Let’s begin with the facts: The federal government has claimed ownership of almost 85% of the land mass in Nevada. This land grab includes a claim of some 300,000 acres by President Obama of Gold Butte National Monument land. Cliven Bundy is countering this with a new lawsuit, saying that this massive federal land grab violates the U.S. Constitution.
And he just may have a point.
Many of our readers are familiar with the Cliven Bundy case. It was a seminal lawsuit in which the Bureau of Land Management lost any shred of credibility and Bundy walked. But not until he’d spent a good deal of time behind bars. You can read more about the Bundy travesty here, here and here.
Now the Nevada cattle rancher has decided to go on the offense. His complaint cites both the first draft of the U.S. Constitution and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The point in Bundy’s legal action here is that these vast swaths of land in Nevada should belong to the people, not the government.
History Repeats Itself
Back in the 1970s and 80s, there was a conflict known as the “Sagebrush Rebellion.” At issue were federal land holdings between 20-85% of the land mass in 13 states. It was a classic case of state versus federal powers. Even Ronald Reagan called himself a “Sagebrush Rebel.” The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 lit the fire to this rebellion because it ended homesteading in most western public lands. Ultimately the uprising went onto the back burner where it’s been simmering in the pot ever since.
Cliven Bundy and the famous standoff at Bunkerville brought the pot to boiling temperature again. Even though Mr. Bundy was finally cleared of criminal wrongdoing, the issue of who owns what land has not been determined.
Thus, Mr. Bundy filed a lawsuit against the Feds in Clark County District Court back in January. In that action, Bundy claimed that residents – not the government – owned the property in Nevada. That lawsuit was thrown out, and now Bundy is back with a new, improved legal action.
Cattle Vs. Wildlife
However, Mr. Bundy isn’t just up against the mighty BLM but the environmentalists as well. According to the Elko Daily Free Press, Center for Biological Diversity state Director Patrick Donnelly maintained that this legal action is, “Bundy’s attempt to turn the national monument area into his “personal fiefdom.” Indeed, Donnelly fired back in an email with:
“That would be a disaster for wildlife like desert tortoises and for people who love visiting their national monument… Bundy should abandon this ridiculous lawsuit and take his trespassing cattle off our protected public lands.”
While this may seem like a redux of the classic David versus Goliath story, it is actually a tale of the tortoise against the people. To graze his cattle on the land, Bundy must make this move. Otherwise, President Obama’s orders will stand for at least 141 years. And that would, according to the lawsuit, put Bundy out of business.
Just who will win this land battle – the tortoise or the people – is anyone’s guess. But certainly, the time has come for an equitable outcome to this longstanding land war.
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