Battle At Bundy Ranch Highlights Americans’ Political Priorities

A 20-year stand-off between a rancher and the federal government turned violent late last week, when hundreds of armed Americans came to stop the feds from evicting the rancher’s cattle.
By @katierucke |
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    Range Showdown

    Kholten Gleave, right, of Utah, pauses for the National Anthem outside of Bunkerville , Nev. while gathering with other supporters of the Bundy family to challenge the Bureau of Land Management on April 12, 2014. (AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jason Bean)

    A 20-year feud between private rancher Cliven Bundy, 68, and the Bureau of Land Management turned violent late last week when hundreds of armed Americans came together in support of Bundy, whose cattle were being removed from federal land by court order for illegal grazing.

    The mass of armed citizenry, as well as threats made against local business owners, prompted bureau officials to announce over the weekend that the agency had decided to immediately stop its cattle roundup operations and try once again to reason with Bundy in court.

    Specifically, a 20-minute standoff on Saturday, in which supporters of the rancher were pointing rifles toward the federal law enforcement officers and vice versa, raised serious safety concerns for the federal agency.

    Between Sat., April 5 and Sat., April 12, federal officials reported that federally contracted wranglers impounded some 400 head of cattle from the federal land. But on Sunday, Bureau of Land Management Chief Neil Kornze announced that as part of the halt to the cattle roundup, the bureau had released all of the cattle that had been removed.

    The federal government had been removing Bundy’s cattle and impounding them in a corral in nearby Mesquite, Nev., because the rancher has kept his more than 900 head of cattle on a piece of 600,000-acre federal land for the past two decades and has refused to pay taxes since 1993, when the federal government increased the grazing fees in order to save critical habitat for the endangered Mojave Desert tortoise.

    While the federal government allows grazing on federal lands, with the Bureau of Land Management reporting it administers around 18,000 grazing permits and leases on 157 million acres across the country each year, Bundy doesn’t have such a permit and hasn’t had one for the past two decades.

    Bundy does not have such a permit because he doesn’t want to pay federal taxes on land he says belongs to the state of Nevada. However, the private rancher hasn’t removed his livestock from the federal land, which was an option he could have pursued in order to not pay the federal fee, which costs about $1.35 per cow-calf pair per month.

    The feds argue Bundy owes U.S. taxpayers more than $1 million in unpaid grazing fees. As Kornze said, the cattle roundup was a “matter of fairness and equity, and we remain disappointed that Cliven Bundy continues to not comply with the same laws that 16,000 public-lands ranchers do every year.”

    The rancher has refused to pay the money he owes or remove his cattle from federally-owned land, since he believes federal grazing fees infringe upon state rights. Bundy also argues his Mormon family has owned the land located about 80 miles from Las Vegas since the 1800s — before the creation of the Department of the Interior and before the government tried to save endangered species, which he says should make him immune from having to pay these federal taxes.

    In response to Bundy’s argument, officials from the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management have pointed out that the removal of the cattle is based on two U.S. District Court orders from two different judges, the first of which was issued in 1998, yet Bundy has thus far failed to comply with the order. But the federal officials’ message has been lost amongst the claims of a police state and an overreaching federal government from Bundy’s supporters, which has included conservative media outlets.

     

    States vs. feds

    As a result of the federal government’s “battle” against Bundy, members of various militia groups from states including Virginia, Texas, Montana, Idaho and Wisconsin took it upon themselves to travel to Bundy’s ranch and support the rancher with their weapons, in order to prevent the federal government from infringing upon the state’s rights.

    Stephen L. Dean, 45, of Utah, is a member of a militia group known as the Peoples United Mobile Armed Services. He said he came to Nevada because this is an example of “tyranny in government” by the Bureau of Land Management “stealing people’s cattle.”

    What’s interesting about Dean’s concern about the “stolen” cattle, which are reportedly worth about $1,000 each, is that Bundy himself has said he is not concerned about the animals. Instead, his anger stems from the “infringement” upon state rights by the U.S. federal government.

    “I’ve been fighting this for a number of years. It’s not about my cows, I’ll tell you that much,” Bundy said at a town meeting last Wednesday. “It’s about freedom and liberty and our Constitution … and above all it’s about our policing power. Who has policing power today?

    “I love you people. And I love this land, and I love freedom and liberty,” Bundy said. “I know without doubt that our Constitution didn’t provide for anything like the federal government owning this land, and so when I pay my grazing fees — if I owe any grazing fees — I will sure pay it to the right landlord, and that will be to Clark County, Nevada.”

    But as some have pointed out, if Bundy is going to get technical about who owns the land his cows are grazing on, he may want to have a conversation with Mexican government officials or Native American tribal members, and send his money to them.

     

    Loss for the environment

    While those who supported Bundy in Nevada and on social media sites were thrilled with the announcement that the Bureau of Land Management had decided to end its roundup and called the feds’ “retreat” a win for those opposed to an overreaching federal government, the announcement came as a devastating loss for some environmentalists.

