Commissioner Tom Collins tells people to do as he says, not as he did

Back in May 2010, the Clark County Commission held a hearing on whether to ask Congress to designate the Gold Butte area a National Conservation Area.

During the hearing Commissioner Tom Collins said:

“Just to back up to 1993, 1994, I stood out on a hill — I was a freshman legislator in the Nevada state Legislature — and I stood out on a hill with, I don’t know, 30 or 40 other people and stood out there with Cliven Bundy and his family and John and Ellie Ahearn and few other folks. And we were saying come on federal government, come take my cows, come and take me, whatever. We’re standing out there, a bunch of us armed, in protest of the federal government changing in the laws out there.”

He went on to emphasize that Gold Butte is federal land and every citizen has a stake in that land.

Tom Collins (R-J photo)

Gold Butte is the area where Bundy and a few armed, self-styled militia types in recent weeks faced down well armed BLM agents who were backing up contract cowboys who were confiscating Bundy’s cattle, which they said were trespassing on federal land and for which Bundy had not paid grazing fees for 20 years.

At the time, this same Tom Collins said in a phone conversation with Piute County (Utah) Commissioner Darin Bushman, about the possibility of Utah ranchers and ranch hands showing up to support Bundy, that the Utahns should mind their “own (expletive) business,” calling them “inbred bastards.”

Collins also suggested that anyone coming to Clark County had “better have funeral plans.”

“I’m trying to do everything I can to discourage anybody who tells me they’re coming here with loaded guns,” Collins told a Las Vegas newspaper reporter. “I’m going to tell them not to come,” adding that “all these gun-packing folks just need to go home.”

He later apologized for the remarks.

What a difference 20 years makes.

R-J quotes the state Constitution … up to a point

Harry Reid to the right of R-J columnist, if that is possible. (R-J photo by John Locher)

The Las Vegas Review-Journal quotes the Nevada Constitution in the story today in which Harry Reid calls armed opponents of the BLM’s confiscation of Cliven Bundy’s cattle in the Gold Butte area “domestic terrorists.”

The story states:

“Nevada’s 1864 Constitution, however, cedes rights to the vast stretches of public land to the federal government.

“’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,’ the state Constitution says in the ordinance section.

“Reid noted many of the protesters care deeply about the Constitution, both state and federal.

“’Nevada’s Constitution sets out very clearly the situation,’ Reid said.”

That’s accurate, though incomplete.

The story leaves out a footnote:

” [Amended in 1956 and 1996. The first amendment was proposed and passed by the 1953 legislature; agreed to and passed by the 1955 legislature; approved and ratified by the people at the 1956 general election. See: Statutes of Nevada 1953, p. 718; Statutes of Nevada 1955, p. 926. The second amendment was proposed and passed by the 1993 legislature; agreed to and passed by the 1995 legislature; and approved and ratified by the people at the 1996 general election, effective on the date Congress consents to amendment or a legal determination is made that such consent is not necessary. See: Statutes of Nevada 1993, p. 3136; Statutes of Nevada 1995, p. 2917.]“

The Legislature and the voters — by more than 56 percent in 1996 — repealed the so-called Disclaimer Clause. But for 18 years the Congress and the courts have done nothing to carry out the will of the voters of Nevada.

So, what does the state Constitution really say now?

In reply to Reid, Bundy said it was the armed-to-the-teeth BLM agents who were the terrorists.

 

 

 

Newspaper column: If Bundy had followed BLM orders, he’d have shut down 20 years ago

Officials of the Bureau of Land Management insist Bunkerville cattle rancher Cliven Bundy “owes the American taxpayers in excess of $1 million” in unpaid grazing fees for the past two decades.

That was why they closed off 600,000 acres of federal public land and started confiscating Bundy’s cattle, as recounted in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press.

But when armed protesters showed up this past weekend, the Director of the BLM Neil Kornze — a former aide to Sen. Harry Reid and a former Elko resident who was named to head up the agency earlier this month — abruptly called a halt to the roundup.

“Based on information about conditions on the ground, and in consultation with law enforcement,” Kornze said in a statement, “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.”

He called the confiscation “a matter of fairness and equity.”

At one time there were 52 cattle ranchers in Clark County. Largely as a result of BLM fairness and equity, Cliven Bundy, whose family has run cattle in the area since long before there was a BLM, is the last of the breed.

According to Bundy’s daughter, Shiree Bundy Cox, her great-grandfather bought the rights to the Bunkerville allotment around 1887.

The BLM started charging fees to manage the federal land. “They were supposed to assist the ranchers in the management of their ranges …” Cox writes online.

Twenty years ago the BLM went to Bundy and told him he could not graze in the spring. This was supposed to prevent his cows from stomping on endangered desert tortoises.

