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7 Questions Raised By The Bundy Ranch Conflict

From the Blaze:

Is Harry Reid Involved? Seven Answers to Seven Questions You’re Probably Asking Right Now About the Nevada Rancher Situation

By Becket Adams | April 13, 2014

… In an effort to provide some clarity on the ongoing developments in Gold Butte, here are some answers to the seven main questions people have asked about the decades-long fight between 67-year-old rancher Cliven Bundy and the federal government:

7. Does Sen. Harry Reid have a connection to the Bureau of Land Management?

In a way, yes.The new head of the Bureau of Land Management recently served as senior policy adviser to Nevada’s Democratic Sen. Harry Reid.

Neil Kornze, 35, left Reid’s office (where he managed public land issues) in 2011 to join the Bureau of Land Management as senior adviser to the director. He later became the deputy director for policy and programs in 2013. The U.S. Senate then voted 71-28 on April 8, 2014, to confirm Kornze as the new director of the agency.

And, in fact, Harry Reid forced this confirmation by ‘going nuclear’ on nominations. That is, killing the Senate filibuster on nominees.

The timing of which some wondered about as it happened.

6. Is Harry Reid working with the Chinese to force the Bundys out?

The facts don’t support it. Reid and his son, Rory, were both deeply involved in a deal with the Chinese-owned ENN Energy Group to build a $5 billion solar farm in Laughlin, Nevada. But that is roughly 177 miles away from Bundy’s 150-acre ranch in Bunkerville, Nev., and 213 miles from the federally owned Gold Butte area where Bundy ‘s cattle graze, according to Google Maps.

It’s worth noting that Rory Reid is the former chair of the Clark County commission (Clark County is located near the Gold Butte area). He left in 2011 to work for a Las Vega law firm representing ENN.

But despite the Reids’ best attempts to secure the land for ENN, and despite the Bureau of Land Management expressing concerns that “trespass cattle” could complicate plans to use land in the Gold Butte area for “offsite mitigation for impacts from solar development,” it was all in vain: The Chinese company eventually shelved the project in June 2013 when it failed to find a customer. The deal is over and the proposed construction will not happen.

Things are never shelved with Harry Reid — or the Chinese. Besides, we are told the project was dumped for lack of customers. But Harry Reid had been leaning on the Nevada utilities to be its first customer.

So who knows if he might not eventually succeed?

5. So Who Owns the Land in Question?

The federal government owns the disputed land and has claimed ownership since before Nevada even joined the union, according to a 2013 U.S. District Court ruling.

“[T]he public lands in Nevada are the property of the United States because the United States has held title to those public lands since 1848, when Mexico ceded the land to the United States,” the ruling states, confirming the federal government’s longstanding claim that it lawfully acquired ownership of the land under the Treaty of the Guadalupe Hidalgo.

The court rejected Bundy’s repeated claim to having an intergenerational right to use the land as invalid and said his arguments against federal ownership carry no legal weight.

“Bundy has produced no valid law or specific facts raising a genuine issue of fact regarding federal ownership or management of public lands in Nevada,” the decision reads.

It’s important to note that like most states, in its constitution Nevada recognizes federal authority over public lands:

That the people inhabiting said territory do agree and declare, that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States; and that lands belonging to citizens of the United States, residing without the said state, shall never be taxed higher than the land belonging to the residents thereof; and that no taxes shall be imposed by said state on lands or property therein belonging to, or which may hereafter be purchased by, the United States, unless otherwise provided by the congress of the United States. [Amended in 1956. Proposed and passed by the 1953 legislature; agreed to and passed by the 1955 legislature; approved and ratified by the people at the 1956 general election. See: Statutes of Nevada 1953, p. 718; Statutes of Nevada 1955, p. 926.]…

4. Did Mr. Bundy ever recognize federal authority and pay grazing fees?

According to his daughter, yes. Mr. Bundy has stated repeatedly in the past that he does not recognize federal authority in Gold Butte, arguing instead that the state owns the land.

However, he hasn’t always taken such a strong stance against federal ownership of land located inside Nevada’s border. In fact, Bundy used to pay the Bureau of Land Management’s grazing fees “for years,” according to his daughter, Shiree Bundy Cox, but stopped in 1993 when he decided it wasn’t in his best interest.

“My dad did pay his grazing fees for years to the [Bureau of Land Management] until they were no longer using his fees to help him and to improve. Instead they began using these [sic] money’s against the ranchers,” she wrote in a blog post dated April 11, 2014. “They bought all the rest of the ranchers in the area out with they’re [sic] own grazing fees. When they offered to buy my dad out for a penence [sic] he said no thanks and then fired them because they weren’t doing their job.” …

Her post continues, claiming Cliven Bundy tried at one point to send grazing fee payments to the county instead of the Washington, D.C., but was turned down by local officials…

3. Is the Bundy cattle fight really all about a desert tortoise?

Several observers have suggested that the fight between Bundy and the federal government revolves around an endangered tortoise. Although there’s some truth to this claim, it lacks important context. Here’s a timeline of events:

1993: The Lake Mead National Recreation Area for the National Park Service reduce the number of cattle that could graze on the Bunkerville allotment “to 150 because of the emergency listing of the desert tortoise as an endangered species,” according to a formal agency official.
1993: Bundy “fires” the BLM.
1994: The Fish and Wildlife Service formally identifies Gold Butte as an area “critical to the long-term survival of the desert tortoise.”
1994: Federal officials revoke Bundy’s grazing permit for failure to pay and failure to reduce the number of his cattle. The Bunkerville allotment is closed to grazing.
1998: The Bureau of Land Management closes off the Gold Butte area to cattle.
2012: The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmentalist group, sues the Bureau of Land Management for failing to enforce its own laws and remove Bundy’s “trespass cattle.”
2013: The Bureau of Land Management announces plans to euthanize ”hundreds” of tortoises due to budget restrictions

Gold Butte being turned into a cattle-free zone wasn’t exactly sudden. It was a few years in the making, which brings us to our next question.

