Thoughts on the [Entire] Standoff at the Cliven Bundy Ranch and the Wolves on Both Sides

600w-Cliven-BundyFor some time now, the situation between Nevada rancher Cliven D. Bundy, 67, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was rapidly deteriorating. Yet, with the BLM standing down, members of Bundy’s camp decry it as a victory for the 1st Amendment as guaranteed by the 2nd, state rights, and sovereign citizenship. Oppositely, Progressives decry the actions of Bundy as a criminal propped up by lawless gun-toting militias. But it’s difficult to tell where the truth is in all of this, and by now its obvious wolves on both sides are busy framing the scenario and how it all played out to their political base. It’s one reason I held making my assessment until I had time to review the situation, and apply rational critical thinking.

But first, a little history lesson (I know bear with me – it’s important)…

In 1848, as part of the close to the US-Mexico War, Mexico ceded parts of Nevada and other regions to the US as part of the Mexican Cession. The US government in turn declared title to those lands, unless a plot was purchased by settlers directly from the government. Circa 1850 the Mormon ancestors to Cliven Bundy settled in that area from Utah, establishing a small ranch in Bunkerville and grazing cattle on land deemed public access by the government at that time. Nevada formally became a state in 1864 and until the Tylor Grazing Act of 1934 and the advent of “The Grazing Service”; ranchers more or less were given free range. This arrangement went on until 1946 when the BLM was established (and absorbed The Grazing Service) to monitor and regulate all federal, commercial, or private lands. To help enforce this mandate the BLM began issuing 10-year grazing leases on the lands held within its purview, including the lands owned by the Bundy family. Bundy’s predecessors paid those leases until 1993 when the BLM changed the grazing right regulations for the Gold Butte area, while Cliven Bundy maintains he owns grazing rights to the land citing his Mormon ancestry to the 1880’s prior to the establishment of the BLM.

BLM Closure Map

BLM Closure Map

This contention between Bundy and the BLM continued in the courts until November 3rd, 1998 when Clark County, Nevada declared a number of federal lands off-limits to protect the habitat of the now “endangered” desert tortoise. This measure was backed up by regulating the number of cattle that could graze in these areas, and fees that made it cost prohibitive to graze in protected areas. These regulations also made it unrealistic to actually BE a rancher. The overregulation as a whole did spark a separate debate, but slowly ranchers hung up their spurs because financially cattle ranching simply couldn’t survive under new regulations, fees, and leases.

Undeterred, Bundy claimed the grazing right to the lands of the Bunkerville Allotment under “preemption” and, combined with personal claims of BLM strong-arm tactics that “cohered” other ranchers, he spent the next 15 years battling with the courts while the leasing fees on the Bunkerville Allotment and Gold Butte areas (that Bundy had now refused to pay) continued to add up. Problem is “preemption” as Bundy claims, is not a de facto ownership and was only a term referring to the purchase option given to settlers on buying the land from the federal government back in the 1850s. However, those lands never came up for public sale, and thus no one aside from the federal government has ever owned it. So Bundy’s claim on ancestral ownership is invalid. His ancestors may have moved in and settled the territory prior to the establishment of the BLM, however they did so under government ownership of the land and had forgone purchasing the lands outright when it was available.

And those grazing leases? Well since the BLM assumed control of the territory back in 1948 it’s been a “pay the lease or get off the public land” regulation that EVERY OTHER RANCHER in Clark County has abided by. That is the law. A law that was debated, drafted, and signed by elected officials representing the People. Don’t like it? Then get involved and be a steward of your local representation. Help influence and frame the proposed laws – get involved. Don’t bitch and moan because you were “too busy” tied up in court to actually approach politicians and frame a compromise. And like it or not, federal laws supersede state laws in the jurisdiction and management of federally owned lands. By July 9th, 2013 a federal judge agreed on all these points and signed an order of injunction permanently barring Bundy’s cattle from the Bunkerville Allotment, Gold Butte area, and parts of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Bundy’s response? He expanded his cattle grazing area further into the Gold Butte. Several months later, an amendment was added on October 8th, to make Bundy’s persistent usage of the restricted land punishable by the seizure and sale of cattle found on federal land.

