Right or Wrong, Controversy Surrounding Cliven Bundy Continues

Written by as published at St. George News

The court declared Bundy’s claims to be “without merit,” and that “suggestions to the contrary are entirely unavailing.”

Bundy-speak-1ST. GEORGE – It has been a week since the standoff between the Bureau of Land Management and the supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. Since then the 67-year-old rancher has been hailed as a hero and a villain. During this last week, Cliven Bundy has called for the disarmament of “federal bureaucracies” by county sheriffs; detractors have decried the supposed use of human shields during the standoff; dead cattle and destroyed infrastructure have been found on the ranch; and one of the nation’s most powerful Democrats has labeled Bundy supporters “domestic terrorists.”

There remain two very different opinions over what lies at the heart of the ongoing conflict between the BLM and Cliven Bundy.

  • The BLM maintains the rancher has illegally grazed his cattle on public land for 20 years and owes $1 million in grazing and trespass fees. To them, the rancher stands in violation of two federal  court orders and continues to engage in illegal activity on public lands. The BLM began to round up Bundy’s cattle on April 5, but ultimately ended operations due to “grave concern about the safety of employees and members of the public.”
  • Cliven Bundy has declared that the federal government has no authority to own lands within a state according to the Constitution, and thus chooses to not recognize the federal authority. Cliven Bundy and his supporters see this as a states’ rights issue and example of government overreach and overreaction. For them, the issue is much bigger than unpaid fees and cows.

Details of the April 12 standoff and a history of the Bundy-BLM conflict can be found here.

So who owns the land?

Map detailing the location of public lands (marked in red). | Image courtesy of Arewenotastate.com

According to two federal district court orders, the federal government owns the land. The BLM itself manages the land as an arm of the Department of the Interior.

In both court orders, the first from 1998 and the second from 2013, the court ruled that the federal government has jurisdiction over the land.

Despite using arguments of state sovereignty, the court declared Bundy’s claims to be “without merit,” and that “suggestions to the contrary are entirely unavailing.”

For their part, the Bundys have never claimed to own land beyond their 150-acre ranch in Bunkerville, Nev. However, they claim grazing and water rights to the land predate those of the BLM, said Ammon Bundy, a son of Cliven Bundy and family spokesman. As such, those claims should be honored, the Bundy family has said.

The Bundys argue the public land is state-owned – period. As for the federal government, Cliven Bundy refuses to recognize it in this capacity.

In the end, as much as states’ rights advocates argue otherwise, the federal government retains control of the public lands in the West. However, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Washington,  and Oregon are pursuing measures promoting the transfer of public lands over to state control.

The majority of the land overseen by the BLM is in the West. Nevada is over 80 percent public land, or, as argued by the BLM – over 80 percent of Nevada is owned by the federal government…(CONTINUED)

Click (HERE) to read the story in it’s entirety and comment directly at the St. George News

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27 replies »

  1. I’d like to know what best practices manual the BLM was following for gathering cattle. I don’t believe any of them allow moving cattle faster than a walk in 90 degree heat. None of them would allow moving cows without their new born calves unless the calves were picked up and carried behind the herd to be immediately reunited. Cattle can’t be walked very far in 90 degree heat. They must have water available in holding pens.

    This was not best practices. It was BLM standard operating procedure with no regard for the welfare of the animals gathered.


    • All probably true, Diana628 – Why would they treat cows any differently than wild horses or burros? The horses are chased by a helicopter for miles – pregnant mares, newborn foals – doesn’t matter. Then put in pens – stallions with other stallions – foals taken from their mothers & trucked away. AND it happens summer spring and winter to the horses & burros. I’m sure you are already aware of this – but its the good old boys at BLM doing what they do!


  2. If the states get control of the public lands, it will no longer be public lands. Will the states want to pay for maintaining its integrity or will they want the “hated” federal government to continue to foot the bill with no say in it use. You can certainly say goodbye to the wild horses if this happens and the whole of it will be overrun with cattle and sheep, oil and gas wells and invasive species so hunters can get their rocks off killing different species of animals, including the wild horses. Remember, before the Wild Horse and Burro Act, mustangs were considered vermin more than they are now and treated accordingly.


