ON Kilter: Trespass cattleman not above the law

OPINION –  The Bureau of Land Management in Nevada has issued a closure of  some 600,000 acres of public lands and is in the process of seizing cattle illegally grazing on public land.

According to the BLM’s press release published by St. George News Thursday: “The BLM and (National Park Service) have made repeated attempts to resolve this matter administratively and judicially. Impoundment of cattle illegally grazing on public lands is an option of last resort.”

The alleged owner of the cattle is Bunkerville, Nev., resident Cliven Bundy. According to a Tuesday report by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “Bundy has said he doesn’t recognize the federal government’s authority to tell him what to do on land his family has used since 1877 but does not own. He said he will ‘do whatever it takes’ to protect his cattle and his property rights.”

A range war of sorts now ensues.

Note that Bundy admits he does not own the land he lays claim to use of and that he never has owned the land. According to an article in Let’s Talk Nevada: “Beginning twenty years ago in 1993, the BLM has been in dispute with Bundy over his right to graze the Bunkerville allotment of the Gold Butte area. After the BLM terminated Bundy’s grazing permit for Bundy’s failure to pay required grazing fees in 1998, Clark County, as administrator for the Clark County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan, purchased the grazing rights from the BLM for 375,000 dollars and retired them, in order to fulfill requirements under that plan to protect endangered desert tortoises.”

Ardent supporters of Bundy argue that although people in this country are beholden to federal law, this is an exception because the laws prohibiting some of his practices are not legal ones to begin with.
Were that it was so simple.

My colleague and opinion columnist Bryan Hyde said in a post on Fox News 1450 Facebook:

Cliven has successfully fought the BLM for many years on the grounds that they were breaking their own laws or making up rules as they went. How can a person play ball when his opponent claims the power to change the rules mid-game? I believe the Bundys are better conservationists than most environmentalists.

In doing so, Hyde sounds somewhat like one laying claim to a valid argument; but, pay attention, its made of straw.

While it is environmental concerns that laid the foundation for the laws making grazing on the public land in question illegal, what is being waged here is not an environmental war but rather one over simple noncompliance with the law – law that Bundy has been willfully and defiantly violating for decades.

According to a March 11 report in The Mesquite Citizen Journal: “… the BLM is working to comply with two court orders issued by Federal Judges, one in July 2013 and the other in October 2013. Those two orders follow numerous others issued by the courts clear back to 1998.”

The orders were for Bundy to remove his cattle from federal land.

One would be challenged to find any case where this kind of lawbreaking went unfettered for so long.

What eventually happened was that in response to the blatant disregard for law and seeming protection from local municipalities, the Center for Biological Diversity sued the BLM for not enforcing the court orders. They are now being required under federal mandate to do their jobs. Why to this point the BLM has not done so is open to speculation.

What stands out here locally is the predictable support for Bundy and his defiance of the federal government, a prevalent attitude, however misguided, in Utah.

Why misguided you ask?

Hypocrisy.

In 2012, environmental activist Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to federal prison for upending a federal auction of state land to oil industry. DeChristopher posed as a bidder winning thousands of acres and when he was discovered to be a fraud, he was charged and eventually convicted.

It was eventually revealed in the court proceedings that the auction was in fact illegal to begin with, but this did not avert DeChristopher’s culpability.

I wager not one of the ardent defenders of Bundy’s pseudo-patriotic defiance of state defended DeChistopher in what is pound-for-pound the same scenario.

Except … DeChristopher broke the law for about an hour. Bundy has been breaking it repeatedly for 20 years.

When an individual impassioned about a cause, a business, a family tradition, sees the laws impeding them as unjust and takes illegal action to amend it, they are perhaps just in their cause but in the end they learn what all of us must learn: to right injustice in civil society, one must operate within the constructs of the law or suffer the consequences.

DeChristopher did. So will Bundy.

Bundy would do well to grasp that he does not live in the Nevada Territory, he lives in the United States.

See you out there.

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Dallas Hyland is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: dhyland@stgnews.com

Twitter: @dallashyland

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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13 Comments

  • Bub March 28, 2014 at 10:45 am

    Wouldn’t even bother to quote Hyde. Just quoting one of his loopy statements might take one’s credibility down a few notches, just sayin.

    • skip2maloo March 29, 2014 at 11:17 am

      But Hyde might be on to something that could bring a satisfactory resolution and a win-win for both the Feds and Bundy (and especially the cows!). If, as the writer contends, Hyde’s argument is made of straw, then why don’t we, as resourceful Westerners capitalize on this: Give Hyde a daily spot in SGN and we’ll cultivate enough grass to feed Bundy’s herd AND keep the turtles safe and sound! What say ye good people!!

