This land is your land. This land is my land. No, its not Cliven Bundy’s land, or Harry Reid’s land. This land was made for you and me—assuming we pay our taxes. U.S. officials ended a standoff with hundreds of armed protesters in the Nevada desert less than 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas on April 12, calling off the government’s roundup of cattle it said were illegally grazing on federal land. Despite 20 years and multiple court orders to remove the trespassing cattle, rancher Cliven Bundy still owes the federal government in excess of $1,000,000.
Given the amount of noise pollution coming from anti-government groups, right-wing politicians and gun-rights activists regarding the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) “cramming” a court order down Bundy’s throat, we here at Newsmunchies have our work cut out for us. We need to understand the fundamental issues presented in this dispute, as well as where to find the facts in a pile of manure.
1. Does the Federal Government own these lands, or does Cliven Bundy?
This one is easy. The Feds own the land and Bundy’s claim that the land belongs to Nevada has never held up in court. In 1993, the government revoked Bundy’s grazing rights on the land after he stopped paying grazing fees, which isn’t surprising considering he refuses to recognize his landlord, the National Park Service, as a legitimate authority. Speaking to conservative radio host Dana Loesch, he said, “I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing.” Notably, the Nevada Constitution says a citizen’s first allegiance is to the federal government.
Does Bundy have “prescriptive rights” to the land since he stopped paying his grazing fees to the BLM in 1993 but continued to use the land for over twenty years despite a court order? No one (Bundy included) can get a prescriptive easement over government-owned land.
2. Did Cliven Bundy get due process?
Let’s do the math: Cliven Bundy was presented with multiple opportunities to challenge the findings of the courts. In 1998 a federal judge issued a permanent injunction against Bundy, ordering him to remove his cattle from the federal lands. He lost an appeal to the San Francisco 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Bundy appealed that ruling to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and lost again. Last August, a federal court gave Bundy 45 days to remove his cattle, and in October, a federal district judge ordered Bundy not to “physically interfere with any seizure or impoundment operation.” The federal government has shown patience and forbearance in the face of lawlessness.
Since 1789, we have had ways of settling these disputes. We have a judicial system that gives citizens due process and the right to seek redress for grievances. When you lose in court and you fail to abide by the court’s order, the judge holds you in contempt and throws you in jail.
3. Is there another, more important issue likely to be exploited by opportunists who rage against the machine?
I have yet to hear one, likely because I am ducking all the complaints about tortoise farms and Harry Reid’s jack-boot thugs called “Law Enforcement.” You can already see the politicization of this matter, given that Reid has been identified as the source of Mr. Bundy’s strife. Reid is no more responsible for this backwater mayhem than President Barack Obama is blamable for the conflict in Ukraine. Wait a sec.
For now, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy has his 300-plus cattle that were temporarily taken by the Feds on April 12. The BLM promises to pursue the matter in the courts (again). Is this land made for you and me? It depends whom you ask.