Tuesday, April 15, 2014



 Ken Cole on April 14, 2014
By Ralph Maughan and Ken Cole

In the acrimonious case of Cliven Bundy, it is important that folks understand a bit about the history of the U.S. public lands.

Cliven Bundy, the rancher whose cattle were rounded up and then released by the BLM over the weekend, claims that his family has used the land in question since 1880 but the Nevada Constitution pre-dates this by 16 years. When Nevada became a state in 1864, its citizens gave up all claims to unappropriated federal land and codified this in the state’s Constitution. The Nevada Constitution states:

“Third. That the people inhabiting said territory do agree and declare, that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States; …..”

If Bundy “owns the land then where is the deed?  Where are the records he paid property taxes?

It’s not his land.

Bundy also claims that it his “right” to graze these BLM public lands.  This is not the case. The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 specifically states that the issuance of a grazing permit does not confer any right to graze or right to own the land. The Taylor Grazing Act is the granddaddy of the U.S. laws governing grazing on federal land. “Taylor” was a rancher and a congressman from Colorado, hardly someone to want government tyranny over ranching.

So far as consistent with the purposes and provisions of this subchapter, grazing privileges recognized and acknowledged shall be adequately safeguarded, but the creation of a grazing district or the issuance of a permit pursuant to the provisions of this subchapter shall not create any right, title, interest, or estate in or to the lands.

In Public Lands Council v. Babbitt the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the new grazing regulations promulgated by the Department of Interior under former Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt to conform to Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) and found:

The words “so far as consistent with the purposes . . . of this subchapter” and the warning that “issuance of a permit” creates no “right, title, interest or estate” make clear that the ranchers’ interest in permit stability cannot be absolute; and that the Secretary is free reasonably to determine just how, and the extent to which, “grazing privileges” shall be safeguarded, in light of the Act’s basic purposes. Of course, those purposes include “stabiliz[ing] the livestock industry,” but they also include “stop[ping] injury to the public grazing lands by preventing overgrazing and soil deterioration,” and “provid[ing] for th[e] orderly use, improvement, and development” of the public range.

He has no “right” to graze it.

The federal courts have struck down every challenge Bundy has made about his claims, and has issued not one, but two, court orders to remove his trespass cattle. It’s not his land and he has no right to graze it.

Welfare Ranching: 
The Subsidized Destruction of the American West
The majority of the American public does not know that livestock grazing in the arid West has caused more damage than the chainsaw and bulldozer combined.

The simple truth of the matter is that Bundy is a freeloading, welfare rancher who has an inflated sense of entitlement. It also appears that he and his supporters’ use of threats and intimidation likely violated several federal laws. Inasmuch as they used (such as pointed) weapons to cause the government back down, it can be considered an armed insurrection.

What about Bundy’s claim that his forebears bought the land he is now accused of trespass grazing upon?  This land was once Mexican land, and was won by the United States after the Mexican-American War. It is part of what is known as the “Mexican Cession.” All of Nevada, California, Arizona and most of New Mexico were part of the Cession. Much of this land was privatized under various grants and laws such as the Homestead Act and the Desert Lands Act, plus mining claims. Several million acres were granted to Nevada for state lands, but those lands that were not privatized have always been Mexican lands or United States lands owned by the U.S. government.

Before the Taylor Grazing Act, these government lands were called “the public domain.” They could be privatized, as mentioned, under the Homestead Act and such, but the acreage allowed per homesteader was limited to 160 acres. There were no 158,000 acre homestead privatizations and certainly no 750,000 acre privatizations. Livestock owners ran their livestock freely without a permit on the public domain. They didn’t even need a home base of property (a ranch). The result was disaster because the operator to find green grass and eat it first won out, promoting very bad grazing practices. That was the reason for Taylor Grazing Act — ranchers and others could see the public domain system led to disaster on the ground. Therefore, the more powerful ranchers with “base” private property received grazing permits. This got rid of the landless livestock operators.

Taylor Grazing was administered on the ground by the U.S. Grazing Service. Now, ranchers with grazing permits had to pay a grazing fee to use their permits. Bundy’s ancestors probably got one of these grazing permits, but they most certainly did not buy the land. That was not possible. The public domain was not for sale and ranchers generally did not want it. After all, if they owned it, they would owe local property tax.

