The Bundy Ranch Story is an Old One

Tom Kenworthy at Think Progress goes into the long history of attempts by ranchers like Cliven Bundy to get out of federal grazing fees and the attendant “range war” rhetoric that often goes along with those attempts. They never actually win because the law is crystal clear.

One of those stories began like this: “Cattleman Wayne Hage — rhymes with rage — is one angry cowboy.” Other than the rhyme, you could substitute Cliven Bundy for Wayne Hage and have pretty much the same story.

Hage ranched near the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in Nevada, and leased grazing allotments on about three-quarters of a million acres of public land in the forest. He sparred over and over again with the Forest Service during the 1980s over his treatment of that federal land. The agency eventually canceled some of his permits and confiscated and sold more than 100 of his cows.

Hage then filed a lawsuit claiming compensation of $28 million for what he termed an unlawful taking of his property by the federal government which he said included his rights to water and forage on public land. Hage died in 2006, but his lawsuit lived on until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit put an end to it and overturned an earlier $4.2 million judgment in Hage’s favor by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims…

As High Country News reported in a chronology of the Hage case, he inspired other lawsuits and the Nevada ranchers who filed them all lost. Among them was Cliff Gardner from Elko County who fought all the way to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after the Forest Service revoked his grazing permit for abusing public land. Likewise Cliven Bundy, who was first ordered by a federal court to remove his cows from federal lands in 1998.

Some of the particulars of all these range war cases differ, but the basics are the same: ranchers who stubbornly insist the federal government doesn’t have the authority to tell them what they can do on public lands, that someone else — the state or the ranchers themselves — actually owns those lands.

This notion has been thoroughly discredited over and over again in the courts. The simple fact is, the hundreds of millions of acres managed by agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service are owned by the public and how they are used is determined by laws approved by Congress and carried out by the agencies.

He also points out that these ranchers are getting an incredible deal on their grazing fees:

It’s not like the deal is so bad for public lands ranchers, either. Right now they are paying $1.35 a month for each cow/calf combination eating our grass. By comparison, the average grazing fee on private land in the West is $16.80 a month, according to the Congressional Research Service, and ranges between $2.28 and $150 on state lands in the region.

In fact, the fees are so low that it costs more to administer the program than it earns in federal revenue, by a huge margin ($144 million to make $21 million a year). But even that small amount is too much for Bundy and the heavily armed shitheads who are supporting him.

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  • smrnda

    If Bundy and these people weren’t white, the story would be about minorities sucking up public resources they haven’t paid for. Given stuff like this, the right needs to quit throwing hissy fits over ‘moochers’ and ‘looters’ snagging up a bit more in food stamps benefits than the right-wing blowhards think they should get.

  • John Pieret

    Cliven Bundy … proud welfare queen!

  • http://www.thelosersleague.com theschwa

    It makes total sense for them to fight the government. If this gets to SCOTUS, isn’t there is a chance it would be overturned now? Like voting rights and restrictions on campaign regulations.

  • raven

    xpost from Pharyngula:

    Turns out Cliven Bundy lied about everything.

    Bundy’s ‘Ancestral Rights’ Story A Load Of Crap

    KLAS in Las Vegas debunks some of the facts surrounding Cliven Bundy’s ‘ancestral rights’ malarkey. Court records show cattle started grazing on that land in 1954.

    Cliven Bundy a fraud? Who would have ever guessed that in a million years.

    His cattle, until recently, roamed freely on land managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management. Before the roundup that sparked protests, confrontations and gunmen taking a bridge, Bundy explained his “ancestral rights” to the I-Team.

    “I’ve lived my lifetime here. My forefathers have been up and down the Virgin Valley here ever since 1877. All these rights that I claim, have been created through pre-emptive rights and beneficial use of the forage and the water and the access and range improvements,” Bundy said.

    Clark County property records show Cliven Bundy’s parents moved from Bundyville, Arizona and bought the 160 acre ranch in 1948 from Raoul and Ruth Leavitt.

