Still No Clear Innocence In Rancher’s Evasion Of Government Grassland Rent

Now, just about everybody across the land has heard at least a bit about a Nevada rancher’s conflict over back payments for his cattle grazing government-owned land.

Media sources at every level have touched on the issue with major wire service stories making front pages and airwaves giving peak time play. Each has an individual take on the issue at hand, and evidently nobody knows anything for certain.

New quirks to the saga’s dilemma continue forthcoming, with opinions pro and con flaring some hot and others most pacified.

Best analysis still at this point, there are two sides to every story. Somebody’s guilty, but more than likely both parties need to take some place. Whether that plays out, time will tell, or perhaps not.

Considering there is a vast inkling on the matter, a different angle on background seems appropriate before delving into the topic at hand.

According to reams of compiled reports from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) , the federal government owns about 660 million acres in the United States, nearly 90 percent in the western half of the country.

Actually one of every two acres in the “West,” is government owned, including national parks, historic areas, oil and gas exploration leases, recreation areas, and, the issue now, acreages for leasing to individuals to graze livestock.

Cliven Bundy, Bunkerville, Nevada, is a recognized figure around the country, as the lifelong rancher’s photo has been shown in every media during recent days since controversy has risen about his possible failure to pay lease payments for grazing cattle on federal government owned land. (CNN photo)

Livestock ranchers pay a grazing fee established by a presidential Executive Order in 1986. Currently, the grazing fee is $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM), or the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month.

Reports indicate the figure is adjusted each year, according to current private grazing land lease rates, beef cattle prices and the cost of livestock production, while the present lease rate is the same  in 2013.

Bureau of Land Management rulings state that beyond paying a grazing fee, ranchers leasing government acreages are responsible for managing the land and resources, including caring for wildlife habitat, managing noxious weeds, and decreasing potential wildfire fuels.

Leasing arrangements between ranchers and the federal government have typically been long standing without much reported disgruntlement until now.

The rancher in the news now, Cliven Bundy and his family previously had Nevada grazing permits on approximately 600,000 acres in an area owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management called Gold Butte.

In 1998, this land was declared habitat for the desert tortoise, which is protected under the Endangered Species Act, making it off limits for cattle grazing.

But, Bundy’s disgruntlement  actually started five years earlier, when he stopped paying the federal grazing fee in 1993.

Bundy admits owing, yet is refusing the federal government back fees totaling about $300,000. However, BLM tabulations calculate that number is more than $1 million.

In July 2013, Bundy was issued a third Court Order directing him to remove his livestock from the land within 45 days.

If the animals were not removed, according to the order, they could be seized by the BLM. Since that time, the family refused to comply with the order.

In early April, after years of violations of multiple court orders, the BLM began rounding up all cattle that were trespassing on the land.

They were confronted by unarmed protesters supporting Bundy who were blocking a local bridge. A group of the Bundy’s family supporters, some armed, confronted the BLM and requested the cattle back.

 After negotiations under the same bridge, the BLM eventually backed down and returned the cattle.

 “My family has preemptive, adjudicated livestock water rights filed with the state of Nevada. They were established in 1877 when the first pioneers entered the valley. Among those first pioneers were my grandparents from my mother’s side. My father either bought or inherited his Nevada state livestock water rights and I, in turn, have done the same,” Cliven Bundy claimed.

However, a U.S. News & World Report opinion analyzed: “Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze was right when he said, Mr. Bundy owes the American taxpayers in excess of $1 million. Public lands belong to the American public. Regardless of his opinion of the Nevada Constitution, Mr. Bundy owes all of us that tidy sum. And he should us owe much, much more.”

It was a standoff between law enforcement and some ranch family supporters when Bureau of Land Management attempted to claim cattle owned by Cliven Bundy in payment for past due government land grazing. To prevent injuries, lawmen backed off, but considerable coverage of the issue at hand is continuing. (CNN photo)

“This is my personal view.  I view Cliven Bundy as another rancher, I think he loves the land and the cattle business. I believe his philosophy differs from our views in the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association. I respect his position and tip my hat to him for sticking to his guns,” said Ron Torell, president of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association.

“We’re in a moment of critical mass. We have so anti-government groups who believe the federal government is working against them, who believe Obama is secretly a Muslim, a communist, or not even an American,” he said. “There are people who will stand up to the federal government and risk their lives to do so,” contended Ryan Lenz of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“I have a lot of sympathy for the Bundys. I think they were completely mistreated by the federal government. But I still think it’s important to point out that this land does not belong to them and that’s not a minor distinction, it’s the essence of private property,”  evaluated Tucker Carlson on Fox News.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid’s role in the siege at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, has only brought questions about certain unethical dealings which are coming to the forefront.

Most commentary in recent days has been about claims that in a public interview Cliven Bundy was ‘advocating slavery.’

Critics now cite how the “New York Times” had, in fact, taken comments out of contents, taken advantage of his provincial vocabulary, spinning it against him, and ignoring actual meaning of Bundy’s statement.



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