    • I think this is a pretty accurate depiction of what we can expect if the states take over federal lands. We may not like BLM “management” but it’s almost certain that states run by these ALEC-bot state self-styled “big shots” will exploit open wild lands to the point of total destruction. I am the first to criticize BLM for its many failings on wild horses and many other areas in its arena but I shudder to think of what will happen if these loose cannon midget politicos running most of the western states get their grubby hands on our wild lands.

      One example: Here in AZ, a state sorely dependent upon tourism (Grand Canyon, Sedona just to start the list), the idiotic legislature slashed funding by 50% to state parks and closed over half of them when the recession hit. The parks only survived because local communities stepped up to save and re-open them so as to save their own tourism industries. Furthermore, in 1990 voters approved the Heritage Fund designating $10 million from state lottery proceeds to our State Parks and $10 million to AZ Game & Fish. The “leaders” here have stolen the $10 million earmarked for state parks by voter referendum and put it in the the general fund but the $10 million is still flowing to Game & Fish. Even now that the economy is in recovery, state parks funding has not been restored and they are still stealing the Heritage Fund monies away from the use voters demanded for them, the state parks. The greedy lawmakers have even refused to allow the proceeds of sales generated by the parks to go back in the budget to support those parks.

      Hearing just that story, can you imagine how horrific state control of federal lands could turn out? I don’t want to experience it.


    • Arizona can barely keep its State Parks open and maintained. I shudder at the thought of Arizona becoming the “owner” of all the Federal land here and what they would allow to happen on that land so that it “earns its keep”. BTW much of the “Federal” land is actually tribal owned. A huge amount is US forest land and National Parks. BLM is only one of the land managers here. In some of their work, they do a good job. Of course when it comes to wild horses and burros, they are the Devil incarnate.

      On Bundy – he shouldn’t have a free ride on land owned by the American public any more than mining companies should or other resource extractors should. “Rent” on public land is abominably low given the destruction of that land and the income most derive from it. I’m not saying the current economics of cattle ranching is rosy, but use of our land should not be free.

      In today’s news, Bundy gave an interview that he will no doubt regret. It shows his lack of education -I can deal with that – but his racist comments blew me away! If I had any sympathy for this man before, it is now completely gone. Doesn’t mean I still don’t hate the BLM in this case, I do, but Bundy just sealed his fate.


  3. The corner stone of environmental law has its roots in Roman Law, for that mater the Native Americans knew it quite well. . The air and water belongs to all. Generally states must be at least as protective of air and water as the Federal Law requires but can be more protective. Many legal issues here, unfortunately our American Mustangs are low on the totem pole as to the rights to land, air,or water. Therefore we need to assert our rights as Americans to intervene just as the citizens did for Bundy. Rights aren’t necessarily for profit (local rights) trumping our aesthetic rights. (Federal Rights). Whatever law governs all the people likely would better serve the mustangs.


    • I’ve heard that the BLM is now evicting some Navaho families from land they have been living on for generations. Again, these are people who have been living on the land, probably not paying attention to the Federal Land grab, probably don’t know much about the intricacy of legal rights, but they are going to be kicked off. I think it’s time to stop the BLM, and it’s time to protect the mustangs.


      • HD, aren’t these the same Navajo that (with the collusion of the BLM) rounded up hundreds of horses and sold them for slaughter last year? Then rounded up some of their own people’s domestic (branded) horses and did the same thing a short time later? I think we need to be mindful of stereotyping in all directions.


      • IP, there are also Navaho who don’t believe in horse slaughter, and there are some who want to open their own plant. The families I know of who might be evicted don’t own any horses.


  4. Thanks R.T. I am still in a quandary but you helped some what to define what the conflict is. I found myself siding with a rightwing extremist because he stood against the BLM. (anyone who fights the BLM must be good) Politics do indeed make strange bedfellows.


    • Tom, I am in the same boat. I feel a great dispossession is happening in our country on so many levels, to the detriment of the common people. Bundy’s situation exposes some of this but he’s probably not the most beneficial face for this, unfortunately. I do find it alarming that he’s the last rancher left of, what, 52 neighbors? I’m even wondering if the BLM will confiscate the horses those “domestic terrorists” rode in on, since they will be accessories to the crime. We all know to well the BLM has no qualms about killing horses.


