Time for Nevada rancher to end war with feds before someone gets hurt

The most damaging aspect for the federal government from the standoff between federal agents and the mob of gun-toting protesters summoned to Bunkerville, Nev., by renegade rancher Cliven Bundy is impotence — the government’s inability to assert its authority to enforce the law.

The confrontation at Bunkerville, Nev., between a deadbeat rancher and his armed supporters and the federal government represented by the Bureau of Land Management, reflects a dangerous anachronism that permeates radical Western values and stimulates dangerously irrational behavior.

To diffuse a no-win situation, the federal agents at Bunkerville capitulated to the demands of Bundy and his cohort of armed “patriot” bullies rather than risk bloodshed. Facing a mob with no more strategy than putting women and children out front to assure maximum international outrage if government forces opened fire, what else could they do?

This appropriate decision was not based on intimidation of federal employees by the assembled not-so-well-regulated militia, but in the interest of protecting public safety by damping down the heated rhetoric.

As the Las Vegas Sun editorialized, “Evoking romantic images of the Old West,” the defenders of Clark County rancher Cliven Bundy describe the confrontation as “a David-and-Goliath battle in which the lone rancher takes on the overreaching federal government.”

Played out in thousands of Western novels and movies, the embattled rancher defending his land, family and cattle against every plague from Indians, sodbusters, railroads, oil drillers, land developers, drought and the federal government is the fundamental stuff of popular western myth.

But, the Sun editorial continues, “This wasn’t a matter of a rancher pushing back against the government or a show of patriotism by Bundy and militia types; this was an open act of rebellion against the rule of law.”

Marc Ash points out in a Reader Supported News report,  “This episode, this time, involved a private rancher’s self-proclaimed right to graze his commercial herd of cattle on public lands.”

Bundy asserts that he should be exempt from federal regulation and fees because he does not recognize the legitimacy of federal dominion over public lands.

Or, over himself.

He defers, Bundy claims, only to the laws of Nevada.

“The most coherent argument he makes,” Ash charges, “is that his family has owned the adjacent ranch since the 1870s.”

Nothing in the Nevada Constitution supports Bundy’s claims of state sovereignty, and, pointedly, both the state and county have refused to accept fees he has offered them in lieu of paying the federal charges he owes.

For 20-plus years, Bundy has refused to pay his grazing fees to the government and BLM authorities have threatened to confiscate his cattle. Over that time, fees and fines have accumulated from court decisions and fines. Bundy now owes more than $1 million to the government.

To most Americans, including Westerners, the impunity with which Bundy has flaunted his contempt for federal law comes as somewhat of a shock.

However, this particular confrontation was not precipitated by a completely justifiable and legal effort by the BLM to confiscate Bundy’s cattle as forfeit for non-payment of fees.

The cows were rounded up because they were illegally encroaching on a special management area set aside as habitat for the endangered desert tortoise. It is not now, nor has it ever been, part of Bundy’s grazing lease.

It isn’t just about his cattle, Bundy is quoted as telling Fox News agitator Sean Hannity, “what they (BLM) have done is seized Nevada statehood, Nevada law, Clark County public land, and have seized all of the other rights of Clark County people that like to go hunting and fishing.

“They’ve closed all those things down, and we’re here to protest that action. And we are after freedom, We’re after liberty. That’s what we want.”

Translated, that means that not only should Bundy’s cattle be allowed to trample over land set aside as habitat for the endangered desert tortoise, but off-road vehicles should also be allowed to take their toll of both wrecked habitat and crushed carapaces.

An impotent federal government is not just weak, it is dangerous because it encourages the kind of lawless threat to civil order that erupted in Bunkerville.

An uneasy truce has settled over Bunkerville. The federal agents stood down; the vigilantes returned to their homes; the BLM promised once more to seek new federal injunctions against Bundy; and the gnarly old rancher continued to thumb his nose at federal authority.

And life goes on in Bunkerville — until the next time.

Bill Grant lives in Grand Junction. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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Hmm…I was taught that we were a government of the people, by the people and for the people, not of the government, by the government and for the government. Our founding fathers split from King George because of government oppression.

While I am glad to see cooler heads prevail, it was refreshing to see that the people made a statement that the feds cannot come in and bully the average citizen willy - nilly. Have all legal procedures really been addressed?

Thomas Jefferson said ” The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants…it’s it’s natural manure.” I hope it never comes to that, but I would rather fight than live in a Government/Police state dictatorship, and it seems we are slowly headed in that direction with our constant loss of civil liberties.

This is another story from Mr. Grant that shows how deeply he investigates things. The hullabaloo about the Desert Tortoise is, indeed, overstated about their future. In fact, the very Fed Agency responsible for their oversight were set to euthanize several hundred of them because there were too many to care for.
The real reason for getting Bundy off land claimed by the BLM is nothing more than a Land Grab of the highest proportions. The Federal Government does not own property in the States without Congressional approval, buying it for Federal use under the mandates laid out in “The Enclave Law”, Article I, Section 8 Clause 17. It states,- “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–“
The final decision for this “land dispute” should be resolved in the Supreme Court. Lesser courts will not come to any determination without opposition from either side of this argument. The real underlying concern here isn’t a belligerent bully as Mr. Grant would have you believe, but from an overreaching government agency pushing it’s authority to the limit. If they want this land, if they can impose fines, if they can seize property, they need to take it to court and get the Supremes to rule in their favor. Just wanting them to act without authority as Mr. Grant would have them do, is not only reckless but blatantly offensive to all Americans.
The Forest Service is to thank for the pitiful position we find our forests today in Colorado. We now have millions of acres of forest, dead from neglect, dead, awaiting a fire of biblical proportions, and we can thank the oversight of the Forest Service for all of it.
The desert can not only sustain a thousand cattle, it can also support the tortoise alongside the cattle. To allow the intrusion of our Federal Government to act as God over nature, making laws and rules without regard for consequences is ridiculous.
Take it to Court! Prove your rights. Show us in the Constitution where the Feds own anything but what they were given by the States.
Pennington for Sheriff!

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