Bundy Ranch vs Federal Government: 20 Years in Making; Nothing Settled

Published: Apr 15, 2014 01:35am EDT
By Rick Rinker, Political Editor for Konsume Politics

Please Note: This article was updated Apr 15, 2014 @ 01:35am EDT


Konsume Media was on the ground in Bunkerville, Nevada as an Army of Federal Agents were forced to retreat at the hands of a well-armed Militia. As the dust settles, the certainty of a second armed conflict runs deep.



On Saturday, Cliven Bundy along with family, friends and armed citizen protesters, surrounded a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) staging area that housed approximately 200 of Cliven Bundy’s seized cattle, which was protected by BLM and Federal Agents.

Bureau of Land Management said it feared for the safety of its agents, and with the help of Nevada State Troopers and Police SWAT teams, evacuated the area. Bundy and company then herded the cattle back to Bundy Ranch, as nearly 500 friends, neighbors and protesters from around the country cheered on.

The improbable scene, which played like something out of a western movie, took place Saturday afternoon following a twenty-year dispute with the federal government. Some of the facts and motives of the parties involved are murky.


Back story.

The trouble for Bundy began in 1993 when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated the desert tortoise an endangered species. This caused the National Park service to reduce the number of cows that were allowed to graze on the land outside of Bundy’s ranch, known as the “Bunkerville Allotment”, to be reduced to a total of one-hundred and fifty, far exceeding the Bundy cattle stock of more than five-hundred.

Bundy refused repeated requests from the BLM to remove his cattle from the public lands, and in 1994 his grazing permit was cancelled, and the allotment was closed for grazing altogether.

Four years later, in 1998, BLM’s Resource Management Plan was updated and designated 186,909 acres of Gold-Butte (an area outside of Bundy’s ranch) as “Areas of Critical Environmental Concern” where special management attention is needed to protect and prevent irreparable damage, concerning the desert tortoise. During this time a court order instructed Bundy that he was not to graze his cattle on the former Bunkerville Allotment (an area of federal land outside of Bunkerville). Additionally, Bundy was ordered to pay $200 per day that livestock remained on the Bunkerville allotment.

 Bundy had still refused all requests to pay grazing fees, and continued to graze his cattle on federal land, citing inherited grazing rights as his family has grazed the land since they settled the Virgin Valley in 1877. The court rulings had nullified this argument, however Bundy was undaunted.

After fourteen years of administrative maneuvering and attempts to collect grazing fees, Federal officials attempted to impound Bundy’s livestock on federal land, but were met with resistance.

 Two court orders were issued in 2013. One was issued prohibiting Bundy and his cattle from trespassing on the Bunkerville allotment, the Gold Butte area, and parts of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area; the second barring Bundy from impeding BLM’s attempt to impound livestock that wandered on to federal land.


Court orders ignored. Federal Agents move in.

Several months later, on Tuesday April 1st, the BLM had set up what looked like a military staging area as it began closing off 1,200 square miles of public land in Gold Butte, along with public roads leading into and out of the region. Armed federal agents formed a de facto wall preventing anyone from the public anywhere near the area, and then directed the FAA to enforce a “no-fly zone” over the Bunkerville area.

Reports claim that BLM was going to auction off the cattle in order to recoup Bundy’s staggering $1.1M fines, however, as BLM, Federal Agents and privately contracted wranglers used helicopters and firearms to “corral” the Bundy cattle, reports began to surface that the cattle were being euthanized.

BLM refused to say whether any of the cattle had been killed when asked, but did say, “We will euthanize an animal during the impoundment if they exhibit dangerous characteristics, threaten the health and safety of the employees, or display a hopeless prognosis for life.”

Because the FAA no-fly order was in place from BLM, local news helicopters were unable to photograph, monitor or report on the situation in Gold Butte.

Around this same time period there were confirmed reports of bull-dozers and dump trucks being brought into the Gold Butte enclosure.  Local ranchers, residents of the region and especially the Bundy’s were outraged.


Bad to worse.

As the roundup was under way, reports, confirmed by the Bundy’s, estimated 200 Federal Agents armed with assault rifles, up to eight helicopters, dozens of ATVs, and a large amount of surveillance equipment were surrounding the Bundy’s and their  Ranch.

On the afternoon of Tuesday April 8th, the Bundy’s began taking pictures of the roundup in the Gold Butte area. Dave Bundy, son of Cliven Bundy, was arrested for taking pictures of the roundup on state road 170. In an interview with local media, Carol Bundy said that five agents “threw him on the ground, pushed his head into the gravel and bruised him up.”

