The Director of the Bureau of Land Management Neil Kornze — a former aide to Sen. Harry Reid and a former Elko resident who just recently was named to head up the agency — released a statement today calling off the confiscation of privately owned cattle from public range land near Bunkerville. His statement implied a fear that continuing the operation might devolve into gunfire:
“As we have said from the beginning of the gather to remove illegal cattle from federal land consistent with court orders, a safe and peaceful operation is our number one priority. After one week, we have made progress in enforcing two recent court orders to remove the trespass cattle from public lands that belong to all Americans.
“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.
“We ask that all parties in the area remain peaceful and law-abiding as the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service work to end the operation in an orderly manner.
“Ranching has always been an important part of our nation’s heritage and continues throughout the West on public lands that belong to all Americans. This is a matter of fairness and equity, and we remain disappointed that Cliven Bundy continues to not comply with the same laws that 16,000 public lands ranchers do every year. After 20 years and multiple court orders to remove the trespass cattle, Mr. Bundy owes the American taxpayers in excess of $1 million. The BLM will continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially.”
Yes, it is a matter of fairness and equity. At one time there were 52 cattle ranchers in Clark County. Cliven Bundy, whose family has run cattle in the area since 1880, long before there was a BLM, is the last of the breed.
Twenty years ago the BLM, as it is wont to do, came to Bundy and flat out told him he could not graze his federal allotment in the spring to prevent his thousand-pound cows from stomping on little baby desert tortoises, as recounted by then-Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Vin Suprynowicz.
Up until then, Bundy paid the BLM so much per head per month to “manage” the public lands.
His cattle were being kicked off the range even though biologist Vern Bostic had demonstrated decades earlier that desert tortoises do better where cattle are grazed, the column said. He stopped paying for such “management.”
Bundy was also told to remove all his water tanks and the lines that feed them from local springs. Never mind that water rights are granted by the state and federal government is not allowed to interfere with those rights.
The column reported:
“But what’s real-world, empirical evidence provided by local yokels with calloused hands and funny western drawls, to ‘experts’ who’ve got the proper college degrees?
“The only time cattle will fatten on a desert range is in the springtime. Cliven explained to the BLM guys that he had no big feed lot on which to hold his cattle during the spring — even if he could afford to do so, with hay now at $400. The only option they were giving him was to sell his cattle for slaughter in February, and then to buy new stock and put them on the land in July. He says the BLM guys told him that would be fine.”
“But from mid-summer through February, cattle on a desert range LOSE weight. Besides which, ‘You can’t bring in cattle from elsewhere and start them in this desert,’ Bundy explains. ‘If they’re not raised on this range by their mamas, who show them what to eat, those cattle starve.'”
“But you can’t outlast the federal government, nor beat them with logic, principle, hard work or evidence.”
According to reports today, federal agents have brought in backhoes and torn up Bundy’s water pipes. Will the federal government reimburse him for his lost water rights? Sounds like a willful act of sabotage.
Also, there is no word as to what will happen to the 400 head of cattle the federal government has already rounded up.
Even though Bundy is in the headlines, the same thing is happening quietly all over the state.
J.J. Goicoechea — veterinarian, rancher, chairman of Eureka County Commission and past president of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association — says the federal land agencies are using drought, sage hens and wild horses and any other excuse to kick ranchers off the land.
Goicoechea estimates Nevada has lost half of its breeding cows over the past three years — approaching 300,000, down from more than a million in the 1980s.
“We’re on a bubble right now. If we get this reversed and we get some moisture and we get what we need to get a green up, some of these guys can survive,” Giocoechea said. “They can bring their cattle back and see over the next couple of years a rebuild. If they liquidate and go away that next generation isn’t going to be there to fill their shoes. … The next 12 months will be critical to the livestock industry in the state of Nevada, and that will dictate whether we’re here in 10 years or not.”
Fox News quoted Bundy as saying, “Years ago, I used to have 52 neighboring ranchers. I’m the last man standing. How come? Because BLM regulated these people off the land and out of business.”
Bundy, 67, is the last rancher standing in Clark County. It is questionable, in the face of BLM mismanagement, how long he and others of his ilk can survive.