Cooler Heads Prevail in Bundy Ranch Situation

BlmOver the weekend, while I was busy with yard work, the Bureau of Land Management backed down from their confrontation with Cliven Bundy in Nevada. It’s actually been the foreign media that seem to be most fascinated by all this, as the coverage at the UK outlets Daily Mail and The Guardian, and Australian outlet the Sydney Telegraph, aptly demonstrate. A pretty good article about the confrontation appears in Breitbart, which is not entirely sympathetic to Bundy’s position, but provides a good bit of background.

This whole incident is baffling for an east coaster, because grazing rights on federal land seem more like a policy dispute rather than an dispute of fundamental rights, or the government reaching beyond its Constitutional constraints. Few people would argue the federal government doesn’t have the power to control it’s own property. It’s in the Constitution. This has never seemed to me to be in the realm of things we draw lines in the sand and threaten to shoot people over.

I get the fundamental unfairness of it all; that the feds are ruining the livelihood of ranchers over a desert tortoise, when Harry Reid and his former staffer who now heads up BLM is busy defiling that very tortoise habitat with a solar farm to benefit one of his big donors. I get that the federal government is currently flush with overreaching bureaucrats who have little regard for the people their policies impact. But to me this looks like something we’re better off changing at the ballot box. I also don’t really have very much sympathy with the Sovereign Citizen Movement, which Bundy seems to have leanings toward.

I won’t pretend to have a strong understanding of the west’s land use culture. To east coasters, westerners have always seemed rather eager to kill each other over things that people on the east coast take for granted, like water. But that’s not to say I’m on the federal government’s side in this whole affair. While I believe the federal government is probably in the legal right, I think they’ve squandered their moral right when they decided to threaten protesters and corral them into first amendment pens like herds of cattle. When I say what’s happening with Cliven Bundy isn’t worth shooting people over, I’m speaking to both sides. The BLM didn’t have to come in with a cocky attitude and pushing people around. I’d rather live in a country where’s a healthy spirit to resist bureaucratic whim, than live in one where people are expected to be obedient little subjects and step aside. Bundy stood up to the federal government and he won, and there’s part of me that celebrates that no matter how I feel about the actual policy issue. The famous quote from Thomas Jefferson is quite apt here:

God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people can not be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13 states independent 11 years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half for each state. What country ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.

In a political climate where a large portion of Americans didn’t feel like they were constantly under the boot of the federal government in general, and this Administration in particular, these kinds of public policy disputes wouldn’t risk starting a civil war. The federal government backed down because it did not want a bloodbath. I think that was the prudent and moral thing to do. If the federal government is going to deal with grazing on federal lands, it’s going to have to earn back a its legitimacy from the large segment of the public that now questions it. This Administration has taken to politicizing every aspect of American life, and these are the wages of that policy.

60 thoughts on “Cooler Heads Prevail in Bundy Ranch Situation”

  1. ” While I believe the federal government is probably in the legal right, I think they’ve squandered their moral right when they decided to threaten protesters and corral them into first amendment pens like herds of cattle.”

    I think this hits it on the head. Add in the fact that the federales have adopted the attitude of “‘legal’ is whatever we SAY it is”, and whether they have the legal right becomes less and less weighty.

    1. I think the dam is breaking.

      There has been scandal after scandal. Abuse after abuse. Lie after lie.

      No upper official seems to obey the law, while trying to ensnare all of us “lesser folk” in myriad chains.

      I want my country back. And I think there’s enough that agree at this point.

  2. Love the quote from Jefferson, and love the fact that you quote the whole thing (giving much better context) instead of the just first and the last two sentences.

    1. In the whole context, it’s really perfect for this very situation. Except in Jefferson’s case the rebellion he was speaking of was an actual shooting rebellion. This didn’t go down that way because cooler heads prevailed, and the feds backed down.

      1. Reid isn’t exactly backing off. I wonder if this is something they mean to ride to the election?

  3. I understand how frustrating it must be to have your family business threatened, especially when it has been conducted in the same area for generations, due to bureaucratic foolishness.

    At the same time, Bundy hasn’t found a single sympathetic ear in the legal system… The courts have found the federal government has a legal right to that land, and a legal right to manage that land as it sees fit.

    I have to wonder if he had spent those 20 years working to influence the policy, as opposed to fighting this in the courts, if he would have made any more progress and avoided this whole mess.