    For Rob Mrowka, an ecologist and senior scientist with Nevada’s Center for Biological Diversity, the agency that sued in federal court to remove Bundy from the federal land in order to protect the land and the tortoise, said he was disappointed to see the government give in to “an armed anarchist group,” instead of protecting the endangered tortoise and rare plants and allowing fire-damaged vegetation to regrow.

    “The BLM has a sacred duty to manage our public lands in the public interest, to treat all users equally and fairly,” he said. “Instead it is allowing a freeloading rancher and armed thugs to seize hundreds of thousands of acres of the people’s land as their own fiefdom.

    “The BLM is setting a dangerous precedent in announcing that it will pick and choose who has to follow federal laws and who it will reward for violating them.”

    He also expressed empathy for the federal agents who were on the front lines of this battle.

    “They’re trying to uphold the law and do what’s right for the land, but their leaders have pulled the carpet out from under them again,” he said.

    The Center for Biological Diversity had also filed a notice of intent to sue the Bureau of Land Management after canceling a planned roundup of Bundy’s cattle at the last minute in April 2012, illustrating that tensions between federal officials and Bundy are much deeper than the public may have realized.

     

    Political mud-slinging

    While Republican U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval both released statements supporting Bundy, Democratic Sen. Harry Reid was noticeably quiet throughout the ordeal, prompting some to wonder what sort of interest the Senate Majority Leader may have in removing the cattle from the land.

    Some suggested that Reid was silent because his former aide, Neil Kornze, was just confirmed as head of the Bureau of Land Management last Tuesday, but since this issue has been ongoing since the early 1990s, it’s likely Kornze’s connections to Reid were not solely responsible for the senator’s silence.

    Others, such as right wing media outlets, accused Reid of working with the bureau in order to help his son, who was recently hired by a Chinese firm, to establish a solar power plant on the land. But it should be noted that those conservative news outlets spreading a pro-Bundy message are being supported by the Koch brothers — two billionaires Reid has publicly pledged to expose for all of their greedy misgivings.

    Conservative media outlets are also reporting that this land is being seized by the feds in order to allow for more oil drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on private land. However, there is currently no further evidence proving that is the government’s true motivation for removing the cattle.

    However, as Daily Kos member Vyan wrote in a blog post, Bundy’s decision to use federally funded resources such as grass and water to feed his cattle without paying his fair share is no different than the “welfare moochers” conservatives often complain about. He’s using federal resources even though he doesn’t meet the requirements to access those resources.

    “That’s MY Land that his cows have been grazing on for 20 years and he OWES ME and the rest of the American People for it,” Vyan wrote.

    Alan O’Neill, a former superintendent of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada, agrees. He wrote an opinion piece in the Las Vegas Sun explaining why Bundy is a bully and not a hero.

    “I served as superintendent of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area for the National Park Service from 1987 to 2000. In 1993, we reduced the number of cows that could be grazed on the Bunkerville allotment to 150 because of the emergency listing of the desert tortoise as an endangered species,” O’Neill explained. “Because Bundy refused to remove his cattle to meet the 150 level and ignored repeated requests to do so, his permit was canceled in 1994 and the allotment was closed to grazing.

    “It is unfathomable to me that 20 years after the Bunkerville allotment was canceled in 1994, we are still wrestling with getting his cattle off the range. And there were issues of overgrazing that allotment before 1994. It is my opinion that the BLM and the Park Service have done everything possible administratively to try to resolve the issue amicably. In addition, there are two federal court rulings upholding the agencies’ position, and the most recent ruling demanded Bundy not physically interfere with any seizure or impoundment operation.

    “Bundy is a bully who has used his threat of a range war and to do ‘whatever it takes’ to stop the government from impounding his cattle to scare public officials…What Bundy is doing is a criminal act, and he should be accountable for his actions rather than be held up as a hero fighting the federal government,” he wrote.

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      • Jefry Tober

        Many will not look deeper into the myth, lies, and omissions of Cliven Bundy.

        It was over for Bundy in 1998 when Clark County, Nevada BOUGHT the Bunkerville grazing allotment lease! Bundy knows this but will not tell the right wingers that can’t go beyond FOX and Alex Jones.

        Better look up the Mesquite Land Act of 1986 and Clark County MSHCP. Mesquite is one of the fastest growing areas in the US. Bundy is being overcome by population and the differesnt amenitoies that population wants on this particular land.

        There is no going back. OVER mr Bundy and you would ignite a Civil War just to get to the same place – it being over, over, over. So much for these nuts being reality based.

        http://www.cbo.gov/publication/43183

        http://cwa.mesquitenv.gov/GeneralInfo/LifeInMesquite

      • JF Elfin

        Protecting the tortoise??? You people are so full of it, it’s running out your ears.

        First of all, since the government got involved, desert tortoises have been being euthanized by the hundreds because the government can NOT take care of them.

        Secondly, did you idiots KNOW what sustains desert tortoises? It is COW DUNG!!! These two species lived happily side by side, with no harm to either until people LIKE YOU stepped in to support the government in order to STEAL LAND. If you think you are fooling anyone, think AGAIN.

