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Fact Check – The Bundy Ranch Cattle & The BLM

Bundy Ranch BLM

Update:
April 20, 2018 – A Federal jury has resumed deliberations on the Bundy Ranch Standoff Trial

A recent confrontation between federal (BLM) employees and protesters over the attempted confiscation of cattle (on land that originally belonged to Paiute tribes), belonging to rancher Cliven Bundy, that had been grazing on federal land (illegally, going fon 20 years now) has made its way into several news outlets. Conspiracy theorists have described this as an Orwellian takeover (incorrectly describing this as an attempted takeover of the ranch itself) and suppression of civil liberties, along with alleged backroom deals involving Harry Reid and Chinese solar farms. A basic fact check reveals that reality is more benign and less dramatic. Rather than taking the time to learn about and explain the history, structure and legal mandate of the BLM, as well as the multiple court cases Bundy lost and complaints from other locals and environmental groups (often confusing and overlapping) over Bundy’s trespass cattle, many conspiracy theorists have seized this opportunity to portray the BLM as some shadowy organization trampling a rancher’s rights. Conspiracy theorists have tied this to their Agenda 21 conspiracy narrative.

As The Wildlife News writes:

We hope to write more about the history of America’s public lands because the public’s lack of knowledge plays into the hands of political and media manipulators.

A few facts about the Cliven Bundy and the BLM incident

For some time, the Bundy’s have owned cattle that have grazed in the Bunkerville, NV area.  Since his cattle grazed on federal land, he paid grazing fees to the federal government. In 1993, the local grazing rules changed when a number of things came together; the Desert tortoise became protected under the species act, and the Fish and Wildlife Service determined that this was one of the areas critical to their long-term survival. Grazing rules were also changed in order to accommodate restoration needed from years of overgrazing and recent fires. These new rules would include Bundy having to reduce his number of cattle. Refusing to comply, he decided to “fire” the BLM, and stop paying grazing fees, while continuing to use federal lands for his cattle to graze. Not only did he not reduce his cattle count, but actually increased them over time.

As a result, Cliven Bundy’s cattle have been illegally grazing on federal land for 20 years. Over these 20 years, Cliven Bundy has racked up over $1 million in unpaid grazing fees and has actually expanded his cattle’s grazing further into federal lands.  He has been taken to court (and defeated) both in 1998 and 2013.

In Case No. 2:12-cv-0804-LDG-GWF, on July 2013, US District Court – District of Nevada Ruled:

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Bundy is permanently enjoined from trespassing on the New Trespass Lands.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the United States is entitled to protect the New Trespass Lands against this trespass, and all future trespasses by Bundy.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Bundy shall remove his livestock from the New Trespass Lands within 45 days of the date hereof, and that the United States is entitled to seize and remove to impound any of Bundy’s cattle that remain in trespass after 45 days of the date hereof.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the United States is entitled to seize and remove to impound any of Bundy’s cattle for any future trespasses, provided the United States has provided notice to Bundy under the governing regulations of the United States Department of the Interior.

As a result, the BLM attempted to round up at least some of the 900 cattle illegally grazing on federal land.  And because of his implied threats of “armed resistance” (and the fact that an attempted roundup in 2012 was called off due to veiled threats of violence) and previous intimidation of public employees, they came with protection.  Because it’s often portrayed as such, it bears mentioning that no one was trying to remove Cliven Bundy from his land/home.  No one was  trying to “take his land away.”  After 20 years of Bundy not paying for his cattle’s grazing fees, the BLM was there to remove cattle that were grazing on federal lands near his ranch.

In response, several protesters (including armed militia members) gathered in defense of Bundy. The standoff came to an end when the BLM, citing safety concerns, decided to stand down.  Supporters of Bundy have of  labeled this successful (and armed, as well as potentially violent) defense of Bundy’s illegal activity as a “win for freedom.”

From the BLM website

blm federal land bundy cattle

Is Bundy Constitutionally correct?

Cliven Bundy says he doesn’t recognize the federal ownership of land he believes belongs to Nevada and has stated that “It’s a statement for freedom and liberty and the Constitution.” Of course, at the writing of the Constitution, much American land was in fact owned by the federal government. There is no “Constitutionality” in not recognizing federally-owned land.

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