More Government Cheese Bhurger, sir? Welfare Cattle Ranching: Digging into the Cliven Bundy ordeal
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Friday, April 25, 2014
I’m not a funnyman like Jon Stewart of the Comedy Channel.
However, Stewart does a good job – indeed, an excellent job – of excoriating right-wing zealot Sean Hannity over his inconsistencies of argument in support of Cliven Bundy… the man who knows everything about the Negro.
In fact, Stewart does a damn fine job… in a manner that perfectly shines a light upon Mr. Hannity’s hypocrisy.
If you’d like to take a few minutes to be entertained and educated, here’s the URL for the episode in which Stewart skewers Hannity.
And, if you’re kinda’ froggy, and like to get the facts (just the facts, ma’am… just the facts), here’s some research I performed for my benefit.
I’m selfish like that.
I didn’t do it for anyone else but me.
At issue is Cliven Bundy’s claim to land use – not ownership.
The area in question is 150 square miles in the 500,000 acre Gold Butte area along the Virgin River in Nevada.
Bundy claims that his family “homesteaded” that land since 1877, and by virtue of that claim, unlimited right of use to the land belongs to him.
In essence, Bundy claims a right to graze the land where he has allowed his cattle to roam – and therefore, because his cattle have been there, he claims unlimited use of the land belongs to him, although he cannot produce any document demonstrating any essence or component of such claim, nor of ownership – such as a survey, easement, bill of sale, quitclaim deed, bills for taxes, or taxes paid.
For over 20 years, Bundy has allowed his cattle to graze on that tract of Federal land – land to which he has no ownership, deed or right of use – and since 1993 has ceased paying grazing fees, which, by his own admission, is in arrears at least $300,000.
Here’s a partial time line to the current date which highlights significant events in the ordeal.
■ Cliven Bundy pays grazing fees to the BLM for the next 20 years.
■ The BLM modifies Bundy’s grazing permit by reducing the size allowed for his herd to 150 and restricts where his cattle can graze in the Gold Butte area. He refuses the permit and stops paying grazing fees. The BLM cancels his permit.
■ The BLM issues an order requiring Bundy to remove his cattle.
■ The BLM issues another order requiring Bundy to remove his cattle.
■ Nevada Legislature and voters, seeking to take control of federal land in the state, repeal the so-called Disclaimer Clause of the state’s 1864 constitution that had declared people in the territory “disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands.”
Note: 56 percent of Nevada voters ratified striking the clause in the state constitution that gave dominion over the lands to the federal government. However, the Legislature called for federal consent of the amendment, which to date, has not been recognized by Congress or the courts. Thus, in effect, the amendment has not been implemented.
■ U.S. District Court of Nevada issues an order to stop Bundy from grazing cattle on the Bunkerville allotment.
■ The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the District Court’s permanent injunction.
■ Cliven Bundy, whose grandparents, Abraham and Ella Bundy, settled in the Parashant area in 1877 near Mount Trumbull on the Arizona strip, voices concern for President Bill Clinton establishing Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. He says it’s a land grab, telling the Review-Journal, “The terrible thing about it is there is private property, customs and lifestyles” at stake.
■ The Interior Board of Land Appeals hears Bundy’s appeal of the BLM’s cancellation of his range improvement authorizations and affirms the BLM’s decision.
■ The BLM sends a cease-and-desist order to Bundy and a notice of intent to gather his cattle.
■ The BLM conducts aerial surveys of the Gold Butte area and prepares to round up 500 to 900 cattle but suspends the operation indefinitely in April 2012 out of safety concerns for people involved with the roundup.
■ The U.S. District Court of Nevada in July orders Bundy to remove his cattle from public land within 45 days and says the U.S. can seize and impound any remaining cattle.
■ The court reaffirms in October that Bundy has no legal right to graze the federal land and, again, directs him to remove his cattle within 45 days, ordering Bundy not to interfere with an impoundment action.
■ The BLM issued a Notice of Intent to Impound Unauthorized Livestock grazing on BLM and National Park Service lands on March 19.
■ The roundup begins April 5.
■ More than 300 cattle that had been rounded up and held in a corral are released April 12. The operation is canceled by the BLM out of safety concerns for employees. To avoid violence and restore order at the scene, officials in charge of the roundup decide not to stop the demonstrators’ release of the cattle.
In 1998, a federal judge issued a permanent injunction against him and ordered his cattle off the land. Bundy represented himself, and appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, and lost.
In July 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Lloyd George ruled that if Bundy did not remove his cattle by August 23, 2013, they could be seized by the Bureau of Land Management.
The Bureau of Land Management oversees about 800 grazing areas in Nevada. The BLM revoked his grazing permit, and Bundy has not applied for a new grazing permit since 1993.
All of Nevada, California, Arizona and most of New Mexico were part of the Mexican Cession – land won by the United States after the Mexican-American War. Much of that land was privatized under various grants and laws such as the Homestead Act and the Desert Lands Act, including mining claims. Several million acres were granted to Nevada for state lands, but those lands that were not privatized have always been Mexican lands (before the Mexican-American War) or United States lands owned by the U.S. government.
When Nevada became a state in 1864, its citizens gave up all claims to unappropriated federal land and codified this in the state’s Constitution.
