Tensions are rising and the potential for violence is escalating in Nevada’s Mohave Desert. Last week more than 200 armed federal agents from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other agencies, many decked out in camouflage uniforms, descended on the area around Bunkerville, a small town 70 miles northeast of Las Vegas, near Nevada’s borders with Arizona and Utah. According to coverage one is likely to see from the Establishment media, the show of force is necessary to remove Cliven Bundy’s cattle from “public lands” where they are, allegedly, damaging the “fragile” habitat of the protected desert tortoise. That is the story that is being dispensed by the BLM and retailed in most media accounts.
Cliven Bundy (shown in photo) and his family, friends and neighbors, as well as some legal scholars, tell a different story. According to Bundy, whose family has been ranching in the area since the 1800s, the BLM’s armed invasion and occupation of Nevada has nothing to do with protecting the tortoise and everything to do with running him off the land, as it has already done to all of the other ranchers in Clark County. He notes that more than 50 other ranchers have been bankrupted, intimidated, and forced to give up their land and legal property rights. He is, he points out, “the last man standing”; and now that generations of ranching families have been driven out, federal officials have dropped the pretense that it is all about saving the “endangered” tortoise and have actually been killing the reptiles by the hundreds.
Yes, that is true; as reported by the liberal Huffington Post and other media outlets last year, the BLM began “euthanizing” the tortoises, claiming the agency did not have sufficient funds in its budget to manage the habitat. How then, critics point out, can the BLM justify the $1 million or more that it will spend rounding up the Bundy family’s cattle. And if the tortoise habitat is so precious and sensitive that the sparse cattle population — which had co-existed with the turtles for generations — had to be removed, why has the BLM been selling the former ranch land to developers?
The World is Watching
On a closer examination, the case against Cliven Bundy is not the open-and-shut case the federal government, the media, and the environmental activist groups, such as the Center for Biological Diversity, make it out to be. As California State University criminology professor Jason Kissner pointed out in a column for American Thinker yesterday, it is the Obama administration’s BLM and Attorney General Eric Holder that are engaged in “brazen lawlessness.” Federal officials are exploiting the fact that few Americans understand the legal complexities of the “split estate,” “prior appropriation doctrine,” and other principles governing water rights, grazing rights, and other land use/property rights on “public” and private lands, that are different in the arid West than in other parts of the country.
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Photo: Cliven Bundy