    1. At the end of the day, I think the solution to this has to be the federal government divesting its lands to the State of Nevada. There’s no earthy reason the feds should own 80% of a state.

      1. I was born and raised in New Mexico, another state that is predominantly owned by the federal government in some form or fashion (although not nearly as drastic as NV).

        And despite that, I highly doubt that the feds will be divesting themselves of any of that land. In NM, they continue to grab land that is privately owned or owned by the State of NM.

        1. Better question is where exactly in the Constitution is the Federal Govt given the right to own land that rightly belongs to a sovereign State?

          The Federal Govt has no right or authority to “own” a state past the land allotted for the US Capital and necessary space federal offices and bases, post offices, etc..

          1. It was argued as far back as the Louisiana Purchase that the federal government had no power to acquire land, but not even Thomas Jefferson or James Madison agreed with that interpretation of the Constitution. It’s long been accepted that acquiring land is a constitutional exercise of federal power.

            The specific land in question was acquired from Mexico in 1848 through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, that ended the Mexican-American war. When Nevada was admitted as a state, it federal government retained title to most of the land.

            Whether this is good policy, to retain title to all this land, I think is a debate worth having. I tend to think the feds should turn most of it over to the State of Nevada. But while there’s precent for arguing that there’s no power to acquire land, that hasn’t really been a debate since the very early part of this nation’s history.

          2. Article IV, Section III, Clause 2 – “Property Clause” has been widely held to give the Federal Government the right to own land. And I would go so far as to say recent trends indicate courts favor the “Police Powers” interpretation as opposed to the “Ordinary Land Owner” interpretation – meaning the federal government, through eminent domain, can seize land but can also act as an ordinary land owner by purchasing land from other entities (including States).

          3. I read that also in the Constitution that the Federal government does not have the right to own land other than to build forts and post offices. That surprised me. If that is right then Bundy may have real Constitutional question that has been ignored.

            I really do not care that the courts have sided with the Federal government. It has come to the point the law mean what ever the government say. At this point we the people can take back the authority of the law Since we are the ones that delegated it to the government.

            So why be surprised the people decide what is just rather then submitting to the courts or the Federal government

            1. The exact words are: “To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings.”

              But the government doesn’t own the land in question through this power, they own it through the treaty power. That was the conclusion Madison came to when this became a controversy during the Louisiana Purchase. The federal government has the power to acquire land through treaty. In this case the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo.

                1. Used to be Spanish territory, then Mexican after the Mexican War of Independence. Then we took it from the Mexicans after the Mexican-American War, which started over our annexation of Texas.

              1. I would argue that if a state is being admitted from acquisition from a Treaty, the federal government gives up the power to own any land not specified in that clause, because of that clause. I know the courts don’t see it that way, but I think that’s the best, logical argument to make.

                I would also argue that the state could take back any land ceded as well.

    2. That bears little argument to me. The Fed, and government in general, rarely finds against itself. And usually adopt that might makes right, we make the laws, we have the right to do whatever.

      That’s okay, it looks like the people just veto’d that in this case.

  4. …. Saying the some people from the BLM nearly got themselves shot over a land rights dispute… Is pretty much akin to thinking that the LA Riots were about Rodney King.

    It’s a culture of them vs us that they are now seeing the issue with.

    This was overall a net positive. There is some local government group in Texas or Vermont or Montana or where ever they may be planning on a controversial issue. They now have to think about “What if” we piss people off enough to gather like they did in Nevada… It’s absolutely good to remind them where the limits are now and then.

  5. Here’s a good write up on why we should support Clive Bundy. It’s not all encompassing, but to the point.

    As for “…westerners have always seemed rather eager to kill each other over things that people on the east coast take for granted, like water”….

    I can appreciate that confusion, although we haven’t always been eager to kill. Warning shots used to be the standard for a reason! :)

    At any rate, the reason is very simple: natural resources that can used without major effort are not common in the West. For example, water. Water is life. Yet, potable water is a valuable commodity in the west. California brings a lot of its drinking water in from Colorado. The same is true throughout the west — water supplies are carefully tracked, forecasted, and managed from snowfall to opening the spigot out in the south forty.

    Water rights were developed to avoid those range wars. It’s taken seriously enough to become state laws, including a carefully organized hierarchy. It’s even in some State Constitutions (see Article 8 in Wyoming).

    I’m not disagreeing or complaining, BTW. Just offering the perspective of a native westerner.

