Cliven Bundy owns a ranch near a town with a curiously apt name: Bunkerville, Nevada. For generations the Bundys owned this ranch and sent their cattle on the open range to graze. They began this long before the Bureau of Land Management was more than a gleam in a Congressional eye. Now the Bureau says Cliven Bundy is somehow trespassing on federal land. (Whether the land is federal, is in dispute.) It began with a dispute over grazing fees and continued with a new designation of a wildlife habitat. A habitat for a species of tortoise that is not about to go extinct. But the real problem is not with any particular administrator. It is with his own United States Senator.
History of Cliven Bundy and his family
Bunkerville lies in Clark County, which has its seat in Las Vegas. Cliven Bundy is the last of a long line of ranchers who have owned land in and near Bunkerville for 140 years. His sister explains:
My great grandpa bought the rights to the Bunkerville allotment back in 1887 around there. Then he sold them to my grandpa who then turned them over to my dad in 1972. These men bought and paid for their rights to the range and also built waters, fences and roads to assure the survival of their cattle, all with their own money, not with tax dollars.
These rights to the land use is called preemptive rights. Some where down the line, to keep the cows from over grazing, came the bureau of land management. They were supposed to assist the ranchers in the management of their ranges while the ranchers paid a yearly allotment which was to be use to pay the BLM wages and to help with repairs and improvements of the ranches.
My dad did pay his grazing fees for years to the BLM until they were no longer using his fees to help him and to improve. Instead they began using these money’s against the ranchers. They bought all the rest of the ranchers in the area out with they’re own grazing fees. When they offered to buy my dad out for a [pittance] he said no thanks and then fired them because they weren’t doing their job. He quit paying the BLM but, tried giving his grazing fees to the county, which they turned down.
So my dad just went on running his ranch and making his own improvements with his own equipment and his own money, not taxes. In essence the BLM was managing my dad out of business. Well when buying him out didn’t work, they used the endangered species card. You’ve already heard about the desert tortoise.
That tortoise is real enough. But in fact the cows have never once interfered with it. Far from endangered, the desert tortoise breeds almost like a pest!
According to Sheree Bundy Cox, the BLM went on from there to get court orders. The legality of these orders is also in dispute. Mrs. Cox also says the BLM threatened the sheriff of Clark County with some kind of sanction; she didn’t say what.
Someone at the BLM ordered two hundred armed agents to start rustling Cliven Bundy’s cattle. His neighbors, and armed militiamen from seven other States (including Utah and New Hampshire), turned out in force. Incredibly, Tom Collins, a Clark County commissioner, actually told a Utah county commissioner that anyone from his county who showed up at Bunkerville should plan funerals. Whether Collins meant business or not, is difficult to show. But the BLM seemed to mean business. They shot Cliven Bundy’s son with an electric stun gun and sicced one of their agency dogs on an elderly female supporter. That did not faze the supporters of Cliven Bundy in the least. One mother said her four children were getting a better civics education than they could possibly get in school.
She was right. The BLM rangers backed off. They got into their SUVs and slunk away. The militia people shook their fists and them and roared at them to “get off this land” and “get out of our State.”
Today the BLM gave every sign of being ready to come back and shoot any man, woman or child who opposed them. Cliven Bundy and his sister urged their supporters not to bring guns. Nevertheless, some of those supporters said they would bring guns and would not hesitate to use them.
And at the last minute, the BLM stopped their cattle rustling. (Maybe. CNAV has an unofficial report that the standoff is still going on.) Why? Because it was not safe for them to carry on. The top man at BLM said that to a local TV station. Of course, that does not mean their harassment of Cliven Bundy is over. It means only they will fight him in court and before their “Administrative Law Judges.” And note this: the FAA declared a no-fly zone over the Cliven Bundy ranch. That order will stay in force for another month.
Why does Cliven Bundy have this trouble?
Few people lend credence to the story of an endangered desert tortoise. One observer suggested the BLM wanted the land so it could profit from leasing it to natural gas companies. They would extract the gas through hydraulic fracturing (“fracking.”) The problem with that theory: it is out-of-character for the Obama administration. They would be far more likely to move against Cliven Bundy if he signed a lease on his own to allow “fracking” on his land.
Alex Jones of InfoWars.com, and Wynton Hall at Breitbart.com, independently report a far more likely story. According to these two sources, Senator Harry W. Reid (D-Nev.) wants the Cliven Bundy Ranch to give to his son. The reason: Rory Reid represents a Chinese firm planning to build a massive solar-energy plant. The plant would cost five million dollars and occupy five thousand acres.
According to Jones, the BLM recently sanitized their Web site of documents about this affair. The site Free Republic has a link to what purports to be text the BLM cut out of its reports. To quote:
Non-Governmental Organizations have expressed concern that the regional mitigation strategy for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone utilizes Gold Butte as the location for offsite mitigation for impacts from solar development, and that those restoration activities are not durable with the presence of trespass cattle.
The BLM won’t say who those NGOs are. Might they include the Sierra Club? No one can say, though Cliven Bundy’s relatives do blame them.
This item makes the Harry Reid connection more likely. The new head of the BLM is Neil Kornze. The Senate confirmed him only three days ago. And before then he was one of Senator Reid’s senior employees.
Observers like Brian Koenig of The New American have long suspected Harry Reid got rich from shady land deals. Trying to take the Cliven Bundy ranch would fit the pattern.
If this story is true, then it goes far beyond Cliven Bundy. It even goes further than Harry Reid. Consider the office he holds: Majority Floor Leader, the one who decides which bills come to the floor for votes, and which don’t. And here he is, reaching out for land in a way that only King Ahab and Queen Jezebel of the ancient Northern Kingdom of Israel could approve. If the Senate had any institutional character, its Ethics Committee would investigate at once. And furthermore: if ever a case called for the recall of a sitting Senator by the people of his State before his term of office should expire, this is that case.
Reid’s former adviser turned chicken today. He sounded neither high nor mighty when he knew he might risk starting a Second American Revolution. (And maybe he hadn’t the gastric fortitude, or else felt he didn’t have reliable-enough support, to make a pretext for martial law.) But Cliven Bundy still faces legal trouble. And maybe Mr. Kornze plans to send his men back, when he thinks the militiamen have gone home. And maybe we are all Cliven Bundy today.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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