OPINION – Unless you simply do not pay attention to local news at all, you are well aware that there is a standoff between a local rancher with his sympathizers, and the federal government. The BLM is currently acting to confiscate cattle that Cliven Bundy has had grazing in northeastern Nevada for years, the last 20 years without paying grazing permit fees. The BLM, supported by U.S. District Court orders, maintains the cattle constitute trespass on government-owned public land. Read St. George News initial report on the range war here.
Even Bundy’s most ardent supporters seem to be conceding the fact that he is going to lose and from all that I am able to ascertain, they are right.
But here is the rub that may surprise some people: I have been trying to find a way, some way, that Cliven Bundy could win this battle – some legal loophole, some place where the federal government went wrong in a way that can be concretely combatted in real court, not the court of public saber rattling. I cannot find anything.
Permit me an analogy?
I get out into the backcountry a bit. It goes without saying that some preparedness is a requisite routine for this activity especially here in the desert where the literal landscape can kill you. I have, at least on a few occasions, pushed my luck.
One such occasion was a hike on Red Mountain. A friend and I ascended the plateau from the Kayenta area intending only to climb and descend the same route. But the view and the exhilaration of the climb led us to traversing the mountain to descend the route just above Ivins. We had started in the cool of a July morning but by the time we got across, the full noontime sun was doing what it does and I was out of water. So was my friend.
Those who know that route know it is just that. A route, not a marked or even clear trail. The terrain is steep, loose, and laden with multiple random drop-offs of more than 40 feet. The route intends for ascent or descent to be achieved by navigating between these drops and, on this day, we missed our mark several times leaving us to backtracking up the steep terrain to try again.
I distinctly remember telling my friend after asking him if his bottle was dry like mine: “Our next decision has to be the right one dude, we are in trouble.”
It was. We made it. Thank you to the not-home resident of Ivins for the use of your front faucet by the way.
The point I am making here is that looking back now on that day, as with many similar and more serious outdoor experiences gone wrong, I can pinpoint the moment I went wrong. Deciding to extend that day under the conditions present with the limited water on hand was it, we had no business proceeding without adequate water.
And so it is in the case of Cliven Bundy.
The day he decided to stop paying his grazing allotment fees required by law, (not imaginary law mind you, but real law passed by Congress and enforced by federal agency) he rendered his voice and any control he had over the destiny and use of the land irrelevant.
But worse than that, I think, is the horrific counsel he must have received from friends he must have had who, like now, did him no service whatsoever pontificating to the point of absurdity with value-laden language that, while it ratchets up the emotional sentiment of some people, sways courts or federal agencies not one bit.
In fact, it makes those courts and agencies nervous – and not in any way that is good for Cliven Bundy or anyone like him.
The Bureau of Land Management may have taken a long time to finally getting around to enforcing court orders, and I do question that.
But while the saber rattlers loosely assert this to be victory of sorts, interpreting it to mean Cliven Bundy is beating them, the fact is Bundy has not won at all. Rather, he has simply gotten away with free grazing while the BLM was derelict in its duties.
One would do well to question why that is. Perhaps they were threatened? Or paid? It would not be the first time such corruption impeded the progress of things in favor of one influence or another.
In the end, all the emotionally charged drivel will fail Cliven Bundy and his supporters. And as much as I sympathize with them on some level, if law carries any weight, it should fail them.
It is said that the definition of insanity is to repeat a process over and over and expect a different result.
In this case, for the community who lays proud claim to settling much of this region that repetitive process is the perpetuation of a state mindset of victimhood. Continually, the response to opposition to anything they do ranging from marriages to multiple wives, to founding of state militias, to blatant discrimination of entire classes of people, is shrouded in a persecution complex. A complex whereby it is completely out of the question to themselves that they were not operating within the confines of law but that somehow the law was unfairly changed against their favor to single them out.
And sadly, the only place that this dwarfed and sophomoric thinking is upheld is here. It will fail in federal court and it will fail in the eyes of intelligent people one and all because it simply lacks merit.
See you out there.
- Iron County Commission letter to the BLM
- Washington County Commission Resolution No. R-2014-1800
- BLM: Northeast Clark County cattle trespass website
- BLM: Taylor Grazing Act
- Bundy Ranch blog
- Bundy Ranch blog: Contact information for Clark County and Nevada officials
- Letter to the Editor: The spirit of the West; range war
- Letter to the Editor: Bundy forfeited right to graze cattle; counter opinion, range war
- Range war: BLM, Iron County to work together on feral horse issue – Iron County
- Range war: County resolves to solve wild horse problem if BLM prioritizes Bundy cattle – Iron County
- Range war: County Commissioners oppose BLM bringing Bundy cattle to Utah – Washington County
- Range war: Rancher stands defiant as BLM moves to impound ‘trespass cattle’
- Perspectives: The Bundys vs the bureaucracy
- ON Kilter: Trespass cattleman not above the law
- BLM, National Park Service close public lands due to trespassing cattle dispute
- ‘Where’s the line?’ Ivory’s crusade to return public lands to the states
Dallas Hyland is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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