So this brings us up to more recently…

In March 2014, the BLM contracted a number of individuals to work in conjunction with elements from the BLM and local sheriff’s office to begin issuance of closures to some BLM-controlled areas. This included the aerial and ground encirclement and penning of cattle found on the restricted lands. Sum total, about 400 head of cattle were inventoried between April 5th and 9th of which about 90% were estimated to bear Brundy’s mark. Now “back in the day” when someone stole cattle it was considered cattle rustling, and punishable by death. Bundy and his family immediately cried foul, citing “sovereign citizen” and government oppression. And this is perhaps where things started to go south. (Ford)

BundyRanch7First, on April 8th, the BLM leadership distastefully erected signs adjacent to the road reading “free speech zones” that were fenced in to “allow” protesters a safe place to assemble during the round-up without interfering with the BLM operation. They declared roads, including a major stretch of a US Interstate highway and other access areas “off limits”. Problem is the Constitution isn’t something that you can “choose” to allow in certain areas and not others – including the freedom of assembly and speech. The Nevada Governor, Brian Sandoval, demanded the signs be removed. Bundy immediately [and oddly] took to social medial posting an open letter saying,

We have all talked for years about the value of our freedom. Now is not the time to talk. NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT. Cliven Bundy a well-respected man is being attacked by the federal government’s agent through a contracted assailant company. He needs your help right now. By helping Cliven now you are helping yourself and your future from further loss of freedom.

For those of you who do not know Cliven and the current situation, let me introduce you. Cliven owns and operates a cattle ranch in Southern Nevada, Clark County. He by law, recognized by the State of Nevada, owns the grazing rights, water rights, range improvements, and rights to access the same upon the Bunkerville range. This ranch has been long established from the beginning of settling the west. Cliven for more than 50 years has been the steward of this range. The federal government/bureau of land management has not recognized these rights nor the States laws which protect them.

They are in fact denying Cliven of his inalienable Constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property. They have hired a contractor to rustle cattle/property belonging to Cliven at an enormous price. If the federal government is allowed to proceed with this gather not only Cliven’s life will be ruined but yours will also be damaged. The loss of freedom happens slowly, so slowly that we often do not recognize the loss right away, not until we need to use that freedom that is no longer there but can’t. In this case the federal government is not recognizing that the State of Nevada is even a state. It is being treated as though it were a territory, and its people are not being afforded their Constitutional rights. Will you be next?

THIS IS A CALL FOR HELP

THIS IS AN EMERGENCY SITUATION

WE ARE ASKING THAT YOU WILL COME TO CLIVEN’S RANCH TO SHOW STRENGTH IN NUMBERS.

TO SHOW THAT WE WILL NO LONGER ALLOW THEFT AND RUIN TO TAKE PLACE AGAINST OUR PEOPLE BY THE HANDS OF GOVERNMENT.

We may need you as soon a tomorrow, Wednesday April 11th.

Cliven’s ranch is located approximately 15 miles down river from Mesquite Nv.

We will send another email to you to verify the time and exact location we would like you to assemble. Please be willing to come and stand for our lands and your freedom. Please be alert [sic] for the call.