But range biologist Vernon Bostic wrote in “Ecology of the Desert Tortoise in Relation to Cattle Grazing” that the greatest death loss of desert tortoises during the drought of 1981 occurred in an allotment where cattle had been excluded. In an adjoining allotment where cattle grazed all year long, the tortoises were relatively unaffected by the severe drought. “The reason is simple: Cows provide tortoises with both food and drink,” wrote Bostic.

Bundy was told he could not graze in the spring and to remove all his water tanks and the lines that fed them from local springs. Never mind that water rights are granted by the state of Nevada.

Bundy explained to the BLM that from July to February desert range cattle actually lose weight. He would go out of business.

It was go out of business or defy the BLM’s arbitrary and unscientific dictates. Bundy is the last major rancher in Clark County for a reason.

Which is the endangered species? Tortoises? Or cowboys?

Read the full column at Ely or Elko.

Cliven Bundy with Sheriff Doug Gillespie (R-J photo via AP)

BLM carries out the order of one federal judge, while ignoring the order of another

A number of people have noted that the BLM was just carrying out a federal judge’s order when it bungled its attempt to roundup rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle from federal public land in the Gold Butte area.

Federal Judge Lloyd George authorized the BLM to confiscate Bundy’s cattle and the agency dutifully attempted to do so.

Wayne N. Hage testifies before Congress.

But in September 2012 another federal judge, Robert Jones, found that in the Hage Ranch case Tonopah BLM manager Tom Seley and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Service ranger Steve Williams were in contempt for witness intimidation and attempts to circumvent the jurisdiction of the court over issues of grazing and water rights that were being litigated in federal court. The judge said there was “intent to deprive this court of jurisdiction by intimidation of witnesses and threats against witnesses.”

Judge Jones ordered from the bench, “Mr. Seley can no longer be an administrator in this BLM district. I don’t trust him to be unbiased. Nor can he supervise anybody in this district.”

A year later the son of the ranch owner who brought the case, Wayne N. Hage, testified before Congress that nothing was done to the two men cited. One still holds the same office and Seley retired.

In written testimony, which followed somewhat his spoken testimony, Hage stated:

“It is warming to know that with regard to the Courts that we still have the Rule of Law. Although as I have found out it is nearly impossible to defend a persons property and rights in the courts due to the financial burdens and the length of time involved. (My Mother and Father filed the original case and were not able to live long enough to see the end of the litigation. My step Mother died before there was an end to the litigation and it is looking like my siblings and I may be in old age before this is concluded.) However there it is becoming very apparent that there is no rule of law with regard to the employs of the BLM, USFS and perhaps the DOJ, there we have the rule of man. I remind congress that Aristotle explained that the difference between a correct form of government and perverse form of government is that the former is the Rule of Law and the latter is the rule of man.”

I guess some judicial orders are more equal than others.

What is the law of the land when it comes to public lands in Nevada?

Cliven Bundy. (Getty Images)

Now that the federal standoff with Cliven Bundy over his grazing cattle on public lands without paying grazing fees is at a hiatus, perhaps it is time to once again look at a couple of aspects of the legal arguments.

Bundy claims the federal government is wrongly claiming land that should be controlled by the state of Nevada and/or Clark County.

He lost that argument in federal court when Judge Lloyd George ruled against all his arguments by citing findings in a similar case out of Elko County by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled against rancher Clifford Gardner who had been running cattle on Forest Service land without paying a grazing fee. He was told to keep cattle off the land for a certain period after a wildfire.

Here is a footnote from that case:

“Gardners point out that Nevada recently passed a statute claiming ownership over all public lands within its boundaries, Nev.Rev.Stat. 321.5973. Gardners claim that the passage of this law further demonstrates that title to the public lands in Nevada properly rests in the state, not the federal, government. Gardners fail to note, however, that the Nevada statute by its own terms excludes national forest lands from the public lands claimed by Nevada.   See Nev.Rev.Stat. § 321.5963.”

Yes, the statute excluded “congressionally authorized national parks, monuments, national forests or wildlife refuges.”

But Bundy is grazing his cattle on BLM land. Whether that would have made a difference to the 9th Circuit is unknown.

In 1996, more than 56 percent of Nevada voters agree to remove from the state Constitution the so-called Disclaimer Clause under which the residents of the territory agreed to essentially deed all unappropriated land inside the future state to the federal government, though it said that land “shall be sold,” with 5 percent of proceeds going to the state.

Here is what was voted on in 1996. Note the portion with the strike-through:

SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION – Proposing to amend the ordinance of the Nevada constitution to repeal the disclaimer of interest of the state in unappropriated public lands.

