Private landowners present a rising threat to the millions of acres set aside for public use by blocking access to public lands
The Diamond Bar X is a postcard-perfect slice of Montana solitude. A former cattle ranch that’s been parceled up into sprawling home sites, it sits not far outside Augusta, a cowboy town beneath Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front, where the Great Plains crash into majestic snow-peaked mountains to dramatic effect.
The area is prime habitat for elk and grizzlies, people are few, and its residents have easy access to countless miles of trails and streams on the adjacent public lands.
By all accounts, this was a little community positioned just right for fishing, hunting, hiking in some of Montana’s wilder mountain spaces.
And that’s how it functioned for decades, residents said in court, until Joseph Campbell bought 300 acres at the Diamond Bar X, moved in and started putting up locked gates that blocked access to well-trodden thoroughfares that people in the area had used for years.
Within five years, court records say, the police were called 25 times to deal with Campbell’s threats and erratic behavior, and his seeming obsession over keeping people off every inch of his property despite longstanding agreements among the neighbors for access to the neighboring publicly owned land. (In the west’s wide-open spaces, it’s common practice for landowners to negotiate deals – both informal and formal – to allow the public to cross their land to get to hunting spots, streams and trails.)
In 2013, after years of fights and threats, Campbell finally snapped.
A new billionaire is created every other day. The three richest Americans have the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the U.S. population. And 82% of the global wealth generated last year went to just 1% of the world’s population.
These are among the findings of a study released Sunday by Oxfam, a British campaigning group, as political and business leaders, including President Trump, prepared to gather in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting. Income inequality will be a major topic at the conference, which runs from Tuesday through Friday.
“There’s a billionaire boom,” said Paul O’Brien, Oxfam America’s vice president for policy and campaigns. “A perfect storm is driving up the bargaining power of those at the top while driving down the bargaining power of those at the bottom. If such inequality remains unaddressed, it will trap people in poverty and further fracture our society.”
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