  5. WE own the Public Land and AND the Wild Horses and Burros that have been there for generations.
    Everything is very quiet on the Utah front, where the Iron County commissioners are capturing and removing them from OUR Public Lands.


  6. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Interior. As with our own government, those in power don’t always represent the will of the people. Opposition has been suppressed and not given much press.


  7. Hmph. I doubt they were any gentler with the cattle than the horses and I hate BLM tactics. But by Bundy’s argument, there would be NO federal land because ALL the land IS within the states. Of course it is! And I bet many of those states wouldn’t be any better toward the mustangs than the BLM. They may even be worse as without Federal support they could listen to just the loud mouthed locals who want the land and ignore anyone from out of their own state….


  8. go to this web site news before it’s news and look for the articale “when war shows up at your door” it explains about the land grabs and what was the purpose of this action and keep calling rep’s and senators .we have to get through to them some how and bring attenton to what is going on.


  9. The Wild Horses in Wyoming that were rounded up and sent to slaughter have NOT been forgotten.

    Breaking Scandal: BLM Rounding Up Wild Horses, Sending To Slaugherhouse…In Canada


    The roundup, which happened about a month ago, concluded with the sale of more than 40 horses to the Alberta-based slaughterhouse, bringing in a grand total of $1,640. Beckwith insisted the entire process was conducted in concert with existing laws, and notice of the sale was posted in local post offices.
    BLM Senior Ranchland Management Specialist Robert Bolton, however, acknowledged this haul was much larger than usual.

    “That’s a pretty sizable number,” he noted, explaining that “most of our impounds have been in the low numbers.”

    While the roundup is not unheard of, and went largely unnoticed by the national press for nearly a month, the perceived overreaction of the agency in responding to the Bundy Ranch in Nevada has understandably increased public scrutiny of the BLM. As most concerned Americans cited overreaches by federal departments such as the IRS and Homeland Security, the BLM generally flew under the radar. That seems to no longer be the case.


  10. R.T.,

    I know that a lot of wild horse advocates would not consider watching FOX, but FOX has covered this story extensively. They are the only major media presence that recognizes the property rights part of this debate—and though they have thus far failed to address the wild horse issues, they are very interested in the role that Senator Reid and his brand new personally mentored BLM Director has played in this.

    Although we have covered a lot of issues, in the end, the same legal hoola hoops that threaten our wild horses and burros included livestock and pets like cats and dogs. They also give genetically engineered and genetically modified organisms special considerations that they took away from our wild horses and burros when they incorrectly and without concern that they would ever be held accountable for their actions, listed two species that have been present in almost every ecosystem in North America, even those on both the Atlantic and Pacific coastal areas that are now under water.

    By controlling what species of plants or animals can exist in any defined location (ecosystem), elected officials and their cabinet level appointees gained control over all land use in the United States. We know which chamber in Congress has shut down every piece of wild horse legislative protection action since 2009, and just by coincidence the Congressional gate-keeper and the gate-keeper U.S. natural resource wealth on public lands just happen to be one in the same. His friends are our wild horse’s enemies and the enemy of all Americans that value their God-given freedoms and rights own and to produce a livelihood from property.

    No evidence I’ve seen indicates anyone in the ranching or legal community has any idea what is going on, but he we know that the scary contrarian is because he thought slaughter would be a great way to get of tens of thousands of large mammals his multinational pals demand through force of international treaty removed from federal lands.


  11. Bundy broke the law, didn’t pay his taxes/fees for using OUR land. He should go to jail. If you didn’t pay your taxes, you’d be in jail.


    • I don’t think it is that simple. Many people go through life without paying their fair share, and at least Mr. Bundy is fighting on ideological grounds. I’ve said before, I’m happy to share my 1/315,000,000 portion of the public lands with a good steward of it.


      • I would like to add that the land isn’t ours; it belongs to the Federal gov’t, and they do with it what they (and a few big company donors) like regardless of what you or I want.


      • Ida, I am sure we all understand this but if we are going to get technical about land ownership, the issue of broken treaties has to be on the table, raising many questions about legitimate claims of ownership.


