Bundy Ranch, the Federal Government, and the Nevada Water Tipping Point
Many Americans have been watching with great consternation the ongoing struggle between the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Marshals against Cliven Bundy and his family. There are no signs of either side relinquishing its position. Many onlookers have been informed that this dispute is over protecting the desert tortoise. But it is nothing of the sort. In fact, the reality of the dispute goes far underneath what is being talked about. The more appropriate source of the dispute is ground water as well as surface water – this is a war over water.
Cliven Bundy and his family claim that they can trace their family ownership back to around the 1870s on their current property in Clark County. This is well before any federal offices such as the EPA, BLM, or water management were created. This corresponds with the Homestead rights that were established during the Lincoln administration in 1862 to entice people to settle the western frontier and expand the U.S. agricultural enterprises. This 19th-century policy was meant to encourage and support settlement by families like the Bundys. Now, over 150 years later, what seemed to be borderless country surrounding small-town Bunkerville in Nevada is an inhospitable petri dish for the experiments of growing federal regulations.
The Bundy Ranch “VO” is now the last large cattle ranch standing in Clark County. According to an anonymous source who has lived in Nevada for thirty-five years, the other major ranches in Clark County have been driven out of existence for one reason or another by the BLM and the Feds. It is claimed that the BLM are masquerading as conservationists, using their federal power to wield the final blow to reclaim the settlement rights they once honored to settlers like the Bundys.
Follow the Money
The real wealth is in the water to support the plush green golf courses, and surrounding housing developments, gleaming swimming pools, and other demands by hotels and households in Las Vegas, Arizona, and Southern California.
The same anonymous source claims that there has been a pattern of behavior: land in Clark County has been targeted as property that the BLM can use; the BLM makes an offer to buy the property from the owner (prices vary, but it can be a very low market price); the BLM purchases the land; the property is then stripped of the water rights; and the land is resold without the right to water resources. But what good is a farm or ranch without water?
In other words, the BLM is not only driving out the cattle, the cattle rancher, and potentially any wildlife that depends on the riparian environment. The BLM is setting up a situation whereby the surrounding small towns will also go extinct. The BLM’s actions are ensuring that no one will return to the area.
Although Nevada Senator Dean Heller has issued a public statement about his concern over the handling of the Bundy family case, he has not elaborated on the water issue.
The author made several attempts to reach Heller’s communications director regarding the importance of water related to this case, but there was no response from Senator Heller’s office.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has kept his official statement simple over the past few days. Senator Reid “hopes that the transpassing of cattle are rounded up safely so the issue can be resolved.” While it is not clear exactly what “transpassing” means, what is more obvious is that some in the media have overlooked the small detail that the head of the Bureau of Land Management, a division of the Department of Interior, is Neil Kornze, who was also the former senior policy advisor to Senator Reid from 2003 to 2011. Mr. Kornze has served as the BLM principal deputy director for a little over a year, until the U.S. Senate confirmed him as the director of the BLM a few days ago.
On April 8, three days ago, Senator Reid posted the following press release on his website:
I’m pleased that the Senate confirmed Neil Kornze as the Director of the Bureau of Land Management today. Neil is just perfect for this position. Raised in Elko, Nevada, Neil really understands the role of public lands in rural America, and natural resources across the West.
Senator Reid continued:
His expertise is going to be invaluable to the Bureau of Land Management. I have every bit of confidence that Neil Kornze will be the best director we have ever had at BLM and I wish him success in this role.
Furthermore, it might be coincidental that the problems with the Bundy cattle ranching began in 1993, the same year Patricia Mulroy began serving as general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. From 1989, Ms. Mulroy was also the general manager of the Las Vegas Valley Water District. The author attempted to contact Ms. Mulroy for a comment, but she retired from both positions a few months ago in February.
It’s also possible the drought in the western states could have been the catalyst to the desperate actions by the federal authorities surrounding the Bundy cattle operation. Currently, water rights in Nevada run anywhere from $7,000 to $50,000 per acre-foot (depending on the time of year and the amount of rainfall or snowfall in the western region). The water in Nevada is then auctioned, as it has been for at least twenty-five years. That same water can be resold in Las Vegas, Arizona, or Southern California.
Bunkerville in Nevada is ensconced between the Virgin River and the main road, Riverside Road. The Virgin River is a tributary to Lake Mead. The river, along with other sources, discharges into Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States. Both the Virgin River and Lake Mead are part of the Colorado River Basin. In fact, Lake Mead is considered the largest surface water collection for the Colorado River. Whoever controls the water controls the vast wealth that is distributed to a network of states at a crucial time during a water shortage.
So why, then, are there rumors of about 5,000 concerned citizens flocking to the aid of a family that seems to have a simple property rights dispute? It appears that it is because it is not just the Bundy Family under threat of threats of regulations – a figurative gun ready to fire at their very existence. Either the citizens of America have long tolerated mounting regulations, or they have not noticed them.
Americans have been surrounded, deliberately corralled, by an increasing code of regulations. Americans have regulations pointed at their health care in the form of ObamaCare, their finances by the mercurial IRS, their communications by the NSA, the future education of young Americans by the newly launched Common Core. When will Americans reach the tipping point? It might all begin in Senator Reid’s home state – the Nevadan Wild West.
Monica Morrill is the co-author of the book BETRAYED: The Shocking True Story of Extortion 17 as told by a Navy SEAL’s Father, a testimony of Billy Vaughn and his discovery of how some Rules of Engagement are placing the U.S. forces in significantly increased danger. www.forourson.us