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What the Networks Aren’t Telling You About the Nevada Cattle Battle

The federal government has for decades permitted some destruction of tortoise habitats if they like the project, while cracking down on others as they see fit.

What the Networks Aren't Telling You About the Nevada Cattle Battle
Bunkerville Standoff, 2014 (photo by Shannon Bushman, used with permission)

What the Networks Aren’t Telling You
About the Nevada Cattle Battle

(MRC.org) – The showdown between federal authorities and rancher Cliven Bundy, his family and supporters in Nevada is one of those rare topics from the libertarian-conservative news agenda that actually made its way into the establishment media.

Network journalists have consistently framed the case as one of a rancher failing to pay the requested fees for his use of government land. But they have failed to use the case to tell the larger story of how environmental rules — in this case, regulations to protect the desert tortoise, have been implemented in ways that help favored interests (land developers, or solar companies) while hurting others (cattle ranchers, for example).

The networks have focused on the amount of money the government has demanded of Cliven Bundy, and let the Bundy side talk about the government’s heavy-handed tactics in seeking collection. On Saturday’s Good Morning America, for example, ABC’s Mike Boettcher framed the story this way: “For 20 years, rancher Cliven Bundy has refused to pay rent to herd his cattle on government land, $1.1 million in grazing fees.”

On NBC, Sunday’s Today included a soundbite from Bundy’s son, Ammon, talking about the intimidating force employed by federal agents: “They had the tasers, they had the weapons, they had the dogs, and we had nothing except us. We were almost equally numbered, and then they were the aggressors.”

Omitted from the network coverage: How cattle ranchers like Bundy have been victimized by federal government plans to protect the desert tortoise, and how the current showdown was provoked by an environmentalist lawsuit. As the Las Vegas Sun explained: “Things came to a head when environmentalists threatened to sue the agency to protect the endangered desert tortoise that lives on the land where Bundy’s cattle grazed. The BLM said Bundy’s cattle trampled the tortoise’s habitat.”

In their coverage of the Nevada showdown, neither ABC nor NBC ever acknowledged the role of regulations designed to protect the tortoise, while CBS’s Teri Okita in a Friday morning report included it as an afterthought: “Authorities want the cattle off this land for another reason: Environmentalists say it’s home to the endangered desert tortoise and it’s protected land.”

In fact, the tortoise is listed as a “threatened” species, not yet “endangered,” but it’s that designation (applied in 1989) which led to restrictions on cattle ranchers’ use of land in Nevada, California and Utah. And the federal government has for decades permitted some destruction of tortoise habitats if they like the project, while cracking down on others as they see fit.

As the Powerline blog has well-documented, the BLM has enforced these rules in ways that favor projects endorsed by federal bureaucrats, such as solar projects, while being tough on the cattle ranchers.

But go back more than 20 years, and you’ll find a similar effort in the Clinton era to sacrifice 22,000 acres of tortoise habitat to Las Vegas area land developers, even as they set up restrictions on cattle ranchers including Cliven Bundy. As the Washington Post’s Tom Kenworthy documented in a March 21, 1993 article (retrieved via Nexis, so no link):

Three years ago, with tortoise populations crashing largely because of habitat destruction across its range in Nevada, California, Arizona and Utah, the federal government added the tortoise to its list of threatened species. The designation immediately imperiled tens of millions of dollars worth of construction projects in this development-crazed city.

But it also triggered a novel experiment in the peaceful resolution of endangered species conflicts that is similar, in many respects, to the process Babbitt would like to try nationwide to defuse explosive development-versus-environment fights.

Employing a rarely used mechanism approved by Congress a decade ago, environmentalists, developers, government officials, cattlemen, miners and off-road vehicle enthusiasts began negotiating a “habitat conservation plan.” The hope was it would satisfy both the needs of the tortoise and the Las Vegas area’s rapacious appetite for development.

The result was a plan to protect the tortoise by providing vast tracts of federal land as a refuge while sacrificing other tortoise areas to development….

By mid-1991, the Fish and Wildlife Service had approved a short-term conservation plan that allows for development of about 22,000 acres of tortoise habitat in and around Las Vegas in exchange for strict conservation measures on 400,000 acres of federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land south of the city. The plan is funded by development fees of between $ 250 and $ 550 an acre paid by builders. Almost $ 10 million has been raised so far.

Among the conservation measures required are the elimination of livestock grazing and strict limits on off-road vehicle use in the protected tortoise habitat. Two weeks ago, the managers of the plan completed the task of purchasing grazing privileges from cattle ranchers who formerly used BLM land….

Cattlemen are particularly irate, and have gone to court to prevent grazing restrictions on BLM land now outside the tortoise management area, where the federal agency has tried to keep cattle from competing with tortoises for forage for three months in the spring. Ranchers like Cliven Bundy, whose family homesteaded his ranch in 1877 and who accuses the government of a “land grab,” are digging in for a fight and say they will not willingly sell their grazing privileges to create another preserve.

The Post article was written more than 21 years ago, before Bundy had been assessed even one dime in fees, and validates his claim that his grievance is about the intrusiveness of federal rules aimed at protecting the desert tortoise, and how the government has used the rules as yet another tool to pick economic winners and losers.

It’s background and context that the networks could have provided as they picked up on the story of a rancher fighting the feds — but, sadly, was omitted from the broadcast coverage.