The Nevada Constitution (* and the ACT OF CONGRESS (1864) ENABLING THE PEOPLE OF NEVADA TO FORM A CONSTITUTION AND STATE GOVERNMENT) state:
“Third. That the people inhabiting said territory do agree and declare, that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States; …..”
During the homesteading era, Western public rangelands were often overgrazed because of policies designed to promote the settlement of the West and a lack of understanding of these arid ecosystems.
Before the Taylor Grazing Act, those federal lands were called “the public domain,” and could be privatized under the Homestead Act, but limited each homesteader to 160 acres. There were no 158,000 acre homestead privatizations and certainly no 750,000 acre privatizations.
Before the Taylor Act, livestock owners ran their livestock freely without a permit on the “public domain.” They didn’t even need a home base of property (a ranch). The result was disasterous because the first cattle operator to find green grass and eat it first won out, which promoted very bad grazing practices. The Dust Bowl of the 1930’s was created significantly because of poor farm and grazing land management practices.
That was a significant the reason ranchers asked for the creation of the Taylor Grazing Act — so that ranchers and others could see that the existing unmanaged, first-come, first-serve, winner-take-all public domain system led to disaster on the ground for everyone. Consequently, the more powerful ranchers – those with “base” private property – received grazing permits. That eliminated landless livestock operators. The Taylor Grazing Act was administered on the ground by the U.S. Grazing Service.
The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 Public Law 73-482, (signed by Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, a Republican), specifically states that the issuance of a grazing permit does not confer any right to graze or right of ownership, and specifically states that “the creation of a grazing district or the issuance of a permit pursuant to the provisions of this subchapter shall not create any right, title, interest, or estate in or to the lands.”
The Taylor Act was intended to “stop injury to the public grazing lands [excluding Alaska] by preventing overgrazing and soil deterioration; to provide for their orderly use, improvement, and development; [and] to stabilize the livestock industry dependent upon the public range,” and eventually set aside 80,000,000 acres for grazing and forage.
Section 3 of the Taylor Grazing Act concerns grazing permits issued on public lands within the grazing districts established under the Act, and gave leasing preference to landowners and homesteaders in or adjacent to the grazing district lands. Permits were issued for not more than 10 years.
After the end of World War II, the United States was tasked with moving to a peacetime economy. Consequently, the Federal government faced numerous necessary changes. One such change suggested by President Harry S. Truman was the Reorganization Act of 1945 (59 Stat. 613), which authorized the President to reexamine the organization and efficiency of all federal agencies to “facilitate orderly transition from war to peace” and to accomplish efficiency, cost-savings, and the consolidation of functions where appropriate.
“Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1946,” was introduced to Congress May 16, 1946. Section 403 in part IV of the President’s plan proposed the creation of a new federal agency, the Bureau of Land Management, by merging the General Land Office and the Grazing Service. Some of the functions of the two agencies already overlapped, and the Grazing Service had run into some disfavor with western senators for advocating higher grazing fees. Under section 6 of the Reorganization Act, the President’s plan would take effect unless both houses of Congress passed a resolution stating that they did not concur with the plan within 60 days. The House of Representatives passed a resolution of nonconcurrence, but the Senate did not. Hence, the President’s plan came into effect on July 16, 1946, 60 days after its presentation to Congress, and the BLM was thus “created” on that date. The BLM therefore officially began as an agency created in the wake of World War II as the nation transitioned to peace and prosperity.
The BLM has since been affirmed by law rather than executive order. It was also in October 14, 1946 that the Wheeler Migratory Waterfowl Refuge was created by Executive Order 9790.
The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 was preempted by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, through which Congress created a unified legislative mandate.
The FLPMA modernized the Taylor Act by establishing four tenets of operations to guide public land management, including the concept of:
1.) “Principles of multiple use and sustained yield”;
2.) Preservation of valid existing rights, including grazing rights, mining claims, oil and gas leases, water rights and rights of access;
3.) Requires the Secretary of the Interior to formulate land use plans that are consistent with State and local plans, and to;
4.) Inventory all of Federally managed lands, identify which were definitely not of wilderness quality, and then begin an intensive inventory and analysis to determine which of the remaining lands would be recommended for inclusion into the National Wilderness Preservation System.
On February 14, 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed “Executive Order 12548 – Grazing Fees,” which determined grazing fees upon public lands.
In a 2000 ruling in Public Lands Council v Babbit, the United States Supreme Court upheld the grazing regulations promulgated by the Department of Interior under former Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt to conform to Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) and found that: “The words “so far as consistent with the purposes . . . of this subchapter” and the warning that “issuance of a permit” creates no “right, title, interest or estate” make clear that the ranchers’ interest in permit stability cannot be absolute; and that the Secretary is free reasonably to determine just how, and the extent to which, “grazing privileges” shall be safeguarded, in light of the Act’s basic purposes. Of course, those purposes include “stabiliz[ing] the livestock industry,” but they also include “stop[ping] injury to the public grazing lands by preventing overgrazing and soil deterioration,” and “provid[ing] for th[e] orderly use, improvement, and development” of the public range.”
It is very likely that one of Bundy’s ancestors had purchased a grazing permit, but the United States Supreme Court has continually upheld that mere possession of a temporary grazing permit in no way grants right to land use or ownership thereof.
Further, whether or not there exists any “ulterior motive” on the part of the United States government (some assert so), or not, the land remains the property of the Federal government, and as such, they are free to manage it as they see fit.