    1. I’m speaking more historically when I mention fighting over water. Obviously there hasn’t been much killing in recent times. But shooting people over grazing on public lands is just kind of baffling, but then again, I live in a state that’s only 3% owned by the feds, rather than 50-80% as is common in Western states.

      1. So was I. There hasn’t been any acknowledged range wars since 1890’s, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t problems. Lawsuits over water rights are common. The Federal government practically shut down farming in the San Joaquin Valley by gaining water rights for a fish they claimed was endangered.

        But then again, I have a closer connection to this. At least one of my ancestors was murdered during the sheep wars in Oregon.

      2. I am of the belief, that presently, the Federal government (and California) are using environmental law to shut down agricultural systems that utilize water, in order to route that water to southern California.

        And I am suspicious this entire issue of ranching and the Feds killing it, is directly tied to securing more water for California.

        Frankly, I’ve said for a few years that Colorado should mobilize it’s National Guard, and damn up the river. Not let any more water than would normal go, re-establish their habitats, and basically declare an intention to wage armed conflict against both California and the Feds until California implements some real water management policies. (Namely, it’s a huge coastal state. Build some desalinization plants.)

        1. And then there’s also the fact that using dams like the Hoover Dam in the United States to divert the Colorado River to U.S. farmers is essentially stealing the river from the farmers downstream in Mexico, who used to be able to rely on its water. I’m not sure that the United States has the right to control all the water merely because, through the accident of geography, it happens to have the ability to do so.

          1. That actually happens quite a lot in the world. The Chinese controlled the water supply to Hong Kong, and could have used that to frustrate the British, except that dickering with the water supply would have likely invited invasion. Likewise, the Israel is quite dependent on water from Arab states, so you have situations like this, and this.

            Water rights are almost always going to be a function of military power. Mexico gets the short end of it because at the end of the day they can’t force the issue. Israel can, as the British could against China WRT Hong Kong.

    2. From the linked article: “People are upset that Cliven Bundy didn’t pay his grazing fees. What no one is paying attention to is that the fees themselves were unconstitutional. ”

      How are they unconstitutional? The Constitution grants Congress plenary power over federal lands and property. It would seem charging a fee to use federal lands would fall under that power. I’m sympathetic to the idea that the courts aren’t necessarily the final arbiters of constitutionality, but I’m not even sure what plausible theory this could be unconstitutional under.

      1. This is in Nevada, where I do not live, and and am not familiar with. But, in general, the Bureau of Land Management was established after most statehoods were granted; land and water rights tend to be based on seniority. BLM was established as the agent for the Federal government in regards to Federal lands. But, over the years, BLM has gained control over more land from states and counties (granted as part of gaining statehood), either by negotiation, or simply asserting control.

        Bundy, as I understand, says he has been paying Nevada, through the county, for grazing rights, as that’s who (apparently) owns the land. Again, this is in Nevada, and land use laws varies as you cross state lines. But his claim is based, in part, that they are NOT Federal lands. I can’t speak as to the lawsuits.

        Land ownership in the west can be challenging at times. I know of places where you can stand in one spot, and look at where undeveloped state, county, Federal (as in, “not a national park or forest”), and private property all come together, and there isn’t a sign or fence anywhere. The lack of boundary markers is getting rarer these days, but not the confluence — and potential conflict — of land ownership. Especially when one or more of the land owners are bullies.

        1. Except I think his argument is based on Sovereign Citizen arguments rather than who actually holds the title to the land.

          1. I thought his argument had more to do with homesteading rights/ remnants of the Mormon settlement and creation of the sovereign Mormon nation prior to Utah becoming a state. Plus water rights.

          2. Actually I just read an article that stated that he in fact had purchased both the water and grazing rights for the land he was using.

            Many states, water, mineral, habitia, and grazing are separate ownership rights. So it may very well be the case that Bundy having purchased these rights, was now being told that he had to purchase more by an entity that was fairly new at the time the controversy began, now claiming Federal ownership.

            But the large part of the issue from what I’ve seen a few ranchers in the area mention. Is that the Feds won’t allow Mr. Bundy to pay.

            Essentially, what the Feds said is you have to reduce your ranch from a 1,000 cattle to 100 (be a small hobby rancher). That is the real fight. And the Feds have used this to shut down almost all the other ranchers in the region. (I suspect for water.)