Video of protestors confront BLM convoy

Video of protestors confront BLM convoy

Then on April 10th, video surfaced showing Bundy family protesters confronting a convoy of BLM trucks (their contents was assumed to be part of the irrigation system Bundy has set up on BLM land to water his cattle). Interestingly, depending on whose “call” you received, you were given only specific segments of the video that was carefully edited to show a specific slant. On the right, Alex Jones and others claimed authoritarian abuse and Gestapo-like tactics on the part of the BLM and law enforcement. On the left Progressives decried the video as evidence of lawlessness and gun toting “terrorists”. But upon COMPLETE review of video, you can see Bundy’s daughter (a thicker woman in a purple top) attempts to step out in front of moving BLM trucks to stop them, thinking perhaps her body would somehow defy physics and resist a 2-ton cargo truck. A Sherriff’s officer standing guard grabbed her by the waist and threw her back into the crowd to prevent her from being injured. Bundy’s son (in a ball cap and white/blue plad shirt) then crashed his ATV into the path of a BLM truck forcing it to stop. This caused police to converge (including a nearby K9 unit) on the stopped vehicle and Bundy’s son failed to comply with their instruction to move the ATV. Bundy’s son then attempts to kick a K9 unit so the officers tased him (he is later seen with a bloody shirt from one of the prongs that was in his upper torso). When the officers then attempted to move the ATV themselves Bundy’s son reached for the ATV controls resulting in the Sherriff to tase him two more times. Police warned protesters (to include Bundy’s niece who appears in a tight blue top) to stay back or they would be bitten by the K9, a command the protesters, including Bundy’s now identified pregnant niece (which one would then argue why she is there in the think of it to begin with), then took as a threat (although the video clearly shows no dog bite or even the K9 “off the chain”). With a majority of the convoy passed, the law enforcement and BLM officers then withdraw. (Millhiser)(Garcia)

Two day’s later is when the protests began in full force with more responding to Bundy’s claim of oppression, including the advent of militias which arrived in full kit and camouflage (good choice btw to pick a green/gray ATACS pattern to blend in with the tan and brown of the Nevada desert – stands right out) in anticipation to “resist” the government and aid Bundy in the retrieval of his cattle. This confrontation prompted the BLM to request additional security to include air support and snipers to provide overwatch.

Militias arrive in support of Bundy

Identified in the image, Sheriff Gillespie (podium), Cliven Bundy (to left), at least four members of what appear to be AZ militia in ATACS (forefront), one militia member in multi cam MASTIF (far right) and one in ACU (front left). Also note the black and gold Oath Keeper banner behind Bundy.

By now militias, such as the right-wing Oath Keepers, Operation Mutual Aid out of Montana, and others began to arrive on scene. They deployed their own snipers and stood darkly at attention when Bundy spoke at press conferences. Cries of “Revolution” and “Civil War” started to be added to Bundy’s own claim of “Range War”, and were seen on protest signs and in social medial. In the middle of it all the true reason the cattle were seized seemed to be lost, and it became more about the standoff between armed citizens and the BLM prompting many to recall Waco and Ruby Ridge. Finally on April 12th, a settlement was negotiated between Brundy’s family and the BLM by Clark County Sherriff Doug Gillespie. All confiscated cattle were returned to the Brundy family, and the BLM withdrew from the region citing “safety issues” to the civilians and BLM members participating in the operation. BLM Director Neil Kornze released a statement saying,

As we have said from the beginning of the gather to remove illegal cattle from federal land consistent with court orders, a safe and peaceful operation is our number one priority. After one week, we have made progress in enforcing two recent court orders to remove the trespass cattle from public lands that belong to all Americans.

Based on information about conditions on the ground, and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public.

We ask that all parties in the area remain peaceful and law-abiding as the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service work to end the operation in an orderly manner.

Ranching has always been an important part of our nation’s heritage and continues throughout the West on public lands that belong to all Americans. This is 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. After 20 years and multiple court orders to remove the trespass cattle, Mr. Bundy owes the American taxpayers in excess of $1 million. The BLM will continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially.

So now that it’s all over, Bundy and the militias croon that this was a victory over the government. They have been painted in social media outlets as the rancher of a dying breed aided by romantic vestiges of the militias “standing up to a tyrannical government”. Never mind the fact that the truth in all this seems to matter little, and the more important message here is political. The wolves on both sides use clever wording to frame their views and sway the sheep. (Fox News: Politics)