WHEREAS, The State of Nevada has a strong moral claim upon the public land retained by the Federal Government within Nevada’s borders; and

WHEREAS, On October 31, 1864, the Territory of Nevada was admitted to statehood on the condition that it forever disclaim all right and title to unappropriated public land within its boundaries; and

WHEREAS, Nevada received the least amount of land, 2,572,478 acres, and the smallest percentage of its total area, 3.9 percent, of the land grant states in the Far West admitted after 1864, while states of comparable location and soil, including Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, received approximately 11 percent of their total area in federal land grants; and

WHEREAS, The State of Texas, when admitted to the Union in 1845, retained ownership of all unappropriated land within its borders; and

WHEREAS, The federal holdings in the State of Nevada constitute 86.7 percent of the area of the state, and in Esmeralda, Lincoln, Mineral, Nye and White Pine counties the Federal Government controls from 97 to 99 percent of the land; and

WHEREAS, The federal jurisdiction over the public domain is shared among several federal agencies or departments which causes problems concerning the proper management of the land and disrupts the normal relationship between a state, its residents and its property; and

WHEREAS, The intent of the framers of the Constitution of the United States was to guarantee to each of the states sovereignty over all matters within its boundaries except for those powers specifically granted to the United States as agent of the states; and

WHEREAS, The exercise of dominion and control of the public lands within the State of Nevada by the United States works a severe, continuous and debilitating hardship upon the people of the State of Nevada; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED BY THE SENATE AND ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF NEVADA, JOINTLY, That the ordinance of the constitution of the State of Nevada be amended to read as follows:

In obedience to the requirements of an act of the Congress of the United States, approved March twenty-first, A.D. eighteen hundred and sixty-four, to enable the people of Nevada to form a constitution and state government, this convention, elected and convened in obedience to said enabling act, do ordain as follows, and this ordinance shall be irrevocable, without the consent of the United States and the people of the State of Nevada:

First.  That there shall be in this state neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, otherwise than in the punishment for crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.

Second.  That perfect toleration of religious sentiment shall be secured, and no inhabitant of said state shall ever be molested, in person or property, on account of his or her mode of religious worship.

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; and that] lands belonging to citizens of the United States, residing without the said state, shall never be taxed higher than the land belonging to the residents thereof; and that no taxes shall be imposed by said state on lands or property therein belonging to, or which may hereafter be purchased by, the United States, unless otherwise provided by the Congress of the United States.

And be it further

RESOLVED, That the Legislature of the State of Nevada hereby urges the Congress of the United States to consent to the amendment of the ordinance of the Nevada constitution to remove the disclaimer concerning the right of the Federal Government to sole and entire disposition of the unappropriated public lands in Nevada; and be it further

RESOLVED, That, upon approval and ratification of the amendment proposed by this resolution by the people of the State of Nevada, copies of this resolution be prepared and transmitted by the Secretary of the Senate to the Vice President of the United States as presiding officer of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and each member of the Nevada Congressional Delegation; and be it further

RESOLVED, That this resolution becomes effective upon passage and approval, except that, notwithstanding any other provision of law, the proposed amendment to the ordinance of the constitution of the State of Nevada, if approved and ratified by the people of the State of Nevada, does not become effective until the Congress of the United States consents to the amendment or upon a legal determination that such consent is not necessary.

Neither Congress nor the courts have taken any action in 18 years. They’ve basically thumbed their collective noses at the voters of Nevada. If a vote of the people is ignored for 18 years, could it be argued that it has become law by default? Silence constitutes consent.

Now, as for what powers the sheriffs of various counties might have, here is what the 9th Circuit said about the police powers reversed to the state’s under the 10th Amendment:

“Gardners argue that federal ownership of the public lands in Nevada is unconstitutional under the Tenth Amendment. Such ownership, they argue, invades ‘core state powers reserved to Nevada,’ such as the police power.

“Federal ownership of the public lands within a state does not completely divest the state from the ability to exercise its own sovereignty over that land.   The state government and the federal government exercise concurrent jurisdiction over the land. In Kleppe v. New Mexico, the Supreme Court held that the Wild Free-roaming Horses and Burros Act was not an impermissible intrusion on the sovereignty of New Mexico. … In so doing, the Court noted:

“Absent consent or cession a State undoubtedly retains jurisdiction over federal lands within its territory, but Congress equally surely retains the power to enact legislation respecting those lands pursuant to the Property Clause. [citations omitted] And when Congress so acts, the federal legislation necessarily overrides conflicting state laws under the Supremacy Clause.