    Water rights were transferred too, but only to the ranch, not the federally managed land surrounding it. Court records show Bundy family cattle didn’t start grazing on that land until 1954.

    The Bureau of Land Management was created 1946, the same year Cliven was born.

    http:// crooksandliars. com/2014/04/bundys-ancestral-rights-story-load-crap

    He was claiming some ancestral right to 500,000 acres of BLM land.

    Turns out his family never ranched there. He’s from Arizona.

    His family bought the ranch in 1948. They didn’t start grazing cattle on federal land until 1954.

    It doesn’t take much to be a rightwing hero. Being a common criminal will do it.

  • fusilier

    Give ’em what they want: a USMC platoon arriving in a couple of V-22s, right on their front porch, to escort an assistant US attorney with an arrest warrant. The Marines should all be Hispanic – except for the PL, who’s a Muslim.

    The DoJ attorney should, of course, be a black woman.

    fusilier

    James 2:24

  • Menyambal

    He is damaging the land. He builds structures on public land, so he is a squatter. And running cows on that kind of land is bad for the land no matter how you manage, and with overcrowding, it is awful.

    He is misusing public property without permission. This is the tragedy of the commons, in real life.

    We could shoot all the cows and have a big grill-out, or all of us stop eating cow altogether.

  • http://www.thelosersleague.com theschwa

    ;@1

    Given stuff like this, the right needs to quit throwing hissy fits over ‘moochers’ and ‘looters’ snagging up a bit more in food stamps benefits than the right-wing blowhards think they should get.

    Don’t you know:

    Taking from the government to survive: NO!! Bullshit!

    Taking from the government to turn a profit; Noble shit!

  • bahrfeldt

    Another example of multi generational dependency on government entitlements, whether or not they have to steal them. Hypocrites.

  • magistramarla

    My first thought here was that the right-wingers, supported by the likes of the Koch brothers and big oil, are supporting this nutjob hoping that this will pave the way for fracking being allowed on public land.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Much like “pop” in one place is “soda” or “Coke” in others, regional variations of English make it a funny language. In the country he’s a “hard-workin’, Family-Values American Patriot”. In the city he’d be a “thief and tax-avoiding, evicted squatter”.

  • raven

    My first thought here was that the right-wingers, supported by the likes of the Koch brothers and big oil, are supporting this nutjob hoping that this will pave the way for fracking being allowed on public land.

    They are.

    One of the main instigators and supporters of the militias was Americans for Prosperity. A Koch led front.

  • raven

    Koch Brothers Back Right-Wing Militia Terrorists in Nevada …

    aattp. org/ koch-brothers-back-right-wing-militia-terrorists-in-nev…‎

    by John Prager – in 38 Google+ circlesApr 14, 2014 – Two affiliates of the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity are working overtime to promote the cause of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, …

    The Koch brothers were up to where their hearts would be, if they had hearts, in this manufactured near catastrophe.

    I suppose if you are a fascist, the militias make great goon squads. Heavily armed and very dumb.

    If there had been a shootout, and there could have been one, these lower class wannabe terrorists would be dying for multi-billionaires who think they are useful idiots and doormats.

  • sabrekgb

    @5 fusilier

    Nah-uh.

  • sabrekgb

    it costs more to administer the program than it earns in federal revenue, by a huge margin ($144 million to make $21 million a year)

    This sort of begs the question…why administer it at all then? Is there enough demand that, absent administration, ranchers would destroy the public lands?

  • D. C. Sessions

    The BLM and Forest Service administer public public lands at a loss because ranchers, logging companies, etc. have Congress on their side.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com WMDKitty — Survivor

    Sabrekgb

    Nah-uh, yourself. Posse Comitatus applies to the feds enforcing state laws.

    Mr. Bundy is in violation of federal law.

  • raven

    This sort of begs the question…why administer it at all then? Is there enough demand that, absent administration, ranchers would destroy the public lands?

    FFS, Yes!!!