  • Just an Old Man March 28, 2014 at 11:44 am

    “BUB”
    Bacillus Uvula Bacchus

  • Roy J March 28, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    Think Dallas may be right on this one: Clark County 2014 is not the Powder River of 1892…the Bureau of Land Management is not the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.

  • Roy J March 28, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    Having said that, I think it is lousy that a man’s heritage and livelihood should be done in by a stupid tortoise protection act. However, how the federal government chooses to use federal lands is it’s business. I don’t know if this is an example of emminent domain or not, but I think it is very similar.

  • crypto666 March 29, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    When you learn the little fact that:
    A. Mr Bundy was paid in a buy out of his allotments just like other ranchers in the area, but did not keep his end of the bargain.

    B. Mr Bundy does not manage his cattle, does not follow any kind of grazing plan, does not rest or rotate, and just uses the area as his own breeding grounds and holding pasture.

    Then perhaps it isn’t the most noble of figures, nor is it any sort of government takeover.

    • Observer March 30, 2014 at 10:10 am

      Do you know he was paid for a fact? Can you prove it? I am just trying to sort out some facts here. I saw that he was offered the deal, but declined it. It sure would change things if he had actually accepted payment and then still ignored the trespass order.

    • GPM April 4, 2014 at 2:22 pm

      It appears that he failed to brand many of his cattle and now is in danger of losing them because he cannot prove he owns them.

    • TerryW April 21, 2014 at 7:15 am

      http://thesouthwestjournal.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/free-grazing-law-breaking-cliven-bundys-stand-against-the-government/

      Excerpt – Some mistakenly believe that this is an environmental issue, or a liberty issue, or a property rights issue, but the facts will reveal that it is a legal issue. Cliven Bundy has been illegally grazing his cattle on federal land and not paying his grazing fees for nearly 20 years. Around 1993 the BLM started revising grazing permits to provide for the protection of the desert tortoise. Mr. Bundy didn’t like the change and so he stopped paying his grazing fees. It was at the moment that he stopped paying his fees that he gave up any legal standing he had to graze on public lands or to seek compensation. In response, the BLM cancelled his permit and would no longer grant him anymore grazing permits on BLM land. Around that time, there was a land swap between Nevada and the Federal Government where Nevada offered to buy the grazing allotments to set up a preserve to protect the desert tortoise in exchange for desert tortoise habitat that they could destroy for development. At the time, all ranchers who had allotments in the area were offered the chance to sell their allotments and did to the tune of roughly $5 million dollars. Mr. Bundy was not given the option of a buy-out for his allotment because he had forfeited his rights to it when he stopped paying his fees. Therefore, the permit was sold to Nevada for $375,000.00. Mr. Bundy now claims they are taking away his right to make a living, but as will be shown, he forfeited it all on his own.

  • Dallas Hlyand March 30, 2014 at 10:26 am

    CRYPTO666

    Can you write me at dallas@stgnews.com and cite to where it can be confirmed that Bundy accepted money for his allotments? Everything I have been able to research so far has indicated he refused the payment.

    Thanks.

  • Dumbas April 4, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    They kill turtles in other parts of Nevada where the solar projects can’t support them or they will hold them in sanctuary s of sorts why don’t they sell the land to cliven for 500 an acre like Harry Reid helped the Chinese buy the land for the solar plant they want to build oh with tax breaks and all what about the turtles there by the way if you have a government agency taking some one to court in this case a government court who do you think will win those conservation groups just want control so later down the road the can sell for a profit to say a solar farm and pad their pockets or gain a position to make a lot of money look at what nancy polosey brother in law fell in to from the help of Harry Reid cliven could only win in a court room of young children that still know right from wrong

    • love cows April 17, 2014 at 2:41 pm

      I agree with you and one must realize that the two solar energy ventures in NV that we the tax payers financed went bankrupt within a couple of years..The one was almost bankrupt when they got the tart money , but, our federal gov gave them our money anyway..I say Cliven fight on as you are really messing up things for Dirty Harry and his family of thieves..Why does Nevada keep towing to these criminals anyway?

  • love cows April 17, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Why is the BLM doing the eviction work of removing the cows when Clark co NV bought these grazing rights for 375,000 a while back? Something smells here…
    Why would Clark co buy these fed grazing rights? No Tortoise needs that much land and it seems to me that Rory Reid and his papa Dirty Harry have themselves in this up to their eyeballs…Reid is always doing those switch land deals for people who are contributors.. He gets them through by hook or crook in DC…He switches Fed land for private owned sagebrush land all the time….Harry Reid is the most corrupt Senator in DC…..

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