Here’s how all the pieces fit together. The first is the establishment piece.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the arm of the government at the center of this isn’t an innocent party. While in this instance the BLM isn’t wrong for the reasons the militant occupants say it is, but it does hold its share of nefarious practices. For a small bit of history, the BLM was created by the government to hold federal control of state lands to prevent them from being overrun by certain industries. For instance, they were born from a need to legislate cattle grazing because if left unchecked, the ranchers would allow the entire area to be destroyed by their cattle. For another example, they were created to ensure that industrial entities didn’t use all the resources that should be for the entire public. So what do they do with all that land? In some cases, they turned the land into national forests and other protected public spaces. In other cases, they turned the area into cultural or historical sites, protected by federal law as well. Beyond that, what they have done has been a lot more questionable. For one, they have allowed many of the industries into these lands that they had wanted to keep at bay, but with supposed regulations. For instance, the Arizona branch of the Bureau of Land Management recently approved a land swap that will see ancient Apache ceremonial land go to the hands of a foreign mining company to exploit the largest copper deposit in the country. I am against this action 100%, and these types of things have been happening from the BLM for a while now. The practice that is at the heart if this controversy is that they are willing to lease the public land back to the ranchers they took it from, for a fee and tight regulation. Simply put, the federal government took land that was usually unclaimed or “unusable”, or in some instances, land owned by ranchers, and instead forced the ranchers to pay a fee to use the new public land for grazing. Some of these ranchers claim that their right to graze on public land is a state issue and that the BLM, or the federal government, doesn’t have the right to intervene.