            Furthermore, you’ve spent hundreds of thousands if not more on land, water and grazing rights. Now you’re told you can only graze 100 cattle.

            Essentially the Feds are giving a big FU, we’re putting your out of business, and you’re losing your lifelong multi-generational investment.

            In which case, more power to Clive. And I confess that at first, i took headlines at face value. Thought this guy was some state’s rights/sovereign citizen nut. (And I’m not saying he ain’t that.) But the more I read, the more I’ve come to learn that not exactly what’s going on here.

        2. From the articles and summaries I have read, I don’t think there is any question that the land that Bundy was using is currently owned by the Federal Government via the BLM.

  6. A few nights ago while watching the news my wife turns to me and asks what I thought of the whole situation. I told her I’m no expert in western states and the nuances of ranching on public land, so I can’t really say who’s in the right.

    However, when I see peaceful protests being countered with “First Amendment Zones”, snipers taking up positions, people getting tased, and overall the same type of heavy-handed, militaristic tactics being employed more and more these days, I can’t help but crack a smile when I watched the video of a cocky-looking SWAT team being forced to retreat when hundreds of protesters on foot and on horseback advanced on their position.

    Like an above commenter stated, if this even causes one government entity at any level to second-guess some ludicrous action on their part, it is a net positive in my book.

    1. At the end of the day, even laws enforcing speeding are enforced at gunpoint. You can choose not to pay, and you can choose to resist when a bench warrant is issued, but eventually someone is going to come stick a gun in your face if you’re serious. And then you’re in Cliven Bundy’s situation. That is the law, at the end of the day, even laws most of us agree with.

      The root problem, as I said, is that the federal government has squandered its legitimacy with a large number of Americans. And it’s squandered that by forgetting whose consent they govern by. I think the problem is that people aren’t really looking about the specific policy issue at hand, and are using this as an outlet for general animosity toward overreaching federal policy in general. Specifically this is about grazing rights on federal land and tortoises, but no one sees it that way because what they are doing is emblematic of so many things that have gone off the rails in the past decade or so.

      1. Like the quote goes…government is force. Many of us follow laws because our personal ethics guide us to, others do so because they know when push comes to shove somebody with a gun will eventually show up to rectify the situation.

        You’re quite right that the government has lost a lot of legitimacy with the people, and many speak out or show up to these types of situations not because they disagree with the specific law or policy in question, but because when they see cattle fees not getting paid being met with snipers and SWAT teams, it reinforces the notion that many have that the government continues to default to “shock and awe” mode for more and more things these days.

      2. I think you have it exactly right. A lot of the people over than Bundy see this as a fight against any overarching government, because of how this administration has operated. They don’t care about their particulars, or who is exactly right. They only care about stopping the Feds, especially in defiance of a court order.

        People are starting to understand that its all force in the end with government, and the government needs to be reminded from time to time that they don’t have all the force. If people withdraw their consent, by not only ignoring laws but outright flouting them, the government has lost.

  7. To east coasters, westerners have always seemed rather eager to kill each other over things that people on the east coast take for granted, like water.

    Well, yeah.

    The East Coast isn’t a desert.

    (That and it’s all riparian water rights, not prior-allocation like out West.)

  8. He may have won the battle but I’m afraid he’s gonna lose the war. Now they’re going to come at him with every indirect attack in their arsenal, to the point that whatever little bit of a life he can maintain, will be miserable.

    That right there is the true tyranny of an overly large, overly powerful government. The ability not to send in men with guns to kill you, but to make life so onerous and terrible that you pull out your own gun and off yourself.

    The fact is we the people long ago lost the war and neither the ballot box nor the courts are going to help. The deck is stacked against us from top to bottom.

  9. So I read an interesting comment on Yahoo, a member of a Nevada rancher family. It was rather insightful and rational.

    – Pointed to the ranching agreements, commenting that the issue arose when they essentially began placing limits on permits. Often by as much as 90%.
    – Pointed to the fact that the contract, does not allow you to pay, unless you agree to the permit revisions.

    – That in many cases, the limits were “temporary suspensions” to never be unsuspended.

    – Pointed out that this resulted in the region the poster was in going from 54 ranchers grazing to only 3.

    – The stated million owed is fines, and not the actual bill that would of been for the number of cattle.

    – Said land used to be open ranched and not Federally owned. So they feel that the land was taken, but they were told it was just being protected, they could still use it. Now the terms have changed. (Rather like all of our deals with Native Americans.)

