Bundy's Case: Feds Do Not Own the Land Where His Cattle Graze

By:  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
04/14/2014
       
Bundy's Case: Feds Do Not Own the Land Where His Cattle Graze

Rancher Cliven Bundy’s livestock was seized for his refusal to pay fees to the federal government for grazing his cattle on land he insists is the property of the sovereign state of Nevada.

The standoff in the Nevada desert seems to have cooled a little by the federal government’s decision to return over 100 head of cattle to rancher Cliven Bundy.

A deal was reportedly struck between Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) requiring that the federal agency release Bundy’s livestock that was reportedly seized because of the rancher’s refusal to pay fees to the federal government for grazing his cattle on land that he has preemptive rights to, and that, he insists, is the property of the sovereign state of Nevada.

According to a story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “the BLM decided to halt the roundup, fearing for the safety of its agents and the public.”

In a statement released Saturday and quoted by the newspaper, recently confirmed BLM Director Neil Kornze, a former senior adviser to Senator Harry Reid, said, “Based on information about conditions on the ground, and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public.”

The newspaper also reports that Bundy was pleased with the agreement. He reportedly spoke to supporters gathered near his home in Bunkerville, Nevada, telling them, “Good morning America! Good morning world! Isn’t it a beautiful day in Bunkerville?”

The Review-Journal story seems to suggest that the federal government stood down because of citizen militia forming  and threatening to forcibly free Bundy’s cattle. But this does not mean that the federal government has conceded. It is more likely that the feds will do as they have done in so many other cases, and try to use the federal courts to do what armed BLM agents were ordered not to do.

Perhaps in the legal assault it is likely to launch on Bundy's rights, the federal government will be forced to retreat there, too, as it was last year in the case of another Nevada rancher, E. Wayne Hage, where a federal judge ruled in favor of the rancher's property rights and against the BLM's attempted abuses of power.

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