News of the siege and arrest spread quickly, and gained the interest of popular right-wing blogs and news sources. But it wasn’t until a clash with Bundy family members and protesters the following day that the story went national and the emotions began to boil over.

In a YouTube video posted online, armed agents are seen with barking german shepherds on leashes while others are pointing Tasers at the group . The protesters who were confined to “first amendment zones” began to blog the vehicles and cattle along a stretch of road leading to the BLM’s makeshift corral enclosure.

Ammon Bundy, Cliven Bundy’s son,  was shot twice with a taser gun and his 57-year-old aunt was pushed to the ground resulting in minor injuries. Footage of the incident was then shared on social media sites, local news affiliates as well as cable news networks sparking outrage nationwide.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval called the BLMs use of force and militaristic tactics a “violation of everyday rights” for residents of his state. He then said that he had “met with state legislators, county officials and concerned citizens to listen to their concerns.” Before adding, “I have expressed those concerns directly to the BLM.”

Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, called footage from Wednesdays clash “horrifying.” Flore added that she was, “highly offended by the feds coming in as aggressively as they have.” While Nevada’s Republican Senator Dean Heller said that he was “disappointed” with the BLMs roundup.

During a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon, Amy Lueders, state director for the BLM in Nevada, said the agency has heard concerns of Governor Sandoval and that BLM has “made some adjustments.” BLM had quietly dismantled the so called “First Amendment areas” earlier that morning.

At this point a “Bundy Ranch” Facebook page was created and began providing updates to supporters, while other blogs apparently in contact with the Bundy’s, give out directions to the ranch, a list of things to bring (including: friends, “self-defense tools”, bullet proof vests,  first aid kits and video equipment).


Armed Conflict.

By Friday the standoff between Feds and Bundy Ranch grew tense, particularly with the Bundy’s beginning to amass national attention and armed support from around the country.

Audio recordings of a conversation held between BLM Special Agent Dan Love and Bundy spokesperson Pete Santili were released online. In the recordings you hear the Santili demanding to know where the cattle are, so they can “non-confrontationally” return them to Bundy Ranch. Agent Love refused to provide information on the cattle and then went so far as to threaten to arrest Clark County Sheriff Doug if he didn’t “uphold the constitution.”

 Sheriff Gillespie attempted to work with both sides to diffuse the situation but was widely criticized by citizens of Bunkerville, and Bundy supporters nationwide, for his failure to act. About 50 protesters showed up at the Sheriff’s office in Las Vegas to voice their outrage, most at the behest of Cliven Bundy.

As Friday drew to a close, Twitter was exploding with claims that a “Second American Revolution” was imminent in Bunkerville while other blogs and news sites claiming that up to 5,000 armed militia men would be descending on the town over the weekend.

Saturday Morning it was announced that Sheriff Gillespie would meet with the Bundy family at 9:00am. This was the first real signal from the Sheriff’s office that they were getting involved in the increasingly tense situation. Gillespie had previously referred all calls to the Bureau of Land Management’s press office in Washington.

Before the meeting could take place, it appeared the decision was made to pull out. BLM and its agents were simply outnumbered, and there would be no easy way to complete the operation without the serious threat of an armed confrontation.

More than one-hundred Supporters, some armed, surrounded the BLM’s staging area where operations were taking place chanting “Go Home!” It was at this point that federal agents seemed keen to work with the Bundy’s to allow for the peaceful return of their cattle, albeit.

 Metro police and SWAT were on hand to ensure that the crowd, who now numbered in the hundreds, and had completely shut down Interstate 15, remained peaceful and gave BLM, its armed Rangers and equipment room to evacuate peacefully.

Before abandoning the area an armed federal agent told Bundy’s son, Ammon, that they wanted to allow them into the area but made it clear he wasn’t authorized to turn possession of the cattle over to Bundy or his family.

 After BLM packed up and drove their convoy out, the Bundy’s moved in and herded their nearly 200 cattle safely back to the safety of Bundy Ranch. The crowd, now estimated at 500 people, cheered wildly and waved flags as the line of cattle and Bundy wranglers came through a river wash underneath I-15. The crowd of supporters had been anticipating their arrival as news had rapidly spread of the federal agents’ withdrawal.


It’s Not Over.

