lands while protecting our investments and lifestyles. Together, we can work to ensure the next generations can reap the same rewards.