        Those citizens took back what belonged to Mr. Bundy, AFTER the Sheriff told them the BLM would leave. Instead of leaving, these para-military forces (paid, Blackwater mercenaries–they were NOT BLM agents, except for their leader, Daniel Love) pointed guns at people who had their hands in the air, telling them not to fire on them.

        Local people said these “BLM agents had accents and they were NOT BLM agents, because they know who the agents in their area are.

        So, you know what Mr. and Mrs. smart-ass environmental group. Guess what? You are going to lose on this one because they ABUSED and SLAUGHTERED Mr. Bundy’s cattle. And these little chicken shits with their heavy army, ready for a major war, left so fast, they didn’t have time to cover their tracks. A mass grave of dead cows–27 calves left without their mothers. This is NOT a factory farmed operation. This is the way cattle are supposed to be raised humanely for meat consumption. And guess what stupids, you are NOT gonna get people to stop eating meat, but what you have done is try to put out of business another farmer who is raising animals on beautiful land, where they have a peaceful existence. Of course, PETA weighs in with the statement, well they would be slaughtered anyway for meat. Disgusting!!

        LOL! You people have bitten off more than you can chew with this man. You are not used to dealing with a brave AMERICAN who will stand up to you, and NOW he has millions of people standing with him, not only here, but AlL OVER the world.

        Hee, Hee, I can’t wait to see you fail on this one. And I will make sure that I go on every social network I’m on and spread the word about your vile organization. You don’t give a fig about those animals, or they wouldn’t be being euthanized by the very government YOU got to take care of them.

        YOU are responsible for the evil that has taken over this country and we are sick to death of your back-door tactics, and they are going to be brought out into the open. Already one brave Congressman has declared this Gestapo action by the Federal government to be illegal and he is calling for an investigation.

        People have had enough. They are tired of environmental groups running our country and it is going to end very soon.

      • jeff_jos72

        It’s articles like these that show who the real anti-Americans are. Know your history people! The people defending the ranch was not pointing guns at the Federal Government, and the land belongs to the people who been on it for centuries, and owned it. If your family had land, would you want the government claiming it as theirs, and forcing you to pay taxes on in, in which the taxes go to foreign off shore corporations? Also the land grab is a Chinese take over! Know your history, and know your rights fools!

      • thoomfoote

        Anti-American isolationist. Secede if you don’t want to be part of society. Goddamned religious/political nuts.

      • SouthernVaDude

        Hes a Criminal an stealing from American taxpayers an should be thrown in jail for contempt of court an anyone interfering with this should be jailed with him. He’s a freeloader destroying public grounds for his own profit. and I’m a Reagan Republican

      • fitzwilliam777

        Throw this duck dynasty wannabe in the pen and any ding dongs that support him. He is no better than a Welfare leech. What’s wrong with the BLM? Bring in the big guns.

        • jeff_jos72

          “Hail Hitler!” Ediot, this was a China land grab, Bundy owns the land. They just want the land so they can hand over to china. Know your history. They are destroying cattle farmers, that’s why beef is being sold for higher prices. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWok0IGI2Jo

      • Mr. WalrusQ

        I read an article pointing out the hypocrisy of the Bundy supporters. They defend a man who has violated federal laws for 20 years yet many of the same people are anti-immigrant and believe all non-documented people should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The internet has given all the nutjobs and whack-a-birds out there someplace to gather. It’s scary and only a matter of time before there’s blood shed by these sorts.

        • SouthernVaDude

          To be fair the left supports illegal immigrants an they are also breaking the law. Separate issues I know but criminals are criminals Right wing nut jobs or Left wing nut jobs. All Laws should be followed like them or not or No Law matters. Can’t pick an choose.

          • Mr. WalrusQ

            The left supports immigration reform, not armed militias blocking INS agents from doing their jobs. I agree that law matters and if you disagree with the law, support changes in the law.

            There are very few extreme left people who would use violence. On the other hand the right has an abundance of these sort and they scare me. You don’t see the same kind of extremism on the left. You don’t see progressives calling for overthrowing the government like Bundy has. So the term left-wing nutjob just doesn’t work.

            • SouthernVaDude

              Oh really? You dont have to be armed to be a nut job….Nut jobs wanting to give away legal status to millions here illegally is an oxymoron ….Immigration reform? All they want is Amnesty that’s not reform that’s capitulating to criminals. True reform can only be made when the ones here illegally are deported an our borders secured.

              • LostInUnderland

                Calling for amnesty is asking that a law be changed; NOT breaking a law. Also, you don’t have to be armed to be a nut job, but it makes you much more dangerous. You cannot claim equivalence between an armed militia stealing government land and a peaceful protest asking for laws to be reformed.

              • Texas Savvy

                Entering the U.S. illegally is a “crime” on the very same level as running a stop sign. Ever run a stop sign?

              • Kevin Schmidt

                Stop trying to hijack this thread. Obviously you have nothing intelligent to say about Bundy, so you try to change the subject to an irrelevant topic.

          • Swami_Binkinanda

            Umm, Reagan amnesties?