    – Also pointed out that in conjunction with the grazing permits, that ranchers need to purchase water access permits. In order to maintain these permits, the ranchers must justify the need by the amount of cattle. That the ranchers are not credited for the loss of their water rights. (So imagine your family has spent thousands or even millions over the past decades gaining grazing and water rights. Now all of that is eradicated with the swipe of a pen.)

    Now suddently, I think I am starting to see what this issue is actually all about. California!

    California has been putting more and more demands on the southwest states for water. Which is in fact doing far far far far more damage to the ecosystem and threatening endangered species than any cattle being grazed.

    But this little twist of the pen appears to make for a convenient means to reduce the water consumption of Nevada’s ranchers.

    The sad irony is that their reasoning for restricting the grazing herds is bass ackwards from an environmental perspective. Grazers are what fertilize much of the west. In the east we have a traditional forest/stream pasture system that is mostly a fungal decomposition system. West has a system based more on the fecal deposits of grazers and herd animals broken down by bacteria decomposition. All the more so in the Great Plains regions.

    We’ve wiped out most of the natural grazers, said cattle are pretty much one of the few things supplamenting that loss, and providing the ecological factors needed to sustain a healthy system and prevent pure deserts from forming. Sure it has to be managed, but that does not seem to be the intent.

    And I am suspicious when you would enact an ecologically destructive policy (remove grazers from lands that need them) to protect a singular species – when the said action could in fact harm the endangered species habitat.

    Granted there is a lot of talk about the solar farm. But I just keep thinking, that can’t really be it. Most farms the panels are high enough that cattle pose no harm and could graze around the panels.

    So apparently there is a lot more economics at play than is actually discussed in most of the news articles. Shutting down 90% of one’s business is pretty much a – we put you out of business sort of deal. Losing water rights one has purchased and pained expensive fees for, etc. So it was insightful.

    And it also was interesting to learn that the Federal government pretty much owns most all of the Nevada land.


    So the biggest misnomer apparently is that Bundy is unwilling to pay his due to graze his cattle. This is not true. He did before,…

    The issue is that the renewal of permits basically state, you sign, and accept the new terms, and oh btw, we’re reducing you from 10,000 cattle to 1,000.

    He refused that reduction, it basically would of been the end of his ranching days. And that is why there is so much support from fellow ranchers, apparently many were hit this way. Many lost their ranches. And they see Mr. Bundy standing up against the Feds, and saying no. And hence there is a lot of sympathy because so many experienced the same or knew someone who had.

    Did find it interesting that Media Matters touted the following:

    “Conservative media have held the confiscation out as a big government invasion of private property rights and have repeatedly hyped the rancher and his family as victims being intimidated by a heavily armed force of federal agents who are escalating the situation into the realm of notorious and deadly standoffs like Ruby Ridge and Waco”

    Got to say, they’re missing the boat a bit. A thousand armed men is quite a different scenario than Ruby Ridge or Waco, which pretty much were just one family and one weird small cult. At a 1,000 men you pretty much have a military battalion sized force. I am glad they decided to pursue a different avenue of action this time.

    Thankfully, this has ended peacefully….

    1. Thankfully, this has ended peacefully….

      Well, paused, maybe. Definitely not ended. The .gov does NOT like being poked in the eye.

      Or did I miss a little sarcasm there?

      1. I think you can pretty much implicit read “for now” into anyone who’s saying that. I think we all know this isn’t the end of the issue.

        1. Yeah. I seriously expect there will a midnight SWAT raid on his home in a month or two, once it’s been out of the news cycle for a bit. And it would not surprise me one bit to see him (and possibly his family) mowed down Jose Guerena style.

          1. And what will be the cost in response?

            One thing not much mention in the recent anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing is the fact that it was essentially a direct response to Ruby Ridge and Waco.

            .gov needs to evaluate the steps they’re blundering with. They went into what they thought would be an engagement with a few ranchers and faced the first battalion sized militia in probably over a hundred years.

            They are losing the respect of the people for their authority. NSA, TSA, IRS seizing children’s refunds on supposed overpayments that they cannot even provide evidence for, etc.

            Most are apathetic, most are of the opinion you just obey cause that’s right. But the quantity questioning is growing.

            Don’t believe me, go watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Ignore the entire film, and focus on the political dialog being made. It was a propaganda film saying that essentially, our liberties are in jeopardy, the very entities that were formed to protect it have in fact become the threat, and we need to oppose it.

