Posts Tagged ‘BLM’

A person conservatives surely consider just a true American standing up to tyranny strikes again, with a man shooting a BLM agent and a police officer before being shot himself. He is yet another member of the “Sovereign Citizen” movement. The day after that news broke, a county in Utah declared that the BLM agents had no authority within its borders:

Any such attempted exercise of law enforcement powers by an official of a land management agency IS NOT RECOGNIZED by Carbon County,” the resolution stated (caps in original), “and shall be deemed AN IMMINENT THREAT TO THE HEALTH, SAFETY AND WELFARE OF THE CITIZENS OF CARBON COUNTY.

I can’t wait to see the legal defense of the first person that kills a BLM agent in Carbon County. After all, what are the laws in Utah for using deadly force to protect against an “imminent threat to the health, safety, and welfare” of a person?

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By now we’re all aware of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who “defied” the “tyrannical” federal government this past weekend. He’s become a cause celeb of the extreme right, because… because… because he’s not complying with unconstitutional laws that nobody seems able to identify.

See, for over a hundred years the Bundy clan has been grazing their personal cattle on public land near their ranch. For the longest time, nobody said much about it, and each generation of Bundys grew more and more to view the public land as their own, to do with as they wished. They even concocted novel theories to justify that belief, such as claiming they were there first and therefore had dibs to the land in perpetuity. Never mind that just three decades before the first Bundy arrived and homesteaded, the area was part of a different country. And before that, there were these other people we call Indians living there, but they don’t count in Bundy world.

Then along came the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934. This probably really pissed off Cliven’s grandpa. According to today’s conservatives, this was just another example of federal overreach that would escalate over the twentieth century. What they fail to acknowledge is that by the time Congress passed the act, it had become painfully clear that management of public lands was necessary.

This became apparent even to politicians in Washington, D.C. when a Dust Bowl storm from the Great Plains reached the East Coast for the first time in May 1934. The Dust Bowl is considered the worst man-made ecological and agriculture disaster in U.S. history, brought about in part by poor farming practices. Once its effects reached the nation’s capital, Congress moved to regulate the use of public land in order to stop the kind of behavior that laid waste to once farmable land.

The Taylor Grazing Act was one result, passed just two months after Washington experienced the Dust Bowl firsthand. Its purpose was to “stop injury to the public grazing lands [excluding Alaska] by preventing overgrazing and soil deterioration; to provide for their orderly use, improvement, and development; [and] to stabilize the livestock industry dependent upon the public range.” It wasn’t a matter of federal overreach; it was a matter of taking proper care of a valuable national resources on behalf of the people of the United States. It was obvious that the farmers and ranchers wouldn’t do it themselves.

People like Bundy hate the Bureau of Land Management. Where did the BLM come from? Again, Congress recognized that management of public land was necessary, even as far back as the nineteenth century, when timber was a valuable fuel source and construction material, and there were worries about its depletion. Congress authorized the executive branch to administer public land, and one of the eventual results was the creation of the BLM in 1946, which now handles things like grazing permits.

Meanwhile, the Bundys kept right on using public land like they always did; that is, until 1993. That’s when the BLM issued new regulations pertaining to the public land Bundy was using, in part to protect the desert tortoise, which by then was threatened with extinction. The BLM reduced the amount of grazing allowed on the public land Bundy was using, and required him to pay a fee to continue using it.

Well, Bundy doesn’t even recognize the existence of the federal government, so he surely wasn’t going to pay them anything or adhere to their regulations. He nobly tried paying the county, but they refused because it’s not their land and not their money to collect. So he just went on using the public resources as he wished and ignored the fees altogether. Not only that, he started grazing cattle on additional public land because, well, he’s a Bundy and they’ve been there for a long time, so they deserve to help themselves to whatever they want. Some people might consider that to be stealing from the American people, but to Bundy’s defenders, those people are clearly lacking in morals and don’t understand the constitution.

To no one’s surprise, Bundy’s actions caused the BLM to revoke his permit in 1994. A court judgement in 1998 ordered Bundy to remove his livestock and to pay the federal government trespass damages for any livestock he left behind. This didn’t phase Bundy because, after all, he does’t believe the federal government exists. Finally, last year federal judge Lloyd D. George — a Nevada native and Ronald Reagan appointee, not some East Coast elite liberal — issued yet another ruling against Bundy.

In court, Bundy actually argued — again — that the United States doesn’t own the land in question. Unfortunately for Cliven, the judge actually does understand things like laws and the Constitution. Explaining the obvious in his judgment against Bundy, George wrote, “[T]he public lands in Nevada are the property of the United States because the United States has held title to those public lands since 1848, when Mexico ceded the land to the United States.”

Bundy made other specious claims, such as that the state of Nevada’s right to the land overrides the federal’s, and that the Property Clause of the United States Constitution only applies to federal land outside the borders of states, etc. Judge George must have stifled a chuckle or two at the amateurishness of it all. In any event, the court found that “the public interest is negatively affected by Bundy’s continuing trespass,” that Bundy had to remove his livestock within 45 days, and that the United States was entitled to seize and remove any of his cattle that remain after that date. Needless to say, Bundy didn’t comply. The public interest? That’s just collectivist mumbo jumbo meant to stifle Bundy’s freedom! Marner has the rest of the details of the ensuing standoff in his post Over The Edge.

