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BLM Vs. Nevada Rancher Bundy: What Is The Real Story?

I’ve been following with keen interest the case of the federal government's recent seizure and subsequent release of Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy's herd. I’ve also received countless emails from readers requesting I blog about this case. Admittedly, I’m a bit reluctant to touch this subject – not because I fear the controversy – but because I don’t feel close enough to the situation to fully grasp all the nuances and accurately report on the case.

Nothing is black and white, and considering this scenario has been playing out for almost two decades, there is a whole lot of gray to wade through in arriving at an accurate picture of what is going on with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Bundy.

For one thing, there seems to be a strong undercurrent of resentment among many landowners in the area against the federal government’s management of public lands. The federal government is by far the largest landowner in the U.S., and state and federal land ownership exceeds 30% in at least 16 states, including 90% of Alaska, 80% of Nevada, 70% of Utah, and 65% of Idaho. Despite Bundy's arguments having been rejected by two appeals courts, the BLM-Bundy case has morphed into a much wider debate over freedom, personal property, state rights, taxation and government overreach.


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One of the best accounts I’ve seen of the lead-up to the current standoff in Nevada is provided by in “The Saga Of Bundy Ranch.” And Glenn Beck interviewed Bundy this week about his motivations in refusing to acknowledge federal authority. You can listen and/or read the transcript here.

Of course, reporting on what’s transpiring between Bundy and the BLM in Nevada is shaded somewhat by your political leanings.

  • For instance, MSN News reports that the BLM “began a roundup of the cattle from the Bundy ranch a week ago, contending he owes more than $1 million in back fees, penalties and other costs for grazing his cattle on public land and has ignored court orders. Bundy stopped paying monthly grazing fees in 1993.”
  • Meanwhile, Fox News tells of how “two of Nevada’s top elected leaders are riding to the rescue of a rancher whose decades-long range war with the federal government has reached a boiling point in recent days… Both Gov. Brian Sandoval and Sen. Dean Heller have condemned the BLM for what they characterize as heavy-handed actions involving Bundy and other Silver State residents.”
  • And Alex Jones’ commentary on, entitled, “Armed Feds Prepare For Showdown With Nevada Cattle Rancher,” has a more militant tone: “A Ruby Ridge-style standoff is brewing in Nevada, where dozens of armed federal agents are closing in on cattle rancher Cliven Bundy over claims that Bundy has allowed his cows to graze illegally on government land. Vowing to take a stand for, ‘your liberty and freedom,’ Bundy says he is prepared to be killed as authorities surround a 600,000-acre section of public land as a result of Bundy violating a 1993 BLM ruling which changed grazing rights in order to protect the endangered desert tortoise.”
  • You also can check out this thread entitled, “Tyranny,” to read both some thought-provoking and some bone-headed comments on this topic.

Note that I’m not sharing my opinions on this case because I’m simply not close enough to the situation to have a firm grasp on the real story. However, I would love to hear your first-hand accounts, thoughts, opinions and predictions regarding how this scenario might play out. Is this a state vs. federal issue? Did this rancher do wrong, or was he the wronged party? What can others learn from this situation? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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