    They did that once before.

    1. The grazing system was set up in the 30’s and 40’s at the request of the ranchers and by a senator who was also a rancher.

    2. Before than it was the Tragedy of the Commons. Anyone could graze cattle on federal lands. Or migrating herds of sheep.

    The result was overgrazed rangelands that couldn’t support anything. These are arid fragile lands and once you’ve destroyed the vegetation, it’s gone for years. Plus range wars. The cattle herders hated the sheep herders and vice versa.

    3. Basically the BLM’s job is to keep the rangelands from getting totally trashed and keep the ranchers from letting their cows eat them out of their job.

    Bundy is simply a thief. He’s running too many cattle over 1/2 million acres of public land to the point it is an overgrazed moonscape. And paying nothing for it.

  • raven

    It’s not like the deal is so bad for public lands ranchers, either. Right now they are paying $1.35 a month for each cow/calf combination eating our grass.

    It’s a huge subsidy for the ranchers.

    They are paying 68 cents per animal per month A cow at auction can go for $2,000.

    I spend more than that on one cat. In two days.

    PS Who is also getting smeared are the other ranchers. There are 16,000 or 23,000 permit holders, depending on the source one reads. The vast majority of them obey the laws, work on their ranches, and watch TV at night. What they don’t do is steal public resources and get in armed confrontations with the feds.

  • felidae

    Nobody takes care of something they don’t own, so I bet he was seriously overgrazing the land I don’ t understand why we have a problem here– a couple of helicopter gunships could permanently remove the cows from the equation in less than 20 minutes

  • raven

    Dregne, H. E. 1986. Desertification of arid lands. In Physics of desertification

    Nearly 90 percent of North American arid lands are moderately and severely desertified (Table 6).

    The status of the U.S. rangelands does not appear to have been much improved in recent years, and less than 20 percent is producing anywhere near its potential. It is likely that the same condition prevails in Mexico.

    I thought to see just how overgrazed the west is according to Google. It was worse than I thought.

    1. Most of what we see out the car window isn’t the original landscape. In arid areas, it’s been desertified.

    2. Overgrazing kills what vegetation is there. In a dry harsh climate, it takes years to recover.

    3. A lot of the time it never recovers. Ecosystems flip from one metastable state to another. In the hot SW, grasslands were replaced by mesquite bush plains. The mesquite has predatory root systems that grab all the nutrients and water. The result is widely spaced mesquite bushes surrounded by sand. The sand blows away.

    Mesquite isn’t good for much.

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    “Mesquite isn’t good for much”

    Wahhhhhhhhhhhh, it’s MANLY you low-down, sidewindin’ varmint!

  • comfychair

    This is excellent news as I am also a white male gun owner! Everything’s free from now on, hooray!

  • D. C. Sessions

    3. A lot of the time it never recovers. Ecosystems flip from one metastable state to another. In the hot SW, grasslands were replaced by mesquite bush plains. The mesquite has predatory root systems that grab all the nutrients and water. The result is widely spaced mesquite bushes surrounded by sand. The sand blows away.

    Mesquite isn’t good for much.

    You aren’t traveling through the mesquite country that I do. USDA studies found that grass actually grows better and has more nutrient value in a grass/mesquite ecosystem. Partly because mesquite fixes nitrogen, partly because it provides enough filtered shade that the grass under and around it gets adequate sun but doesn’t get roasted. Which, by the way, agrees with my own experience of living with a dozen mesquite trees for more than 20 years.

    As for good for much, well:

    * The beans are edible and nutritious

    * The leaves are high-nitrogen and when dropped enrich the soil while conserving water

    * The wood is harder and denser than oak (I have structural mesquite in floors over 130 years old. Might as well be iron.)

    * All else failing, the wood is an awesome fuel

    Now as it happens your point on grassland recovery is correct — but the mesquite ain’t to blame. There are other plants (notably greasewood and invasive non-native grasses) that have done far more damage.