Bundy's son injured after being tased

Bundy’s son injured after being tased

Fact of the matter is this; Brundy’s ancestors may have settled the region prior to the establishment of the BLM. But the land still BELONGS to the federal government. They permit grazing based on their laws – and last I checked we were SUPPOSED to be a nation of peace, law, and order. In a recent post-standoff interview Bundy himself maintained this was never an issue of cattle, insisting this conflict wasn’t inherently about grazing fees or water rights, but that he ultimately does not recognize the lands to be federal, and the United States government or the BLM do not have jurisdiction on the land. (Beck, Glenn) Brundy sees himself, incorrectly, as a distant member of the first citizens who resided in the state of Nevada when it was first brought into the Union. Thus the laws of the federal government to the United States of America do not apply to him…generations later. He maintained Nevada was a sovereign state and not part of the USA. That’s it ladies and gentlemen. This WHOLE thing is because Bundy basically doesn’t want to be part of the United States of America and sees Nevada as a sovereign nation saying unto himself, “I believe this is a sovereign state of Nevada”. But his assertions show his ignorance of Nevada’s Constitution that clearly is written in Article 1, Section 2,

All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for the protection, security and benefit of the people; and they have the right to alter or reform the same whenever the public good may require it. But the Paramount Allegiance of every citizen is due to the Federal Government in the exercise of all its Constitutional powers as the same have been or may be defined by the Supreme Court of the United States; and no power exists in the people of this or any other State of the Federal Union to dissolve their connection therewith or perform any act tending to impair, subvert, or resist the Supreme Authority of the government of the United States. The Constitution of the United States confers full power on the Federal Government to maintain and Perpetuate its existence, and whensoever any portion of the States, or people thereof attempt to secede from the Federal Union, or forcibly resist the Execution of its laws, the Federal Government may, by warrant of the Constitution, employ armed force in compelling obedience to its Authority.

Despite generations removed and enjoying all the modern-day conveniences this nation and its government have provided him to date (like electricity, health care, medical facilities, etc, etc.), this POS basically insists he isn’t an American but a Nevadan (boy I sure wish I could choose my residency and/or nation – BECAUSE I’D BE A DAMN AMERICAN). He owes over $1M in fees so I doubt the BLM or federal government is just going to let this all go. And if its one thing the government is good in is creating bureaucracy and regulations. But yet many a sheep fell for the sirens song of “resistance” to government oppression – even though there never was any.

A militia member takes up overwatch positions above protesters aiming down into BLM and law enforcement members

A militia member takes up overwatch positions above protesters aiming down into BLM and law enforcement members

Secondly, all the militias and others who fell for this standoff as “standing against government oppression” reflect just how unstable and dangerous idiots with guns are. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the 2nd Amendment, but riding in with full kit practically begging law enforcement for a fight reflects your total lack of control, discipline, and frankly common sense. Interviews with militia members staunchly asserting, “I’m ready to pull the trigger if fired upon” illustrate their dangers in an already tense situation. Militias who are only one-step from anarchists or minarchism USED this flash point as something to advance their cause and gain public notoriety. They were the ones using emotion-laced wording calling for revolution and civil war, drawing parallels to the standoff in Waco (which was centered on religious zealots where 76 died) or Ruby Ridge (again a standoff with illegal weapons supplier/owner Randy Weaver who had debatable ties to Aryan Nation). This situation was just an excuse to them to rally their sheep, bleating government tyranny, and then stand in front of the cameras with their weapons. I’d ask you militia members, the Oath Keepers, III %ers, and Operation Mutual Aid, what would you have done had things gone south? You think you’d just pop off a few rounds, go home, and beat off over your gun collection thinking you made it safe for the Constitution? They have more firepower and backing of the legal system so they would have been executing their jobs dutifully. Had you shot (let alone killed anyone) that would be capital murder. You decry government but are inherently dependent on it for things that provide you with the lives you enjoy. There was never a mass upwelling of public support for you or Bundy’s cause. Less than 20% of the national population was even aware or cared. So the odds of you stoking a “revolution” would have amounted to a splatter on the wall. For what? Cows that weren’t supposed to be there to begin with? An idiot who feels he is outside the laws of this nation? Turtles? The only thing you would have accomplished is you would have gotten a lot of innocent people injured or killed. Because you HAD to be there. You HAD to rally to a cause. Bundy and his family were a convenient excuse for you – nothing more.

