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)

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

  1. Steve says:

    Seems the cowboy is the modern equivalent of native Americans known as “Indians” and the feds are doing to the cowboy what they did to the “Indian”.
    What is truly sad about the Bundy situation is just how badly the Bundy’s have screwed up their own defense.
    The Hage’s actually won what amounts to a Pyrrhic victory. No money, but they got to keep on grazing and the water rights issues are settled in favor of the states.

    Cliven Bundy continues to be wrong in refusing to even open those certified letters. His actions are not helping cowboys they are hurting them.
    It was not Bundy that got the attention of all those people, it was the action of the BLM with their “first amendment area” that sparked so much nationwide anger and tapped into the underlying offense towards the feds in what is becoming a non partisan feeling in a larger and larger segment of this country’s population. If the feds don’t get that message and continue the actions they have shown in this event things will only get worse.

    Harry Reid calling these protesters “domestic terrorists” is a bad indication and points to an unsettling future.

  2. Ramona Morrison says:

    Brilliant again!

    Ramona Hage Morrison


  3. Vernon Clayson says:

    Harry Reid is of the legislative branch, launching himself into circumstances involving law enforcement is undue interference with their local, state, and federal responsibilities. He’s neither prosecutor nor law enforcement agent, his ridiculous assertions that the citizen demonstrators are “domestic terrorists” are those of an outsider in the process; whatever their part in the demonstration, his comments add fuel to the fire and certainly won’t help settle the affray. Was he sent here by a White House hoping his influence would prevent another scandal that it can ill afford, it surely doesn’t want another Waco-like massacre on top of all the scandals that have erupted during this president’s administration. Changing course a little, it really is difficult to understand how a few hundred cattle grazing on an area of land that a man couldn’t walk across in a day is that big a deal, I do understand there are rules but they’ve all been applied since this family started the ranch, why not a grandfather clause consideration, the Bundy family had cattle out there when Nevada was only 15 years into statehood. Sadly, this is history in the making; the government is intent on closing down the last ranch in Clark County, Nevada, a county that is larger than many states. One more thing, Harry Reid is like a stuck needle, he’s into that business claiming Bundy doesn’t pay taxes, the same bleat he made about Mitt Romney.

  4. […] that cattle grazing in any way harms tortoises or their habitat. In fact, biologists have found desert tortoises thrive where cattle are […]

  5. nyp says:

    You dare to compare our country to Nazi Germany.

  6. […] He was told he could graze from July to February, though desert range cattle actually lose weight during those months. To comply he would have to sell all his cattle for slaughter and go out of business. […]

  7. […] mentions that, if he had complied with the restrictions that came with such permits, he would have gone out of business 20 years […]

  8. […] in Clark County since the 1880s, but 25 years ago the Bureau of Land Management told the family it could no longer graze cattle in the spring because they might harm the hatchlings of the threatened desert tortoise — a […]

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