  12. The standoff at the Bundy ranch represents a grassroots assertion of home rule against decades of increasing federal encroachment. When the West was settled, federal law was enforced by federal officers and federal courts, in territories governed by federally appointed territorial governors. When the territories became states, that authority was ceded to those states. This worked for a century. The nature of the mountain west being arid, most of the land wasn’t divided into parcels of private ownership. It remained simply public land. The greater half of the land in most mountain west states is public land. Beginning the last half of the last century the federal government has progressively reasserted it’s authority over that public land. It has taken on tasks of law enforcement and judicial authority that should be done by states and the counties states created for that purpose. Federal justice for a federal official has become a streamlined process from complaint to judgment by often distance federal courts. And the judgment enforced by the federal agency that filed the complaint, without a single elected official involved, often over state and county objections. The million dollars in damages sought from Bundy appears more a knock out punch to put the ranch out of business than to remedy non-compliance. Imagine a landlord waiting two decades to take action then asking for back rent going back twenty years in a county court. Federal, state, county was not established as a descending hierarchy. It defines areas of responsibility. The U.S. Constitution granted only specific powers to the federal government, the rest going to the states. Many citizens feel federal agencies exceed the powers granted the federal government.


  13. Something tells me if Bundy wins this thing, the ripple effect it will have on the wild horses will not be in their favor. I believe Bundy has broken the law and should be accountable for his actions. He’s done – I hope. Bundy’s problems are of his own making. However, I am conflicted on whether or not to support the feds in this matter. The BLM is a flawed agency and I am well aware of their brutality. They caved to Bundy, just like they have always caved to ranching interests. Where does this leave our wild horses and burros? The only creatures I feel sorry for in this whole debacle are the cattle that were forced to be herded during a critical time in the spring with pregnant cows and calves. The rhetoric out there with no basis in fact and all the Chicken Little alerts are beyond disturbing. The conjecture and out-right lies in the media are disappointing. They can’t even assign the land in question the right name – media keeps calling it “Bundy Ranch” not the Bunkerville/Gold Butte Allotments! It will take all of us to keep an eye on the ball.



    Posted on April 20, 2014 at 7:20 PM
    By Reno Gazette Journal

    Concerning the Bighorn Basin horses bound for slaughter in Canada, there seems to be a misconception that the 37 horses purchased by Bovary Exports have already been slaughtered.
    Not so.
    They are in a holding facility in Shelby for 30 days, but the clock is ticking.

    The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign has hired an environmental attorney to assess the situation to see if any laws were violated by the agencies involved and to negotiate with the killer buyer about potential release to horse rescues.

    Technically, the BLM had the legal right to seek removal of these horses as non-permitted, unbranded strays. That said, the Cody BLM and the Wyoming Livestock Board knew full well (or should have) that horse rescue groups have been ready, willing, and able to take horses in this situation. Advertising in two small local Bighorn County newspapers that these horses would be gathered and could be claimed by their owners is certainly inadequate public notice.

    I find it hard to fathom that the Wyoming Livestock Board’s brand inspector did not realize that horses offered for sale at the Worland Livestock Auction would be picked up by predatory killer buyers.

    The BLM should be removed from the national Wild Horse and Burro Program — period. Traditional horse haters should not be in charge of wild horses. We need another plan and a new agency, but only Congress can make that change.
    -Patricia M. Fazio, statewide coordinator Wyoming Wild Horse Coalition
    Cody, Wyo.


  15. I spoke today with someone who supports and believes the BLM actions were correct and admirable….but who didn’t believe my reports about cattle being gunned down from the air. He had heard nothing at all about dead cattle resulting from this operation, so I went looking for photos and found these sites. I hadn’t realized the BLM closed off the AIR SPACE over the penned cattle (private property) after someone took aerial footage of their impoundments.

    I will check this out but wanted to share since I find it alarming. The still shots show cattle crowded in holding pens without shade or water or feed evident (maybe they perfected this technique with all their horse roundups).

    In this day and age it is nearly impossible to know what is truth and what is fiction, and both sides use that to their advantage. To all you citizens with smartphones, keep them charged!



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