            That is the #1 grossing film of 2014. And it is essentially a dialog against our present .gov

            That is MAJOR!!!!!

            1. I see the low information folks I know on BOTH the left and the right distrusting the .gov as an agent for The Other. The main difference is how they think the trust can be regained.

  10. I fear the only thing that has been learned is that a different tactic needs to be tried.

    In this case the federal LEO authorities rolled in heavy. They established what is basically a FOB complete with serpentine barrier and multiple perimeters, had mutliple aviation assets, and probably the equivalent of a mechanized infantry company if not battalion on the ground.

    The lesson learned should be to either:
    1) Use an indirect approach. Target using the IRS. Hit people on procedural crimes. Seize assets and use asset forfeiture laws to max extent. Freeze bank accounts. Get them jailed and sweating and fighting from prison without access to cash or communications devices, not from their home. Everyone is guilty of SOMETHING.
    2) Move faster. If they had simply launched a raid at 0200 with no warning using a mechanized infantry platoon SWAT team and taken Bundy into custody, maybe shot up a few dogs, then they’d have avoided the whole protests and optics issue. Especially if Bundy were to have had constructive possession of an illegal SBR, a still, some computer stuff, etc. Again, everyone is guilty of something. If you move fast enough you avoid the protesters, human shields, and the cameras. If there’s no cameras rolling the story is what you say it is.

    Moving slow and heavy caused the PR nightmare which led to the whole thing shutting down. I would expect the next round to either be more incremental (option 1) or faster (option 2).

  11. The West, Land, Water, and Range Wars. All four go hand in hand, and have since this land was settled.

    What you had in the late 1800s was Cattleman’s Associations of these states (WY, MT, ID, SD, CO, NV, AZ, NM) who essentially ran state governments. These Cattle Barons owned the cattle and had free access to all the open range they could hope for to fill contracts with the federal government to supply meat to the Army, the Reservations, and back east. Life was good for them.

    Then Manifest Destiny took hold. Small farmers from back east headed west and started homesteading the open ranges the Cattle Barons used to graze their cattle on. Along with the invention of barbed wire, these small ranchers started moving in and taking over. Think the movie ‘Open Range’ starring Robert Duvall, only in reverse.

    In an effort to choke out the small ranchers, the Cattle Barons turned to every hired gun they could find to drive them out. The Lincoln County War in NM is probably the most famous one, what with Bonny Billy Bonny and all, but there was the Johnson County War in WY famous for it’s own outlaw Tom Horn.

    Now, fast forward 100 years or so, and you can substitute the Bureau of Land Management for the Cattle Barons. They operate in the same vein, with the biggest difference now being the hired guns used to enforce their decrees carry the badges of federal law enforcement officers instead of handmade tin stars.

    You want a history of range wars out west? Do some research on both the Johnson and Lincoln County (leave Billy the Kid aside)Wars.

    Folks out here have always had a healthy distrust of the government for this very reason.

  12. Bundy stood up to the federal government and he won, and there’s part of me that celebrates that no matter how I feel about the actual policy issue.

    That’s pretty much how I feel. I’m uneasy supporting him based on legal facts, but the idea that the feds lost due to an armed populace has me smiling.

  13. I generally regard the BLM as the least noxious of the Federal land agencies. Better than the Forest Service and much better than the NPS. I speak as a recreationist rather than a rancher so I am willing to be educated by ranchers. I do think that there has been a concerted effort over the last several decades to run economic uses off public land. Ranching, drilling, timber, you name it. That said, the BLM clearly stepped on it this time.

    1. I agree, I also find BLM’s behavior odd. As a recreationist (primarily hunting and backpacking) I also much prefer the Forest Service to the Park Service, and generally the BLM is easy to deal with too.

      I wonder if this was driven from top down, or if the civilian-appointed upper management has been successful in changing the culture of the GS-ranks at BLM, or if this was really a NPS push with a BLM face on it.

      Most rank and file BLM bureaucrats seem more amenable to, you know, actually letting people use the land that the NPS types who want to wall it off except for a few theme park style enclaves and “manage” it for desert tortoise usage.


      New topic — reports I’ve read indicate 100+ BLM vehicles departed their encampment on about 30 mins notice after being issued an ultimatum by the protestors (“Leave or we are walking through your gates”) and the county sheriff’s deputies stated they wouldn’t intervene.

