*** LATE DEVELOPMENT ***
Sunday evening (4/6) Bunkerville, NV Rancher Cliven Bundy who has been illegally trespassing over 900 head of cattle on restricted BLM- managed- public-property for over 20 years sent an email to the press and supporters announcing that the “Range War’ would begin Monday morning at 9:30 AM and asking supporters to bring horses and participate with him. This morning a LetsTalk writer witnessed numerous vehicles, stock trailers, and others parked at the Bundy compound with supporters being ushered into the Bundy property by Bundy family members. It is unclear how many vehicles or people were there, but at least 6-8 vehicles were observed. Let’sTalk encourages everyone involved to keep level heads and avoid confrontation. The place for dispute resolution is in the courts, not out on the range – and PLEASE, NO WEAPONS! Pointing a weapon at Federal Law Enforcement officers never turns out well!
The impounding of trespass cattle in the Gold Butte and Lake Mead area has begun. The National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management used the first week or so of the court approved operation to fly over and use other methods to update the “count” of trespass cattle that are in the approximate 960 square mile area and ascertain their location so that they can plan the operation effectively. They counted 908 head of cattle illegally in the public land.
Last Saturday, April 5th, the actual gathering of the cattle began. So far about three or four “protesters” showed up for a couple of hours on Saturday in the designated “first amendment” free speech areas. The photos show the one unattended sign posted in the protest area at the Riverside Road area and there was no sign that anyone had been at the other area at the bottom of the Riverside/ Bunkerville exit off of I-15..
In the last few weeks Bundy had indicated that an “army” of supporters would protest the operation but so far the biggest visible gathering of protesters has been in the area of Monroe, Utah where a small local businessman contracted with the BLM and the NPS to hold and auction the cattle that are gathered. Several local protesters from Iron County, Utah, led by one of Bundy’s sons who reportedly lives in that area, have harassed and threatened him, even though he is one of their neighbors and by all accounts a valued member of the local ranching/farming community. In addition, a body of local Utah elected officials, the Iron County Commission, threatened the BLM that if they go ahead with the Impound action in Nevada they and their sheriff will “do whatever it takes” to control the wild horse population in their area, implying that they will start slaughtering them because they claim that the BLM has not done enough to control them on the grazing lands. Let’s repeat that! A group of County Commissioners in Utah implies that it will “take hostages” in the form of wild horses if the BLM enforces the law on federal land in Nevada! Nevada – it doesn’t appear that you are without competition in the battle for the wackiest elected officials. Not surprisingly these folks blame the approximate $2 Million cost of the BLM/NPS law enforcement action on the government, not on the lawbreaker who has had twenty years to obey the law and abide by the valid court orders to remove his trespassing cattle. Are we a country of laws? – or not? Here is the foolishness – Do these folks really think that the BLM/NPS is going to bow to their threats? Do you/we/they really think this is the way that local government should work? It seems that in their local communities they are fulfilling their image of government not working! Threats and hostage-taking should not be part of responsible governance.
As part of the Impound Operation much of the area has been temporarily closed. The impound operation is expected to last for 21 – 30 days. Signs are posted on many side roads because the operation necessarily includes the use of low flying aircraft and helicopters, as well as cowboys on horses and RV’s and the safety of the folks doing the work as well as the public who could end up in harms way has been a primary factor. Several people have expressed unhappiness with the BLM and NPS about these temporary closures instead of properly directing their anger to the cause – the lawbreaking rancher whose refusal to comply with laws and court orders is at the root of the problem.
While the army of protesters has so far not materialized, the BLM/NPS does have a small army of folks doing the work and protecting those workers involved in the operation as well as the public to try to ensure safety and maintain the peace in the face of veiled, and sometimes “not so veiled” threats. This additional cost of the enforcement of the law is again directly attributable to the failure of Bundy to abide by the law. Yes, as a citizen Bundy is guaranteed his right to use the mechanisms of the law to pursue his interpretation of it, and he has vigorously done so – but NO COURT, and not even officials of Clark County nor the State of Nevada (agencies that Bundy claims have rights to the Federal land in question) support his position. The legalities are crystal clear – his assertions are WRONG and his actions have been ILLEGAL.
While the vast majority of U.S. citizens support the concept of living in a country where the public lands are protected from damage by private for-profit businesses there are, as always, a vocal minority whose idea of freedom is for them to do whatever THEY want on public lands. Many who loosely use the term “freedom” act indignant and as though they are “entitled” to more freedom to use public land for their businesses than the rest of us are allowed. I have asked several of them to show me the deed where they bought the land they use, but so far none have done so.
Yesterday afternoon (Sunday, 4/6) the first confrontation between the Bundy’s and Federal officials resulted in the arrest of Dave Bundy, a 37 year old son of Rancher Cliven Bundy. There are reportedly a lot of Bundy’s living at the Ranch compound, and according to a report in the Desert Valley Times (see it HERE) four vehicles full of Bundy family members and supporters approached an area where armed federal agents were enforcing the temporary closure of federal lands in the area where the impound operation was taking place. The vehicles were quickly surrounded by 11 BLM enforcement vehicles and ordered to leave the closed area and directed to the designated “first amendment” areas if they wished to protest the action. There is plenty of federal law enforcement in the area largely because of the continuing veiled and “not so veiled” threats of violence from Bundy and his supporters over the past couple of years. All of the folks began to leave as instructed except Dave Bundy who failed to leave the closed area and stayed behind and continued to take video. The federal officers reportedly then arrested him. Ryan Bundy, another son of Cliven, reportedly said “We wasn’t doing nothing but filming”, as quoted in the Desert Valley Times that you can see by clicking HERE. That story further details that Kirsten Cannon, a public affairs specialist with the Southern Nevada District Office of the BLM, verified that an individual is in custody, but no details about the arrest would be disclosed “until and unless charges are filed”. .
In a follow-up related ISSUE in the next few days LetsTalk will examine the true economics of grazing on public lands. Watch for it.