In the end rational heads prevailed thanks to Sheriff Doug Gillespie. It was unlikely that the standoff at the Bundy ranch would have amounted to much. Thankfully law enforcement and BLM officials realized cows weren’t worth the risk to civilians and protestors. The two that really need to be impacted by all this? Cliven Bundy and BLM Director Neil Kornze. Bundy for basically being a jack ass, evading over $1M in back fees, and trespassing on federal lands. And Kornze for poorly managing the situation, letting it spiral out of control, and not understanding the term “compromise”. I doubt the BLM is going to let this pass, and in the end if the federal government wants something it can use the “power of the carrot” on the states to get action. This was all a situation that was overly hyped and tailored to spin a specific slanted story and influence the sheep that still continues (read my views on that as well). Hopefully now people will understand that while the wolves on the right scream “tyranny” and those on the left bellow “gun-crazed” citizens will recognize the truth is likely in the middle.

Works Cited

Beck, Glenn. Nevada Rancher: “I did not graze my cattle on United States property”. 2014 14-April. 2014 14-April . http://www.glennbeck.com/2014/04/14/nevada-rancher-i-did-not-graze-my-cattle-on-united-states-property/

Fields, Liz. Nevada Cattle Rancher Wins ‘Range War’ With Feds. 2014 12-April. 2014 12-April . http://abcnews.go.com/US/nevada-cattle-rancher-wins-range-war-federal-government/story?id=23302610

Ford, Matt. The Irony of Cliven Bundy’s Unconstitutional Stand. 2014 14-April. 2014 14-April . http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/04/the-irony-of-cliven-bundys-unconstitutional-stand/360587/

Fox News: Politics. Federal agency pulls back in Nevada ranch standoff, but legal fight remains. 2014 12-April. 2014 12-April . http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/04/12/federal-agency-pulls-back-in-nevada-ranch-standoff-but-legal-fight-remains/

Garcia, Arturo. Nevada ‘range war’ protest growing in size after video of encounter with federal agents. 2014 10-April. 10-April. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/04/10/nevada-range-war-protest-growing-in-size-after-video-of-encounter-with-federal-agents/

KSNV News 3. BLM ends Bundy cattle roundup, citing safety issues. 12 April 2014. 12 April 2014 . http://www.mynews3.com/content/news/story/BLM-ends-Bundy-cattle-roundup-citing-safety-issues/apDCbaO5ykGj9-mBGInDgg.cspx

Millhiser, Ian. Armed Right-Wing Militia Members Descend On Nevada To Help Rancher Defy Court Order. 11 April 2014. 13 April 2014 . http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/04/11/3425659/armed-right-wing-militias-descend-on-nevada-to-help-rancher-defy-court-order/

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17 thoughts on “Thoughts on the [Entire] Standoff at the Cliven Bundy Ranch and the Wolves on Both Sides

  1. The real tragedy is that these ranchers who have worked these lands for generations should own that land. They should own it by the generations of work they put into it. A lot of the land in the west owned by the government should either be given to to those who have worked it like this for years, or sold to the highest bidder (maybe the U.S. could pay off some of its debt).

    lwk

    • Perhaps, but by that logic then it would all belong to Native Americans. I agree that if you settle the land, especially back when the govt really didn’t care what happened to it, and generationally you stay and work it. Then yes, you should be granted the ownership of it.

      • Originally as the east and midwest was settled people could settle on government land and come to own a certain size of land by living on it and improving it for a number of years. Forget exactly how many acres that was, but it wasn’t huge. A ton of land went from government to private ownership that way – perfectly appropriate because individuals could take that land and make it productive.

        That worked there because a person could farm and make some sort of living that way on that size plot of land. When you started getting out west in much drier climate you needed much more land to be able to do something productive like ranching. That land in Nevada is not very good land for much of anything other than raising a few cattle per acre (or maybe the other way around, acres per one cattle?). What _should_ have happened is that Congress should have recognized that a person should be able to settle on, claim, and make productive a much, much bigger chunk of land in the west. But instead they could claim a little bit of land like back east and had to have the government let them use the rest.