 

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7 Comments on What the Networks Aren’t Telling You About the Nevada Cattle Battle

  1. Been following this for several years now. The last paragraph of the WaPo article mentions, “not willingly sell their grazing privileges” which is erroneous. Bundy and many other ranchers purchased grazing RIGHTS not privileges. Congress even has made it clear that subsequent legislation does NOT abrogate or negate those RIGHTS.

    See: http://www.unitedwestand2017.com/2014/04/cow-chips-and-the-tortoise-or-how-blm-pushes-agenda-21-while-reid-profits/

  2. What it comes down to is the simple concept of property…is a grazing lease real property or not. The Feds arrogantly say NOT, but to students of the Constitution and subsequent Natural resource acts… Stock-raising Homestead, Taylor Grazing, NEPA and FLPMA all recognize valid and previously existing resource rights. Further When a ranch is bought or sold these rights, grazing (including water, and access to it), and timber utilization are part of the real property value of the ranch. THE FEDS WILL NEVER ADMIT THIS EVEN THOUGH THEY KNOW IT!! Similarly mining rights via valid mining claims are bought and sold as real property!!! Upcoming test cases on the confiscation of these rights without due process AND compensation need to be scrutinized and supported by fair and balanced judicial process. As it is done now the Feds set policy > monitor policy > enforce policy > prosecute policy > judge policy “violations” > and sentence “policy violators”. Nice cover for “policy” makers (wish we could get that daisy chain cover on the private side)but what about the LAW!!!

  3. Too right Fred ! It is maddening to hear our rights referred to as “Privileges”. As I understand it, these Grazing rights have a sanctity of ownership equal to the ownership of any other property. That they can be bought and sold proves this. For those of us who are deeply involved in this fight – I was in Toquop Wash, and am one of the seven acquitted along with Ammon and Ryan in Portland – A war on rural America is in progress, being prosecuted by empire building Federal Agencies. They have weaponized their regulatory powers, and as we saw at Bundy Ranch, they will mount a military invasion to further their conquest. Is this the Government created to safeguard our life,liberty and happiness ? The Bundy family and their supporters have become the scourge of these Govt racketeers, dealing them one humiliating defeat after another, and as an observer of the Vegas trials I have to say that they bid fair to do it again. The Govt case is disintegrating even as the trial starts.

  4. Dirty Harry Reid & his son Rory etc tried all that extortion against me & the 9,000 acres, for ENN Solar, but it all failed 2013.
    In 2014, they targeted Bundy property, under their BLM “Gold Butte Impoundment Operation” for ENN.

  5. 21 years ago and the desert tortoise is still endangerd? Hogwash! The federal government has used their illegal and unconstitutional alphabet agencies to take over 50% of the land area in the West. They call this theft “Federal lands”, but the US Constitution calls land contained within state borders “Public Lands”, and it belongs to the State! The BLM, USFS, EPA, BATF, FCC, CDC, FEMA, FBI, HUD, IRS, VA, GSA, OSHA, FDA, DHS, etc are ALL unconstitutional. National Parks, Monuments, and Refuges are likewise illegal. Such things as Military Bases, Courts and Postoffices are only legal if rented or leased with the consent of the State Legislsture, and then only as long as used for Constitutional purposes.

    Only a dozen years aga 53 privately owned ranches existed in Clark County, Nevada. Today, there is only one, the Bundy Ranch. The rest were put out of business by criminal federal agencies such as BLM, EPA or USFW. The feds claim nearly 90% of the state of Nevada is their property, and 50% of the western states.

    The result is persecution by prosecution, and Judge Navarro’ kangaroo court has incarcerated innocent citizens for nearly 2 years, without speedy trial, with no bail and in some cases added punishment and mistreatment. The Bundys and their friends are heros, and I see the future of our country following one of two scenerios: either the people will awake in a dictatorship with no personal rights, or the people will recognize what is happening and restore the Constitutional Republic that once was alive. We still have a choice, but the time is getting short. The choice is yours, and yours, and yours, and …..

    • Robert : Every abuse you have noted above is now burning at white heat, and is condensed to a single time and place, the Bundy trial in Nevada. We have reached the turning point. The outcome of this trial will be seismic in its proportion, both for The Govt racketeers, for the Bundys, and for the cause of liberty. Being of a historical bent, I can only compare the possible outcome to that of the Olive Branch Petition, 1775. Look it up. We courthouse gang have done what we can – this fight has become a way of life for many of us – But I have a vision : Judge Navarro, Prosecutor Myhre, the US Marshals, look out the window to see a huge throng filling the streets. Demanding justice.

  6. I blieve you missed part of the desert tortoise story. The evironmentalists went and out and collected a thousand and moved them to a place in Las Vegas, in one year the had multiplied so much, that they could not care for them and started euthanizing them. And when BLM came to Bundy ranch, they trampled the desert tortoise, killed the cows, and left the nursing calves to starve out on the range. Those fools manage nothing. The whole thing is a fraud. Get them off our lands, like Texas did. Our Constitution is clear. the Federal Government shall own no lands except the ten square miles of Washington, DC, forts, ports and other such lands as the government deems necessary for governments. The states may decide if they wish to give up this land, and may rescind such approval, but must be paid for the use of such land. Ninety percent of Nevada have stolen, we want our land back. plus the back payment for usage. And we will negotiate for such lands as the Feds need. Such as Nellis.

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