Horse News

‘Bigger than Bundy’: BLM’s Battles Go Beyond Rancher Dispute

“The federal government already owns too much land,”

Federal law enforcement officers block a road at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area near Overton, Nev. Thursday, April 10, 2014. In the foreground are the shadows of protestors. Two people were detained while protesting the roundup of cattle owned by Cliven Bundy on the road. (John Locher/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Federal law enforcement officers block a road at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area near Overton, Nev. Thursday, April 10, 2014. In the foreground are the shadows of protestors. Two people were detained while protesting the roundup of cattle owned by Cliven Bundy on the road. (John Locher/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

It’s the most powerful agency you’ve never heard of — at least, until recently.

The Bureau of Land Management, the nation’s biggest landlord, found itself in the spotlight after a high-profile brawl with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and another dispute with state officials over the Texas-Oklahoma borderlands.

But the seemingly obscure agency, which is in charge of millions of acres of public land, is no stranger to controversy. History shows the power struggle over property rights and land use is one that’s been fought — fiercely — ever since the bureau was created.

In the nearly seven decades of its existence, the BLM has struggled to find its footing and exert its power, pitted against a vocal states’ rights movement.

“The federal government already owns too much land,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry, one of the champions of that modern-day movement, recently told Fox News. He called for the federal government, and by extension the BLM, to “divest itself of a huge amount of this landholdings that it has across the country.”

The Bureau of Land Management was formed in 1946, consolidating two now-extinct agencies into one for the purpose of overseeing public land. In the beginning, the BLM mostly focused on livestock and mines. Its mission shifted, though, in the 1970s when it took on the role of mediator between commerce and conservation, and faced a second identity crisis in the 1980s. That’s when the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion gained new momentum in its push to return control of federal lands to individual states.

That “rebellion” may be underway once again, as states renew concerns about the amount of land controlled by the BLM. Congress also recently weighed in, with House lawmakers passing a bill in February that would prevent the BLM from buying new land.

Currently, the agency, which falls under the purview of the U.S. Department of Interior, oversees 247.3 million acres — or about one-eighth of the land in the country.

It also owns 700 million acres of on-shore federal mineral estates.

The BLM is responsible for managing a large spectrum of natural resources. The federal agency regulates logging, mining and fracking practices across the country. It also administers close to 18,000 permits and leases a year held by ranchers who graze their livestock on land managed by the federal government. The permits and leases they issue usually last a decade and can be renewed.

In 2009, regulation of public lands in Western states generated $6.2 billion.

By acreage, the agency’s largest stake is in Alaska where it owns 72.4 million acres. Nevada ranks second, with 48 million acres under the BLM, and then Utah, with 22.9 million acres.

In Nevada, rancher Cliven Bundy’s recent refusal to hand over his family’s cattle to the feds re-ignited the national debate over the BLM’s power.

On the heels of that controversy, more than 50 lawmakers from nine Western states came together to protest federal land expansion. The state leaders discussed ways to combine their joint goals of taking control of oil-, timber- and mineral-rich lands away from the federal government.

“It’s so much bigger than Bundy. There are issues … all across the West where the federal government is exerting control over things it was ever supposed to control,” Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory told Fox News. “The federal government was supposed to be a trustee. They do own the land. They do hold title to the land in trust … but they have a duty to dispose of the land with all states east of Colorado.”

Ivory says he wants the federal government to keep a promise it made in the 1894 Enabling Act that made Utah a state. He argues that public lands, except for congressionally designated national parks and wilderness areas, should be transferred back to the states.

So far, state lawmakers in Idaho, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington are looking for ways to transfer land management back to the states.

Utah, though, has been the most successful. Lawmakers there passed a measure demanding the federal government extinguish title to federal lands, aside from national parks. Ivory was also the primary backer of the 2012 Transfer of Public Lands Act which established a model for the transfer of certain federal lands to the state in the coming years.

The Bundy case has been largely viewed as the first leadership test for new BLM Director Neil Kornze, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and sworn into office in April. The local land-use dust-up fed into a growing apprehension over just how much authority the BLM has and how far it is willing to go to maintain control.

