Ruby Ridge Redux?
Two hundred armed federal agents have virtually surrounded a ranch in southern Nevada whose owner is defying a court order to keep his cattle from grazing on federal lands.
A 2013 ruling by a federal judge ordered the tresspassing cattle seized. Meanwhile, Cliven Bundy, thw owner of the ranch, is insisting that he has "preemptive" rights to the property and the Bureau of Land Management has no business "stealing" his cows.
Since 1993, Cliven Bundy has been battling the agency, as well as the National Park Service, the Center for Biological Diversity and the courts, to graze his cattle on 150 square miles of Gold Butte scrub land in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. He stopped paying his grazing fees back then, saying he “fired” the Bureau of Land Management as land manager. His Mormon ancestors had tilled the unforgiving soil since 1887, long before the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act allowed the federal government to seize control, TheBlaze reported.
“I have raised cattle on that land, which is public land for the people of Clark County, all my life. Why I raise cattle there and why I can raise cattle there is because I have preemptive rights,” he asserted, explaining to TheBlaze that this includes the right to forage, too.
Furthermore, Bundy has argued that it is the United States trespassing on Clark County, Nev., land, not he, and that he is a better steward of the land. He points out that the manure from his cows fertilizes the soil, that he’s built water sources for wildlife, and that his cattle prevent the vegetation from growing overly dense and creating a fire hazard.
But environmentalists, federal officials and the courts disagree. Armed federal officials and contract cowboys have been brought in to execute a 2013 court order and remove the trespassing cattle.
“It’s high time for the BLM to do its job and give the [endangered desert] tortoises and the Gold Butte area the protection they need and are legally entitled to,” senior Center for Biological Diversity scientist Rob Mrowka told the Mesquite Local News. “As the tortoises emerge from their winter sleep, they are finding their much-needed food consumed by cattle.”
Bundy’s herd also hinders the plants’ ability to recover from wildfires, tramples rare species, damages ancient American Indian cultural sites and endangers recreationists, Mrowka added.
The Bureau of Land Management website says Bundy has defied trespass laws for more than two decades, ignored rules and fees that other cattle ranchers have observed and refused “repeated attempts to resolve the matter administratively and judicially,” according to TheBlaze. While Bundy stated that he owed the BLM $300,000 in back grazing fees, spokeswoman Kirsten Cannon put the figure closer to $1.1 million.
Nine hundred cattle on 600,000 acres puts tortoises at risk of starvation? The good doctor is a liar. Or an idiot. Or both.
No doubt about the BLM - they're both. The feds have set up a "Free Speech Area" for protestors, no doubt trying to keep them out of the media eye - and perhaps remove potential witnesses to whatever the armed feds have in mind to do with Mr. Bundy and his 14 children.
Nevada Governor Sandoval is livid about these "Free Speech Areas":
“Most disturbing to me is the BLM’s establishment of a ‘First Amendment Area’ that tramples upon Nevadans’ fundamental rights under the U.S. Constitution,” said Sandoval in a statement. “To that end, I have advised the BLM that such conduct is offensive to me and countless others and that the ‘First Amendment Area’ should be dismantled immediately.”
“No cow justifies the atmosphere of intimidation which currently exists nor the limitation of constitutional rights that are sacred to all Nevadans. The BLM needs to reconsider its approach to this matter and act accordingly,” asserted the Governor.
The Bundy family responded to Sandoval’s statement by saying they were disappointed that he didn’t take a more firm stance to back them in their dispute with the BLM, but they were pleased with his sentiments regarding the ‘First Amendment Area’.
“Whenever you designate an area, then you’re restricting it everywhere else. When you designate an area like that for first amendment rights, you [don't] give the people any rights. You [take them] away, and every other location,” said Ryan Bundy.
The Bundy family came face to face with the consequences of violating the free speech zone on Sunday when Dave Bundy was arrested for taking video footage from a state highway of BLM agents rounding up his family’s cattle. Video footage later proved that armed snipers had their guns trained on the family during the incident.
Someone is going to get hurt due to the stupidity and incompetence of the BLM in carrying out the court order. Didn't these idiots learn anything from Ruby Ridge? Then as now, the government had the law on their side. But the criminally negligent manner in which the law was enforced led to a completely avoidable tragedy.
Bundy is not in the right. He spouts nonsense about "preemptive rights" that do not exist in precedent or the law. He refuses to pay grazing fees while every other rancher who grazes on federal land must do so. Bundy is losing his cattle because he is defying the law and the courts - no matter his reasoning or claims to the contrary. The BLM is enforcing a law passed by Congress, and enforcing a court order that Bundy is not challenging. It's hard to see how Bundy has any kind of a legal case to continue to defy the law.
Beyond that, we have the spectacle of the Bureau of Land Management overreacting in a situation that calls for tact and diplomacy, not snipers targeting his family. I hardly think 200 armed agents are necessary to enforce this court order. It's pure intimidation on the part of the feds,
Cooler heads on both sides must prevail or another avoidable tragedy will occur.