  • raven

    @23

    same source as above:

    In general, rangelands are moderately desertified in the north and severely desertified in the south. The dividing line approximates the ecotone between sagebrush (cool climate) and creosote bush (hot climate). Desertification is the result of a combination of overgrazing and water erosion. The four delineations of very severely desertified land on the map are in rangelands. Three of those four areas in New Mexico, Texas, and Chihuahua suffered first from overgrazing, then from wind erosion. The result is small hummocks of mesquite-topped sand dunes separated by completely barren blow-outs. The fourth– and largest–of the very severely desertified areas is on the Navajo Indian Reservation of northern New Mexico and Arizona. Overgrazing by sheep has removed most of the perennial grasses and exposed the easily eroded, shale-derived soils to extensive sheet and gully erosion.

    It is unlikely that any of those four areas will recover naturally in the next hundred or more years, even if grazing is completely prohibited.

    and

    Abstract Wilson, Thomas B.; Webb, Robert H.; Thompson, Thomas L. 2001.

    Mechanisms of range expansion and removal of mesquite in desert grasslands of the Southwestern United States. Gen. Tech.Rep. RMRS-GTR-81. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky MountainResearch Station. 23 p.

    During the last 150 years, two species of mesquite trees in the Southwestern United States have become increasingly common in what formerly was desert grassland. These trees have spread from nearby watercourses onto relatively xeric upland areas, decreasing rangeland grass production

    .Management attempts to limit or reverse this spread have been largely unsuccessful. This paper reviews studies regarding mesquite natural history and management strategies, emphasizing studies published during the past decade.

    Mesquite possess a deep root system and are capable of fixing atmospheric N, rendering them capable of accessing resources unavailable to other plants in open rangeland.

    Their seeds, which remain viable for decades, have a hard exocarp and require scarification before germination. Consumption by cattle provides a means of scarification and seed dispersal, and is a major factor contributing to the spread of mesquite in open rangelands. Increases in atmosphericCO2 and winter precipitation during the past century also contribute to enhanced seed germination.Removal techniques have included herbicides, prescribed burning, grazing reduction, and mechanical removal. For increased effectiveness of these techniques, management goals must be clearly articulated; these goals include complete removal, no removal, and limited removal. Of these, limited removal appears the most feasible, using an initial herbicide application followed by periodic prescribed burning.

    “Mesquite possess a deep root system and are capable of fixing atmospheric N, rendering them capable of accessing resources unavailable to other plants in open rangeland.”

    Might depend on exactly where you are. The SW is a big place.

    One of the management strategies for rangeland restoration includes removal of mesquite. It hasn’t worked very well. Without heroic efforts, they can’t get rid of it

  • raven

    from the paper above

    Introduction

    Rangelands in the Southwestern United States have been used for settlement, agriculture, and live-stock ranching during the last 150 years. Because ofthe gentle topography, sufficient available water, and abundant forage, use of this rangeland—especially in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico(fig. 1)—has been intensive. As a result, much of this area has been transformed to a mixed-phase wood-land or shrubland, with no sign of this trend diminishing (Archer and others 1988; Buffington andHerbel 1965; Hastings and Turner 1965; McClaranand Van Devender 1995). Figures 2–6 show repeat photography that document this change at selected sites in the region. The alteration of grassland to shrubland has created considerable concern as landuse managers recognize a corresponding decline in available livestock forage. The mesquite tree (Prosopisspp.) has played a major role in this change, as it has expanded its range from more sheltered and mesic desert grassland drainage systems and riparian zones to open rangelands.

    Well, read it yourself. They blame grazing for the conversion of grasslands to mesquite shrubland.

  • dingojack

    D C Sessions – “Which, by the way, agrees with my own experience of living with a dozen mesquite trees for more than 20 years.”

    You have Ents as housemates? (What do they think of walking on their dead relatives?)

    😀 Dingo (Easily amused).

  • http://reasondecrystallized.blogspot.com andrew

    Really? All this talk of Bundy and no one has called him a cattle-driving welfare queen?