        By the principle of taking previously government owned land and improving and making it productive they should have come to own it. That is the real crux of the problem. Bundy and his family ought to own that land.

        In parts of the west the government owns almost all of the land. In my view a lot of it should be going into private hands, not kept by the government. Americans paid for all of it and a lot of it should become private property.

        Just my view.

        regards,

        lwk

      • “They deployed their own snipers and stood darkly at attention when Bundy”
        ‘darkly’?

        I tend to (I think) agree with you on the question of productive use. Who determines whether ‘Native Americans’ land use was more or less ‘productive’ than Bundy ranching land use?
        Bundy generations benefited from the government’s eviction of previous residents.

      • True, but then we get into the discussion on Native American land rights applied to today and so on – which was beyond the scope of the article and Bundy’s presence on BLM land.

  2. Reblogged this on Prepping, Pop Culture & Politics and commented:
    Very well written article though I felt near the end you were too critical of Bundy and lost some objectivity. Still your conclusion is valid from your perspective. I would just ask you to consider giving the constitution a good read as I did myself yesterday. I can find no where that allows the BLM to exist. I invite you to refer to article 1 section 8. The entire state park system had no basis in the constitution. The western states have been put at a huge disadvantage and this needs to be addressed. They are no longer territories and should not be treated as such. If you see a BLM map the discrepancy between eastern and western states is incredible!That said I honestly do agree with much of what you said and think both sides showed poor judgement and tactics that could have got people killed.

    • Thank you and you may be correct, near the end I wanted to interject my own critique of both sides in the situation. Perhaps I may have been overly critical but I think of it like this – both sides played the public for their own gains. In the end the truth was lost. The Constitution has no allotment for grazing or cattle rights, but the BLM nor any state park system simply didn’t exist at the time of it’s writing. Those were later advents. I think one of the discrepancies between maps then and now is due to improved surveying methods and technology. Regulation to grazing rights and land was just one of those things that was mired in governmental bureaucracy and never simplified.

  3. Thanks for your thoughtful article. This is the clearest and most objective analysis I have seen of this somewhat confusing, emotionally and politically charged situation.

    • Thank you. I think perhaps one of the main reasons this is becoming such a difficult issue to follow is it spans such a large timeframe and has become so emotionally charged on fundamental levels that people are passionate about. Almost too passionate…

    • Separately Vamoots – I notice a lot being recycled on the AnandTech forum about the details of the April 10th confrontation. The video link I provided was but one of many and the most “raw” footage I could find (if interested just Google for the videos). I actually took several and compared their Points of View and attempted to match up their timeline as much as possible to get the account of what transpired. I then compared that against interviews on local news outlets from that night. I try to remain impartial but…admittidly it gets difficult at times. As Bassgod14 noted by the end, I was so irritated I lost some impartial perspective.The best I could offer would be this additional video that actually shows Bundy’s daughter getting tossed before the rest of it deteriorated; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZ5AzjQF6Kw. The video linked in the main article picks up after this where you see Bundy’s daughter about 29 seconds into it on the ground.

  4. Reblogged this on Musings of a North American Sheepdog and commented:

    Well, here comes the justification for an FBI/ATF/SWAT-driven raid; http://www.reviewjournal.com/politics/reid-calls-bundy-supporters-domestic-terrorists.

    When Reid colludes with Attorney General Eric Holder, a man who still refuses to own up to Fast and Furious, it’s almost assured the government won’t let Cliven Bundy continue on insisting sovereign citizen rights. If their smart they will wait and bide their time. But likely, because their not, it will be soon and ugly. Likewise hopefully Bundy will at least get his family clear and start considering his options. While I doubt the militia’s can sustain him indefinitely, he’ll need to figure out how to either find a legal compromise or a permanent security solution.

  5. Pingback: Thoughts on Cliven Bundy and the Continuation of an Old Adage | Musings of a North American Sheepdog

  6. Pingback: Thoughts on Cliven Bundy and the Continuation of an Old Adage | Musings of a North American Sheepdog

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