In 1948 the Bureau of Land Management was created by executive order of President Truman to replace the Grazing Service. The Service had been defunded in a dispute between the House and the U.S. Senate. The BLM has since been affirmed by law rather than a mere executive order. It is supposed to manage the public lands for multiple uses and for sustained production (“yield”) of renewable resources such as grass. As before, you need a grazing permit for cattle, sheep, goats, or horses to legally graze. It is a privilege, not a right, and this has been firmly stated by the U.S. courts.

Hopefully, this explains why Bundy’s assertions are wrong. It is too bad that few citizens are taught public land law or history in high school or college. We think it is vital for everyone to know these things because these are in a real sense your lands, held in trust by the government. Yes we know the government often does a poor job. They did in Bundy’s case by letting this go for 20 years. He should have been gone before the year 2000.

End of story.


Photo sourced courtesy:
Cliven Bundy and cowboys celebrate victory over federal agents ...
... supporters fly the American flag as their cattle were released by the Bureau of Land Management back onto public land outside of Bunkerville, Nevada 

By Ralph Maughan on APRIL 11, 2014 

Right wing outcry brings milita. Violence?

It’s difficult to find news stories that stick to the issue of the 21 years Cliven Bundy has been in violation of the laws governing American public lands.

The lone rancher trying to save his cattle from the “govmnt” is just too good a theme. Then too, they don’t have to investigate the issue. Just report what Mr. Bundy says and give it more play than those enforcing the law. Ignore those happy to see the cattle go from these hot desert lands. It is easy to cover a story this way.

None seem to have investigated Bundy’s claim that all the other ranchers in the county are out of business — that he is the last — or that those that did quit, truly did so because of government regulations. None have investigated his claim that his family has been grazing area since the 1870s, or the matter of his alleged water rights. None have looked at his total ranch operation. He appears often in the news with an old truck, but some say he has aircraft.

The right wing media is by far the most interested in the story and in expanding and changing the issue. Harmful and illegal cattle grazing does not fit their interest. Change the subject to government tyranny. This might be what Mr. Bundy sought as he planned what to do over the last generation of time. The coverage has served to bring a hard to pin down number of anti-government protesters to the area. Alarming to many are the private militias, a name that brings back memories of violence and/or standoffs in Montana, northern Idaho, Washington State, and other places. That this might happen, explains BLM law enforcement being armed and blocking entry to the part of state highway 170.

A few web sites have reported that cattle have died. There is no information on this. However, this is very hot country. It can get well over 100° F in April. Today’s expected high is 93.º  The cattle have been fending for themselves on the desert, taking up the rare waterholes. Many are in the backcountry. An aerial count conducted April 1-3 tallied a total of 908 cows spread out across approximately 750,000 acres. Bundy’s original grazing allotment was 158,000.  Reports from the BLM indicate that a number of the cattle are unidentified — feral. Others seem to have wandered in from other places.

Roundup is stressful. Cattle could be injured or die. This happens in conventional roundups. Some these cattle could be undernourished, injured, or diseased. If they go down in the roundup, most experts on emergency large animal euthanasia recommend gunshot or captive bolts. This might explain the rumor of cattle shot. The dispersed distribution of the cattle — all over hell and back — explains the lengthy expected time for this operation to complete.

There seems to be no media interest in the tortoises, which many wrongly call “turtles.” They discount them. None have investigated what the cattle have done of other desert wildlife, the outdoor recreation, or the Lake Mead National Recreation area on which the cattle often tread.

Bundy has leveraged his allotment closing buyout money into a no grazing fee, no property tax, 19th century open range operation about five times the original size.  Without investigation, this is being ignored and the subject changed.

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Added 4/12- Reuters has a neutral story on the arrival of militias and the like. “Militia members, ultra-conservatives rally to cause of Nevada rancher” By Laura Zuckerman. Reuters.

Update 4/12. Confronted by a mob summoned by the right wing media, the BLM appears to have been faced with the choice of shoot or release the cattle. Both sides were armed. The BLM released the cattle. Unfortunately, this is not the end of the matter by any means, even though the mob will probably go home. Nations that allow this to happen with no further response do not last.


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