    I’m disappointed.

  • sabrekgb

    @16 WMDKitty — Survivor

    It’s not that simple: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R42659.pdf

    You’d have to do a bit of straining with some words to make it legal in the above-mentioned fantasy, especially considering the Marines were mentioned. Seems better to just leave the military out of it. Plenty of other federal guns available, no?

  • sabrekgb

    Yeesh, i knew overgrazing had been environmentally impactful in the past (and now that it was mentioned, i do recall the range wars), but i wasn’t aware it was quite that bad. I hate driving through that part of the country…odd to think that, had things gone differently, it could have sucked much less.

  • laurentweppe

    Given stuff like this, the right needs to quit throwing hissy fits over ‘moochers’ and ‘looters’ snagging up a bit more in food stamps benefits than the right-wing blowhards think they should get.

    In feudal regimes, the government exists to preserve the parasitic lifestyle of hereditary nobilities of land owners. There’s nothing incoherent about the right taking Bundy’s side.

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    @30:

    It’s not their actions are incoherent, just their “reasoning”. WE know why they’re doing it.

  • D Carter

    Hey Bundy–get off my lawn.

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    It appears that among Bundy’s supporter is one Rand Paul:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/24/us/politics/rancher-proudly-breaks-the-law-becoming-a-hero-in-the-west.html?_r=2

    I’m stealing this from myself on a different blog:

    “I’m still trying to figure out where this Mr. Bundy fits on the continuum between Al Bundy–fictional television character embodying the politics of Archie Bunker and the sexism of, well, far too many men along with the bumbling ineffectiveness of the genus Misogynistus Blowhardus and Ted Bundy–the all too real homicidal, sociopathic, sexually sadistic narcissist. I’m going for Al’s stupidity and Ted’s depravity.”

    Some of the photos in the linked story depict guys with weapons in defensive positions. IANAL but It seems that these yahoos are liable for prosecution on the basis of obstructing the conduct of U.S. government employees in a legal, sanctioned activity. I’ll defer to the expertise of anyone who actually KNOWS whether their behavior is illegal.

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    Oops!

    I forgot to add that my Iron-O-Master v 1.378963564901 content filter just shit the bed when it processed that pitcher of allathem manly men in chaps and allathat other cowpoke gear–which certainly does look genuinely used on the job–pledging allegiance to a country whose officials they have threatened to shoot for attempting to do their jobs.

  • abb3w

    @28, sabrekgb

    You’d have to do a bit of straining with some words to make it legal in the above-mentioned fantasy, especially considering the Marines were mentioned.

    The Marines might be overkill; but possibly not the National Guard and Army.

    As the article you linked notes, the single biggest express statutory exception to 18 USC § 1385 is 10 USC §§ 331-335 — the Insurrection Act. There is a judicial order authorizing the seizure of Bundy’s cattle. Bundy has said he refuses to recognize the authority or even existence of the Federal Government; he and his wife have referenced their ownership and ability to use firearms to resist this seizure; he is being joined by additional armed supporters. This appears to qualify as armed insurrection, even if they have yet to fire a single shot; and to be making it “impracticable to enforce the laws of the United States” in Nevada “by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings”.

    Now, section 334 requires the POTUS issue a proclamation to disperse, which President Obama has not yet done. However, that proclamation seems about the only legal hurdle left.

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    Can we start a pool on how long it will take for Yahoo or one of the other Intertoobz outfits to have the following advernoyance*(TM)(sm)(c) on their homepage:

    “Find out how I managed to graze thousands of head of cattle on gummint’ pasture without paying a dime by using this one weird trick!”

    * “advernoyance (TM)(sm)(c) 2014 democommie ministries and media, LLC, LSD & PCP–not to be confused with democommie media and ministries, MDA, THC & LaLaLa. From the verb. “advernoy”: to seek, by its 24/7 temporal AND spatial ubiquity, market share with products of a generally worthless or even harmful nature while actually driving potential customers away.