You can certainly argue that the BLM’s actions were ham-fisted and over-the-top, but Bundy’s legal claims are without merit. Nevertheless, conservatives continue to claim he is a victim of “unconstitutional laws,” although the specifics fail them. These days, conservatives have a habit of rallying around some pretty odd causes. As already noted, Bundy doesn’t recognize the federal government as legitimate. “I believe this is a sovereign state of Nevada,” he recently told a radio reporter. “…I abide by all of Nevada state laws. But, I don’t recognize the United States Government as even existing.” He also told the Los Angeles Times, “I abide by all state laws. But I abide by almost zero federal laws.” Eventually, this won’t end well for Bundy, and it will be nobody’s fault but his own.

Over the Edge

Posted: April 15, 2014 by Marner in Current Events
Tags: , , ,

I’ve been following the Cliven Bundy story this past week, including Casper and Watson’s interactions, and it strikes me as the spark that could drive the right wing extremists over the edge. We have a man putting himself forward as just a simple rancher trying to make a living and the extremists are using him as an opportunity to start the shooting war they’ve been wanting since January 2009. First let’s look at the facts in the case:

  1. Cliven Bundy paid grazing fees to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) prior to 1993 without protest. When he was told he had to reduce the number of cattle grazing on his leased lots in order to protect tortoise habitat, he stopped paying fees. All ranchers in the area had to abide by the new limit, not just Bundy. BLM revoked his lease in 1994 because Bundy did not renew the lease.
  2. Bundy continued to graze his cattle on the BLM land without paying the lease. BLM took Bundy to court and in 1998 the court ordered Bundy to remove the cattle or pay a $200 per day fine on each cow that remained. Bundy appealed and lost the appeal in 1999. Bundy ignored the ruling and kept his cattle on the BLM land.
  3. Over the next 14 years, Bundy not only kept his cattle on the land, but increased the number of head and allowed them to graze on land that was not in the original lease. During this time, BLM tracked the number of cattle Bundy had on the property and tried to negotiate a settlement. In 2012, BLM even offered to round up the cattle for Bundy, sell them to a market of Bundy’s choosing, and give him all of the money from the sale, even though he had already racked up over $1,000,000 in unpaid fees.
  4. In 2013, a third federal court ruled again for BLM and the ruling was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court in February of this year. BLM was authorized to remove the cattle from their land.

Those are the basic facts. After Bundy was told he had to reduce the number, not remove, the cattle on the tracts that he leased from BLM, he had an epiphany that the federal government was illegitimate and could not rightfully own any land in Nevada. His theory was based on the residents of the Nevada territory voting for statehood and giving up title to public lands as stated in the Nevada State Constitution. Bundy’s position is that once Nevada became a state, the territory’s residents’ vote could not give up state lands to the federal government. Bundy all of a sudden decided the federal government didn’t legally exist.

The first thing the facts show is that Bundy is a freeloader who has been scamming the government for free grazing land for over 20 years. He is no different than the person who moves into an empty house and claims it for their own. It would be one thing if that were all, but it’s not. Bundy is also an amoral who is more than happy to put others’ safety and lives at risk in order to continue receiving his ill-gotten gains. He has turned his scam into a cause for the extreme fringe of the right wing that is just itching for an opportunity to trade shots with the government.

The first to rally around Bundy’s fake cause is Richard Mack, a former Arizona county sheriff. Mack was at the Bundy standoff and said that the extremists planned to use women as human shields if any shots were fired.

“It was a tactical plot that I was trying to get them to use,” Mack said in comments flagged by The Raw Story. “If they’re going to start killing people, I’m sorry, but to show the world how ruthless these people are, women needed to be the first ones shot.”

“I’m sorry, that sounds horrible,” he continued. “I would have put my own wife or daughters there, and I would have been screaming bloody murder to watch them die. I would gone next, I would have been the next one to be killed. I’m not afraid to die here. I’m willing to die here.”

Mack is actually willing to die to help a scammer avoid paying grazing fees and abiding by federal law. At least that’s what he says. It’s clear, though, that he is willing to sacrifice his wife and daughters for the cause.

Bundy has gathered not only Mack, but other extreme groups, such as the Minutemen and Oath Keepers. For those who don’t remember, the Minutemen was a southern border vigilante group founded by Shawna Forde, who was later convicted of murdering a 9 year girl and her father, as well as seriously wounding the girl’s mother. Forde was sentenced to death in 2011. Another Minutemen founder, Chris Simcox, was arrested last year for child molestation. Oath Keepers is a so-called “patriot” group that is gleefully planning for the day when they are able to get into a shooting war with the federal government.

These types of groups (Minutemen, Oath Keepers, and Sovereign Citizens) have seen a large surge since 2008. They spout crazy theories, such as Obama is planning to start a race war, to keep their followers frothing and itching to pull the trigger. Luckily, 95% of the people who join and support these groups are merely paying lip service. They want the predictions to come true, but they aren’t willing to put their lives on the line to make it happen. Unfortunately, there remains 5%. These are the “true believers” who will do anything to see their vision of a second civil war come to pass. Some of these people, like Mack, were in Nevada last weekend and only the cooler heads of BLM kept it from becoming a bloodbath. And it would have been a bloodbath. Keep in mind, these are the type of people who believe David Koresh was innocent and Janet Reno started the fire at Waco. These are the people who believe Randy Weaver didn’t put his wife and child in the line of fire when he forced a standoff with federal authorities. And these are the people who believe Obama wants to kill all of those god-fearing white folk.

Bundy has to be brought to account for his flouting of federal laws and his theft from the American taxpayers. The government will try to resolve this without anyone getting hurt, most likely by taking Bundy himself into custody for contempt and holding him until the cattle are removed from federal lands. However, these extremist groups will do everything they can to make sure someone does get hurt, and when they do, the government must come down on them hard and fast.