In Texas, Attorney General Greg Abbott sent a letter to Kornze looking into allegations the BLM was eyeing a massive land grab in northern Texas. “Decisions of this magnitude must not be made inside a bureaucratic black box,” wrote Abbott, a GOP gubernatorial candidate.

The agency indicated that the land in question was determined to be public property. “The BLM is categorically not expanding Federal holdings along the Red River,” a BLM spokeswoman said in a written statement.

Attention on the Bundy-BLM battle has lately turned to racially insensitive remarks that Bundy made in several media interviews and appearances.

Conservative and libertarian lawmakers like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, initially came to Bundy’s defense, calling his situation the latest example of big government overreach.  Both, though, have since scaled back their comments in light of Bundy’s remarks.

“Senator Paul spoke out against federal over-regulation and BLM handling of a situation,” Paul spokesman Doug Stafford said in a written statement. “He has never spoken to or met Mr. Bundy and is not responsible for the vile comments that come out of his mouth.”

Others say Bundy was at fault, failing to pay $1.1 million in fees for letting his cattle graze on government grass for more than two decades.

“I wish Mr. Bundy would mind his law requirements and not try to play to the television cameras about confronting the evil federal government,” former BLM director Patrick Shea told KSL TV. Shea has been on both sides of the land-use debate. He represented activist Tim DeChristopher who took on the BLM over the 2008 sale of controversial oil and gas leases in Utah.

The BLM has run into trouble elsewhere.

In March, BLM officials rounded up a horse herd in Wyoming after area ranchers and farmers complained that the herd grazed down pastures and damaged cattle rangeland. The horses were turned over to Wyoming officials. The state then quickly sold all 41 horses to a Canadian slaughterhouse. Animal rights groups protested the sale and slaughter.

A year earlier, BLM agents in Nevada announced they would be removing 50 wild horses from a herd that had grown too large to be sustained.

But the complaints go beyond horses. In 2011, several Utah counties filed a lawsuit against the agency over exceeding its authority by establishing wilderness protections without the consent of Congress.

Back in the nation’s capital, House lawmakers passed a package in February that includes a collection of public land access and restoration provisions. They also adopted two amendments that extend the length of grazing permits on federal lands to 20 years from 10 years and also allow expired or transferred permits to remain effective until new ones can be issued.

Calls to the BLM for comment were not returned.

Click (HERE) to rebut the weirdos who are commenting at Fox News

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22 replies »

  1. Well, let’s designate several million acres of prime (containing a water source) rangeland in each western state as a national park with mother nature as the overseer of the wild horses, burros and other wildlife. No cattle or sheep grazing allowed; no mining, logging or fracking allowed. No business development of any kind allowed. The federal government would remain as the owner and the only expense would be for rangers to protect the wildlife from poaching. This sounds like a good use of public tax dollars to me and would provide jobs for a lot more rangers.


  2. The Public Lands, Wildlife, and Natural Resources belong to ALL of us. We must keep reminding government, whether federal OR state of that fact.

    Our Wild Horses and Burros would fare no better under most state governments (in the west) than under the fed gov…which is mandated BY LAW to protect them.

    The REAL issue is $ and there are just as many looking to grab land, and natural resources at the state level.

    Either way, it’s a good guess that Public Lands would be off limit to the taxpayers and put into the hands of the very wealthy.


      • Well, maybe. Bison came here 200,000 years after the oldest known horse DNA has been found. It gets dicey when you have to start deciding how long is long enough for a species to become “native” or “invasive.”


      • Heres the thing Icy, what it all boils down to is there is no argument on who belongs where or who came first the chicken or the egg, that could go on forever , Fact is the Wild Mustangs belong to the Land , they are here we love them with a Passion, we the people rule ??? and we want them on the range and that is where they will be, whatever it takes !!!!


