Federal assault on rancher Bundy points to need for federal land reform

Federal land map

This map from the American Lands Council shows the vast federal ownership of land in Western states.

At the moment Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy is fighting the mammoth federal bureaucracy at the Bureau of Land Management. BLM strongmen showed up to confiscate Bundy’s cattle, charging that he hasn’t paid grazing fees for the use of federally controlled public lands.

Bundy sees it a different way.

His family has had cattle grazing there since the 1800s; there was no BLM then. For much of modern time, the U.S. Grazing Service managed such practices on public range lands. In 1946 the Grazing Service and the General Land Office were folded into BLM.

The hammer came down, however, in 1976, when a Democrat-controlled U.S. House and Senate passed the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. This, perhaps more than any other political move, opened the door for the current far-left policy comprising myriad regulations and restrictions dominating not just federal land uses but also private land uses in the U.S. today.

The 1976 bill preserves federal land ownership policy except for the condition that “disposal of a particular parcel will serve the national interest.” The bill upended most enabling legislation that allowed states to enter the union.

For Bundy, the big problems seem to have begun during the era of President Bill Clinton. At that time, grazing rules changed because of a tortoise now listed as “threatened” in the Endangered Species hierarchy. The desert tortoise, specifically the population in the Mojave, was designated threatened in 1989 by California and 1990 by the feds.

Having reviewed a lengthy report posted on the BLM website, I came to the conclusion the tortoise probably isn’t really threatened. There are a number of reasons I believe this—they’re just about impossible to count but there are still enough to document mortality from causes like hunting. Ravens prey on the tortoises, and existing landfills attract those birds in abundance. Disease made its way to the population, probably because people returned captive pets that weren’t so cute once their droppings grew in proportion to the size of the “pet”.

The desert tortoise, in my opinion, was one of several means for the government to solidify control on vast amounts of land. Now much of that same land is being used for solar projects.

When you install a massive solar project, you basically have to do so on via what amounts to a clearcut approach. People would shriek at the idea of clearcutting a forest. A desert—not so much, although the installations have a definite sizable impact on sensitive ecosystems. Solar installations are ideal in many situations; I am firmly against the erection of vast solar fields.

As I pointed out in a previous column, the imprint left by Bundy’s cattle is minuscule compared to solar installations, recreation, and certain other uses the government seems fine with.

The grazing fees may be the tactic feds are using to go after Bundy, but I think the issue goes deeper than that. The feds are demonstrating the iron grip they have on more than 80 percent of the land in the state of Nevada. With a Democrat in the White House, and Democrats controlling the Senate, there is no way the BLM is going to be reined in by anything other than a notable public outcry.

The outcry appears to be gaining momentum. Republicans would be smart to seize the opportunity the dustup between the feds and the rancher offers. Local control works best for the people, and that control will never happen unless Republicans take the matter on for reform.

Bundy told CNN:

“The federal government has seized Nevada’s sovereignty … they have seized Nevada’s laws and our public land. We have no access to our public land and that is only a little bit of it.”

Even worse, the federal government in a striking display of illegal arrogance, established a First Amendment zone to corral protesters supporting Bundy. That action is more in line with a paradigm in a communist country rather than a free Republic. BLM’s “zone” is a near-unforgivable assault on the First Amendment.

In times past, there were attempts to wrest land from the federal fist and return it to the states, and such efforts continue today. The American Lands Council has an excellent video explaining why states need control of their own land and how citizens are disadvantaged when federal ownership is excessive as it is in Nevada and some other Western states.

Utah Republican Ken Ivory who serves in the state’s House of Representatives is an outspoken proponent of returning federal lands to the states in accordance with the enabling legislative agreements in place for many territories when they agreed to or sought statehood. Many of those agreements promised to transfer title of public lands to the states. That ended with Democrats’ bill in 1976.

Why did the Obama administration decide to make an example of Cliven Bundy? That’s anyone’s guess, but Obama has been dead set on large solar facilities and he is also a big proponent of a dominant federal government holding sway over any and all issues to do with states’ rights. He also counts a number of corporate allies in solar and new energy and in the far left enviro money camp.

Bundy should be familiar with federal oppression, considering his Mormon ancestry. People of that faith were assailed physically and via federal propaganda for their religious beliefs and the federal government was a weapon turned against them. By the time railroads were cutting a swath across the West, land worked by Mormons was taken over if the railroad needed it. By the time Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) ran for the presidency, anti-Mormonism was a current running through media coverage and some pundits said things they would be too cowardly to say about any other faith.

It is curious that Sen. Harry Reid, Nevada Dem and Democrats’ appointed leader in the Senate, who calls himself a Mormon, had never been targeted for such insults.

BLM exacerbated a dispute with a rancher and now the situation has become so volatile, someone could get hurt again. People have already been hurt according to media accounts.

BLM’s overreach is just another in a very long line of examples of a federal government bent on control and “transformation” of the Republic at all costs.

What I can definitely say is that Cliven Bundy has the cojones most of us wish we had. He is standing up for his heritage and his way of life. If he lived in Pakistan or China, Democrats would probably be cheering him.


Facebook page for Darin Bushman, Piute County (Utah) commissioner/updates on Bundy

Nevada officials blast feds

American Lands Council

Federal land grab in Nevada aids solar projects, ensnares rancher

(Commentary by Kay B. Day/April 11, 2014)

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About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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