“Indeed, a state may enforce its criminal and civil laws on federal land ‘so long as those laws do not conflict with federal law.’ … The state of Nevada, then, is not being unconstitutionally deprived of the ability to govern the land within its borders. The state may exercise its civil and criminal jurisdiction over federal lands within its borders as long as it exercises its power in a manner that does not conflict with federal law.”

What could the sheriff have done to keep the peace?

 

That hyperlocal ‘reporter’ may actually be miles away

Jim Romenesko’s journalism blog had an interesting piece earlier this week revealing the further depths of cheapness to which the latest management team at the Las Vegas Review-Journal will sink.

It seems that an outfit called Journatic —which was caught using fake bylines for reporters who actually worked out of the Philippines, as well as plagiarism and outright fabrication has risen from the ashes as LocalLabs. Like its forerunner the firm claims it creates hyperlocal news accounts for various newspapers and other outlets. Similar firms use “reporters” based in India who get local “news” via phone or Internet.

The company would not tell Romenesko who their clients are, but he managed to find a source who confirmed the Chicago-based outfit is providing copy to the R-J for its View sections — purportedly sections serving various neighborhoods but which are really market saturation vehicles for advertisers because versions of them are thrown in the driveways of non-subscribers.

Romenesko reports:

“I have learned, though, that the Las Vegas Review-Journal is using the Chicago-based LocalLabs for one of its View neighborhood sections. (Publisher Ed Moss, who is known for  cutting newspaper staffs, made the decision to hire LocalLabs as a cost-savings measure, I’m told. I’ve sent him some questions.)

“The Review-Journal View section last week had stories by LocalLabs writers Jessica Sabbah (based in Chicago) and Kasey Schefflin-Emrich (in New York), along with stories by the five fulltime Review-Journal View journalists who fear they could lose their jobs to LocalLab contributors.”

Romemesko’s source told him, “The writers and editors are upset, and raised concerns, but they’re also resigned to their fate.”

The alleged “stories” under those bylines in the past couple of weeks have been little more than ads for homes for sale or businesses such as tattoo parlors and webpage builders. Might LocalLabs be charging the paper for content and charging the local companies for placement? Just speculating.

Here is one example:

View "news" story.

View “news” story.

Fox commentator explains what probably will happen next in the Bundy saga

Cliven Bundy addresses crowd. (R-J photo)

Judge Andrew Napolitano on Fox & Friends today explains what the government did wrong in trying to impound Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle and what they should have done.

As I mentioned Monday, the way to handle a civil judgment is not to send in an invading army but to sit down at a computer somewhere in a government cubicle and file a lien against Bundy’s property.

I wonder how many desert tortoises, just coming out of hibernation, got stomped to death in this fiasco. This is the very time of year the BLM told Bundy he could not graze his cattle on the Gold Butte range because they might step on baby tortoises — a contention that has been proven false.

As for why Harry Reid would have any knowledge or say in any of this is another mystery. But he told a Reno television station Monday: “Well, it’s not over. We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it’s not over.”

Federal Judge Lloyd George dismissed out of hand Budy’s states’ rights arguments:

“Bundy principally opposes the United States’ motion for summary judgment on the ground that this court lacks jurisdiction because the United States does not own the public lands in question. As this court previously ruled in United States v. Bundy, Case No. CV-S- 98-531-JBR (RJJ) (D. Nev. Nov. 4, 1998), “the 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.” CV-S-98-531 at 8 (citing United States v. Gardner, 107 F.3d 1314, 1318 (9th Cir. 1997)). Moreover, Bundy is incorrect in claiming that the Disclaimer Clause of the Nevada Constitution carries no legal force, see Gardner, 107 F.3d at 1320; that the Property Clause of the United States Constitution applies only to federal lands outside the borders of states, see id. at 1320; that the United States‘ exercise of ownership over federal lands violates the Equal Footing Doctrine, see id. at 1319; that the United States is basing its authority to sanction Bundy for his unauthorized use of federal lands on the Endangered Species Act as opposed to trespass, see Compl. at ¶¶ 1,3, 26-39; and that Nevada’s “Open Range” statute excuses Bundy’s trespass. See e.g., Gardner, 107 F.3d at 1320 (under Supremacy Clause state statute in conflict with federal law requiring permit to graze would be trumped).”

Instead of ordering a lien on Bundy’s property, George concluded “that the United States is entitled to seize and remove to impound any of Bundy’s cattle for any future trespasses, provided the United States has provided notice to Bundy under the governing regulations of the United States Department of the Interior.”

George cites a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against Humboldt rancher Cliff Gardner, who argued that the state Disclaimer Clause violated the Equal Footing Doctrine and cited the 10th Amendment — to no avail.

The court also dismissed his argument about the Guarantee Clause of the Constitution:

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.”

Gardner was jailed for a month and fined $5,000.