It now appeared as if the Bundy’s and their supporters had won the nearly two week-standoff as federal agents had cleared the area, leaving the Bundy’s with their cattle and supporters.

As of Monday evening there is no sign of the BLM, Federal Agents or a significant police presence anywhere near the Bundy’s ranch. Supporters, including self-professed militia, slowly dispersed from the area over the weekend leaving fear that the Feds may return at some point and take Bundy’s actual ranch.

Nothing is clear at this point except to say the matter is not over. BLM has indicated that they will still pursue Bundy, though what channels they use are unclear. Senate majority Leader, and Nevada’s Senior Senator, Harry Reid, said Monday: “It's not over. We can't have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it's not over,”

This puts Bundy and the Federal Government in an awkward position. While the Bundy’s may find satisfaction in their victory, it must weigh heavy on them that the Feds are not going to take this lying down. It will seem apparent that when the Feds return, it will likely be to seize their cattle on the ranch by overwhelming force.

For their part, the Feds must surely understand that no matter what they do, they are in a no-win situation. Having already spent an estimated $3M to collect $1.1 in fines, they have stirred up a hornets nest among the rancher, civil liberty and red-state constituencies; anything less than a well-strategized, diplomatic solution could be an unmitigated disaster.


Comments (7)

  • Anonymous   Apr 17, 2014 @ 02:40AM
    Harry Reid, said Monday: -

  • Anonymous   Apr 17, 2014 @ 01:57AM
    I have to shake my head in disbelief & agree w/ Judge Naplitano. WHY is the BLM armed? Taking it one step further, WHY is the USPS now armed? WHY does Obama NEED a CIVILIAN ARMY? HOW MANY other agencies, aside from those chartered to carry forth law enforcement duties, are now armed? And the "coup de gras" for We The People is WHO are they armed AGAINST? To my understanding, NO AGENCIES aside from the DHS, NSA, FBI, & CIA and divisions there of, are chartered to defend against terrorists, and the others then must be doing activites that do NOT fall within their juridistiction. There are laws that prevent that. SO, that must mean they are armed against We The People. The very one's that pay their salaries, vote some of them into office, AND to whom ALL OF THEM are to SERVE. Regardless of who is legally right or wrong in the Bundy/BLM maatter, it has served notice to ALL We The People. We are in jeopardy, in our own Country, at the hands of our own Government Agencies, whom are comprised of people who USED to be just like you and me. WHAT CHANGED? A corrupt and lawless President and Administration and a blind and FEARFUL, SPINELESS CONGRESS that lacks the courage to stand up for We The People, the Constitution, and the Laws it accords. -

  • Anonymous   Apr 17, 2014 @ 12:32AM
    And so, mister Harry Reid, then WE, THE PEOPLE, aren't through with you yet either. You have broken many laws and you will not be allowed to walk away either. WE, THE PEOPLE, will bring you to justice in the legal system and WE will see that you go to prison for hopefully the rest of your worthless life. So, it's not over. Not even for a minute. -

  • Anonymous   Apr 15, 2014 @ 08:21PM
    Not only the 3M to recoup 1.1M, but they euthanize this tortoise in some areas of NV because it is NOT endangered but in fact THRIVING.
    For Harry Reid to say what he did, when we watch congressional hearings about government employees who are in fact guilty of all kinds of unconstitutional and downright UN-American behavior walk away from accountability and are instead rewarded with promotions is in fact poking an already mighty peeved off large group of taxpayers who feel ignored,vilified,and under an over reaching bureaucracy who is pushing them to their limit.

    This whole situation with Reid is questionable at best, he and his son are embroiled much further than we are being led to believe.
    If they do not remember who is IN CHARGE here they will continue to rile The People and they WILL BE reminded that they in fact work for us, a fact that has been totally forgotten and never mentioned by the majority of them.
    The Sleeping Giant is back and boy is it pizzed. -

  • Michael Owen   Apr 15, 2014 @ 07:49PM
    And you gotta love a country that will spend $3 mil to collect $1.1 mil. SMH..... -

  • Michael Owen   Apr 15, 2014 @ 07:26PM
    Expect the movie to begin production any day now.

    IT's ironic that Harry Reid says thing like "We can't have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it's not over" yet the BLM and the Feds violated the Constitution on so many different levels, yet that is acceptable. -

  • Anonymous   Apr 15, 2014 @ 06:27PM
    Gov has a militant obsession with it's regulations that purposefully ban freedom and sidestep the constitution -

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