The Bundys say the problem started in 1993. And it came out of the blue. So one could say it was sudden.

2. Were the ranchers really chased off and forced into bankruptcy?

Were all the other ranchers in the area of Clark County really “chased off” and, as Cox (Bundy’s daughter) put it, forced into bankruptcy by the federal government?

It’s not clear. After the federal government agreed to designate the area for the endangered animal, Clark County purchased all “valid existing grazing permits for Gold Butte, paying $375,000 to retire them for the benefit of the tortoise.”

Ordinarily, this would be considered a simple buyout, which is obviously different from being “forced into bankruptcy” or being priced out entirely. However, as Cox wrote, the ranchers were bought off with their “own grazing fees,” suggesting they made no net gain from turning over their permits.

Huh? The BLM refunded the grazing fees for one year. That doesn’t address the ranchers’ need to maintain enough cattle to remain viable. Which was impacted by having these gazing lands taken away from them over night.

1. Did the Feds Overreact?

Contract cowboys and hundreds of armed federal agents descended on the publicly held property last week, bringing with them dozens of retrofitted SUVs, helicopters and heavy duty hauling equipment (the Bundy family claims the government also deployed snipers and “heavy artillery,” but these claims have not been confirmed by secondary sources).

This prompted the obvious question: How did this go from a property dispute to something featuring plenty of armed agents and even a Bundy relative being tased?

Consider that there has been a lot of saber-rattling rhetoric being used. For instance, Bundy once casually told reporters in an interview that he keeps several firearms at his ranch, adding that he would do “whatever it takes” to protect his cattle.

“I’ve got to protect my property … If people come to monkey with what’s mine, I’ll call the county sheriff. If that don’t work, I’ll gather my friends and kids and we’ll try to stop it. I abide by all state laws. But I abide by almost zero federal laws,” he said in reference to what he repeatedly calls a “range war.”

Bundy has also regularly invoked Waco, Texas, and Ruby Ridge, claiming often and loudly that he’s the “last cowboy standing.” Even his wife, Carol, said in an interview: “I’ve got a shotgun … It’s loaded and I know how to use it. We’re ready to do what we have to do, but we’d rather win this in the court of public opinion.”

And then there are the militias that showed up to support Bundy. “This is what we do, we provide armed response,” Jim Lordy with Operation Mutual Aid told a local station. “They have guns. We need guns to protect ourselves from the tyrannical government.”

Still, the militia members and protesters insist it’s the government that became violent first with the tasing incident, as well as the mere presence of the armed federal agents. And Ammon Bundy, Cliven’s son who was tased, did restrict rifles within camp last week.

Either way, it appears the language being used has put at least a few federal officials on edge…

This seems like a ‘chicken and egg’ question. The feds seem to have been the first to have shown up heavily armed and in a very aggressive posture.

Initial estimates put the cost of the federal government’s failed attempt to remove Bundy’s “trespass cattle” at around $3 million.

Boo hoo.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, April 15th, 2014. Comments are currently closed.

3 Responses to “7 Questions Raised By The Bundy Ranch Conflict”

  1. BannedbytheTaliban says:

    A little more background to help answer question 5: http://www.heritage.org/constitution/#!/articles/4/essays/126/property-clause

  2. Mithrandir says:

    Of course, after all these scandals, abusive NSA/TSA behavior, and intimidation by the feds, you have to raise the 8th question:
    “Is this aggressive federal behavior going to result in another Ruby Ridge/Waco/Timothy McVeigh episode some time down the line?”

    Unfortunately, it seems very likely. Bullies don’t like to be bullied by victims who sometimes fight back.

  3. Petronius says:

    So to sum up the answers to the Seven Questions:

    1. The Federal government is the sole judge of its own powers.

    2. Harry “it’s-not-over” Reid and the rest of our masters in Washington run the Federal government, and are therefore the final arbiters of Federal powers.

    3. Harry Reid has a vested interest in driving the Bundy family off the land, and environmentalists want to return the land to its pre-Pleistocene state of nature, so it’s a win-win for everybody except the Bundys, and that’s OK because who cares about them anyway?

    4. Laws are for the little people like the Bundys and the Little Sisters of the Poor, not for our masters in Washington.

    5. So it’s OK to send an army to assault the Bundys and steal and kill their cattle and squelch free speech.

    6. Although in former times this was called tyranny and corruption.

    7. But that was then and now is now.

    “It’s not over. You can’t violate the law and walk away from it.” – Harry Reid

    Unless of course you’re Harry Reid. Or Lois Lerner, an illegal alien, New Black Panthers, Nerobama, Tigellinus-Holder, the commissioner of the IRS, an Occupier, welfare cheats, Aunt Zeituni Onyango, Uncle Omar Obama, a Clinton, director of the FBI, deputy director of the CIA, head of NSA, a labor union, Jon Corzine, chief of BATF, head of OSHA or the EPA, the Governor of New York, or other Democrat.

    In that case you can violate anything you want and walk away from it with money jangling in your pockets and say, “What difference at this point does it make?” (Hint: The correct answer is “None.”)

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