    • I commented Louie: we will see if it shows up.
      The problem is the livestock owners aren’t “managing” their livestock. They refuse to reduce the number of cattle. Which would seem to be part of their obligation in using grazing allotments. Certainly would work that way if the land actually belonged to them. The thing is – it doesn’t – they are leasing it. I guess they cant be blamed completely – the BLM has done a lousy job “managing” the wild horses & burros. They zero out one after another of the horse management areas (HMA) and roundup the horses & stick them in corrals. They haven’t made any real effort to use PZP. They have NO idea of how many horses there actually are – none. They have a number that the BLM says is out there – with no real proof. The BLM’s purpose is NOT to round up the mustangs & put them up for adoption – it was supposed to be managing the horses & burros in the wild! The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and many other organizations are working hard to adopt & care for as many horses as they possible can – but the BLM’s stockpiling of 50,000 horses rather than treating them with fertility drugs & leaving them on the range pretty much defeats the purpose.


    • Have tried a couple of times to leave a comment, but it is never approved by The Republic. I guess they don’t want anyone to have an opinion that differs from theirs.


  3. I hope New Mexico NEVER takes over public lands. People who’ve been calling for it for years, including legislators, want to drill or mine every site possible if the state gains control.


  4. Both are wrong on this issue, The BLM manages the land FOR the cattle Rancher’s normally, but the game has changed up a bit, the BIG money is now priority.The oil/gas resources are the real issues here. The 1%’ers are the monsters, raping the earth as much and as fast as they can and handing over control to the states is the WRONG thing to do too, the cattle ranchers and 1%’ers will easily take the public out of the picture for sure. The answer is fairly simple, get both of these special interest groups off of the public’s land! Have the public take a vote to re-structure BLM and Fish & Wildlife/Game Service to work and manage the land for the public’s interest!! I smell a HUGE Campaign from HSUS? or one of the Grass root groups? Time has come, these people have screwed us long enough, time to take the land back!!!


  5. Not one word of the Taylor Grazing Act.

    There’s also a report out of Cody WY claiming that “some” of the horses rounded up outside of Greybull were rescued. But who got them? Very tantalizing. Kinda incomplete reporting to me if you can’t or won’t say where they went. Same reporter says he’s heard third hand where the quartet went but hadn’t made contact with Dr. Lisa so he couldn’t say who or where they were.

    Lord even “I” know where the quartet is! And I’m usually the one the last to know anything!


  6. Blm should renamed Belly Acres….every one is whinning over them.. And the states demanding should be renamed……Worse than the Federal Government wanting to Demand the Land, Murder wild Horses and set up Methane Gas Production so that we find out if Global Warming is real, ya know, the day After its Too Late! And the politicians behind this movement shoyld consider the issues far reaching… the wake of Bundy Manipulating the Government. In a 2012 article Bundy said Quote he would Defend his land at All costs, regardless of what he had to do. I would rename him a cotton pickin belly achin welfare ranchin nut ball. And lastly, this isnt about Freedom, its about whose Psycho enough to.confuse the public the MOST.


  7. you know every time i turn Around the numbers go up the numbers go down . how is it that nobody has an actual count on just how many are out there? not our side or their mass exaggerated side when i see pictures there are not that many in the groups or herds that are pictured so how can that really be tallied up . we need facts if we’re going to get anywhere with these folks.


  8. Maggie, Arlene, Barbara and Vickie…THANK YOU for commenting at THE REPUBLIC. I see that it’s based in Indiana. People in Indiana need to know what’s going on in the western states. They, too, have a stake in what happens on Public Lands and Wildlife and must be given accurate and truthful information. There might be other comments that haven’t been published. It’s good that there are some from WH&B people.


    • Apparently one of the commenters thinks that these horses in Utah are “feral domestic horses just like Morgans, Arabians and quarter horses”. It’s really hard to get past this kind of misinformation when the truth is not published as much in the main stream media and all of the groups involved are hung up on whether they are wild or feral. In my mind, if they’ve been running wild and surviving for even a couple of years, they are wild. According to the Wild Horse and Burro Act, wild includes any unbranded horses. How is this so hard for people to understand? And how can they continually overlook the science that proves that the wild horses are beneficial to the rangelands and the cattle and sheep are the destructive species. So frustrating!!


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