      That tells me a few things:
      – BLM did roll heavy, with a battalion sized force. Now, I don’t know if those were all infantry but I’d wager at least a company sized mechanized infantry force plus their contractors and support personnel is not unreasonable. BLM rolled too heavy and thus was too slow to beat the PR push.
      – 30 mins is not long enough for the agent on the scene to phone back to DC for orders and then execute them. So this was probably a local decision by the local guy in charge. Some GS-14 or GS-15 (maybe an SES) probably made the right call. I honestly think if they had taken the time to phone home for directions they probably would have been told to stand their ground and double down so this initiative by a mid-level leader was probably the best outcome to be hoped for. Still I would not take it as indicative of a major policy decision or representative of the views of the senior agency leaders (i.e. the political appointees on top of the organization).

  14. You might want to check out some of the Mouth Foaming coming out of the TreeHuggers over this issue. It’s as if the NRA was Air-Dropping Ma Deuces into Newtown! They’re THAT PIssed BLM ran away.

    1. Well, fuck them. If they don’t like it they can get out there themselves and confront the ranchers, rather than let someone else do their dirty work.

      1. I am sure that the EPA will get their enviro-lawyer friends to sue and then do an out of court settlement giving up 99.9% and paying legal fees to support the next lawsuit.

  15. Many people are missing the urban/rural tension represented by this issue. In general, urbanites, who have the political power, want the “wilderness” to be pristine when they visit. The rural folks living there need to work the land to pay for their needs. this is mostly through extractive occupations – farming, logging, mining, drilling.

    City folks don’t want these things happening in general, and especially during their vacations and have used environmental laws to shut down many rural economies. Incidentally sending much of this economic activity overseas. Rural families really resent that their children have to move to cities to make a living.

    Another factor that grates on the rural residence is the city folks pushing up property values in these areas with little private, build-able land by purchasing property for second homes.

  16. The real issue was not about grazing fess. It was liberty. The real basis of liberty is private property rights. When the government can take your property,especially at gun point then it is being tyrannical. This is much greater issue then taking peoples guns. But it is still the same thing Government taking of private property. The cows were Bundy’s no question there. Cattle rustling was hanging offense in the west.

    Plus The BLM damaged water tanks and damaged irrigation systems. SO we also have destruction of property.

    The real loss to Bundy if he reduced his herd was his reduction of water rights. Water rights are based on the number of productive cattle. Water rights are valuable $5-7 for sq foot some have said. No water , no life.

    There is a great demand for western water in Las Vegas and California. Please recall how California and the Feds had destroyed Imperial Valley for agricultural production. I have had difficulty finding raisins which come from there.

    People ran to support Bundy because it was a liberty issue and they were not going to allow another Waco or Ruby Ridge.

    This was a serious confrontation and could have trigger a rebellion and civil war we are ill prepared for and do not want.

    Thankfully some wiser person on the ground figured out this was a killing issue and backed down. They were allowed to leave with their equipment un molested.

    The problem is not finished for Mr Bundy but hopefully the federal government will not try a heavy militarized response.

    People have been feeling their liberty is being taken and the speed of the response showed how on edge this country is.

    1. The cattle were his, but try not paying your property taxes, or income taxes, and see whether the government starts seizing your property. Generally speaking, the government will seize property from you if you owe them money.

      1. Property taxes are a state tax and Bundy paid all his Nevada taxes. Bundy realized 20 years ago that the game was rigged and if he agreed to the new permits that it would lead to the loss of his herd, business and property and his water rights. Since he is the last rancher, he was right.

        The law itself is tyrannical and steals livelihoods and property. As I have not read that he failed to pay his federal taxes I think that is not relevant.

        The state can force a tax sale of property and it goes to auction. The state has not done this. So your analogy is inaccurate and irrelevant.

        This is a liberty issue. Yes, he has violated a law. So has millions of NY residents today. So it is right that they get invaded by armed police and have their property stolen? No, bad laws are not justice.

  17. A story how the BLM did this action before on Nevada in the case of Wayne Hage

    see link

    Also a link to the Nye county sherrif confrontation with the BLM over their illegal raids

    It seems that there is a colorful history of the BLM trying to destroy ranches

  18. Out here in the west, there are two federal agencies that people hate. One is the IRS, and the other is the BLM. Depending on which day, at what time, who you talk to, and how you ask them depends on which one is worse.

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