Tuesday, April 15, 2014

American Unexceptionalism

Or ... The case of the Cliven Bundy Range War ...

I've been trying to read everything I can about the situation in Nevada where rancher Cliven Bundy has been putting up a fight against the Bureau of Land Management.

I tend to sympathize with Bundy and others like him who seem to be getting pushed around by agencies of The State. This is something that just rubs me the wrong way. However, things are not always what they seem on the surface and so it is with Mr. Bundy vs the BLM.

Some background on the BLM and the Federal land charters:

The first thing to understand is that the US Government has always owned the land west of the Mississippi River up until 1862. The Homestead Act became law in 1862 when it was signed by Lincoln. Under the new law a U.S. Citizen could get 160 acres of unoccupied land west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains. They could keep the land if they lived on the land for five years and made improvements to the land.The most dramatic and well documented example of the application of the Homestead Act was the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889.

Western states were afforded "States Rights" under the constitution and negotiated for sovereignty and control over the Federal lands within their boarders. Not all Federal lands were sought by or ceded to the State and today much western US land is under the legal domain of the US Government.
In the case of Nevada 86% of the land within the state is under the US Government domain.

The Bundy case:

In the case of the Bundy dispute it is not the family homestead that is in dispute but the use of  US Federal Government Land.

Bundy was grazing cattle on the Federal Land under permits that he applied for in the 1990s and should have been paying the standard fees. He has been sued by the BLM  twice and lost both cases.
Bundy has no legal claim to this land and should get his cattle off  the property as order by the courts.

To put this in context for Canadians .... just imagine what would happen if  some farmer let his cattle run in a provincial or national park or on the crown land where your cottage is.

The game of escalation:

Bundy, instead of obeying the the court orders to remove his cattle simply continued to carry on. Once the BLM took action to remove the cattle Bundy staged a protest and rallied supporters to his cause. Conveniently, Bundy now claims to have no obligation to obey the law.

The BLM then sent agents to break up the protest and this of course added fuel to the fire that was being fanned by the Bundy Bunch. Faced with what was arguably an overreaction and overtly militaristic response the Bundy Bunch had an opportunity to a greater claim of victimization and benefitted from addition support coming from like minded groups.

Eventually the BLM agents released the cattle and Bundy took them home.

Basically, Bundy played a game of escalation to get sympathy and at the end just went home all to prove a point that is nothing more than a self serving fantasy about his imaginary right to have free use of land that is not his to use.
The Bundy Bunch it turns out is just a rural version of the Occupy movement and have a lot in common with just about every student protest, "Native" blockade and anti-oil anti-pipeline or anti-whatever mob with self serving and wishful thinking agenda.

My concern for him is much diminished ... but not entirely.

Why I still care about this:
  1. The federal agencies were over reacting when they showed up with military assault teams to deal with the Bundy protest.
  2. The fact that the EPA was involved in applying arbitrary restrictions on this land (or any land).
  3. The appearance of political influence in the escalation. Harry Reid and his son have made a deal with China to develop the same land for a solar farm.

 These are all issues that affect the entire nation and each of them is symptomatic of a deeper sickness in the governance of the USA.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are missing a few key facts to the story. But the argument is centered on who owns the land, the state or the federal government. Also at issue is a possible underhanded treatment of the "turtle" issue vs. grazing rights.

My take is simple, the state of Nevada being the owners of the land , ceded management of said lands to The federal Government. Bundy lost in court, Bundy doesn't want to pay the feds which he says, do little for the money he pays ( except , of course feeding his cattle )

At the end of the day, this rah rah phony cowboy show does not work when the reality is it costs Bundy less than .0025 per pound per year to use this "free' land.

4/19/2014 6:50 a.m.  
Blogger OMMAG said...

I think you are right. I was trying to cover the broad issues without getting over involved in details.

Also, as I understand the land ownership in Nevada, it is not so much that the state ever owned the land but rather that they never took ownership since the state was formed.

I think that the state could assume their rights to the land but that would not include any retroactive rights. Bundy remains in debt to the feds for land fees.

I just don't want to see the feds take the militaristic stance thy have against us citizens.

4/19/2014 5:10 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Followed this discussion on yahoo for awhile. It was interesting to see how many people took the time to argue one side or another. At the end of the day its quite clear , Bundy doesn't recognize the federal government - somewhat of a sovereignist position. Which doesn't work well in the courts.

Feds did the right thing by releasing his cattle to avoid confrontation. I think they realized it could have gotten out of control with some of the weekend warriors.

Well its in Bundy's court. If he releases his animals again, I got a feeling he won't have a second chance at them.

As for State property, in one thread they explained an amendment to the constitution that set out borders and property rights.

All interesting stuff.

4/19/2014 8:40 p.m.  

Post a Comment

<< Home