Federal Land Ownership and the Bundy Standoff
The Feds claim that Cliven Bundy has been illegally grazing his cattle on Federal lands for two decades. The family claims that that right has been purchased from the Federal government as far back as the late 1800’s, and that their right is grandfathered in.
So, what is the source of this friction?
Bundy’s beef with federal land management officials dates back to 1993, according to federal officials, when Bundy’s allotment for grazing his cattle on public land was modified to include protections for the desert tortoise.
In other words, some bureaucrat decided that these animals were “threatened” and need to be protected. It is yet another case of the government putting animals before humans.
One has to consider that these animals have a very low reproduction rate. That in itself is going to threaten the species, not allowing some rancher to graze his cattle on Federal land.
Here’s where the government expose their hypocrisy.
They are trying to stop this man from grazing his cattle in order to protect these tortoises. Meanwhile, back in 2013, the BLM killed hundreds of desert tortoises that were in shelters because they didn’t have the money to keep them. (http://www.kingsnake.com/blog/archives/1561-BLM-to-kill-hundreds-of-desert-tortoises-as-its-conservation-center-runs-out-of-money.html) (Note, the Washington Post link has disappeared)
Instead of turning them loose in their native habitats, the government chose to kill them instead.
That’s a great way of protecting them.
What this tells me is that it is not so much about saving tortoises as it is flexing government muscle. The government is cracking down because it can, and now things are heading to yet another confrontation between the government and the people. It looks like it could possibly be another Waco or Ruby Ridge.
The BLM has deployed not just armed agents, but snipers and helicopters as well.
I understand the FBI having weapons, but the BLM? Why is it that every government agency is suddenly becoming a militarized “law enforcement” agency? The BLM. The ATF. The IRS. The Department of the Treasury. The United States Post Office. All purchasing ammunition for the Federal government. This country is becoming a police state like never before.
In accordance with a law signed by Obama back in 2012, the BLM set up so-called “free speech zones” to corral protesters into a little area where they could neither be seen nor heard. The government did this as well back at the 2012 party conventions so people going in and out of the conventions would not be exposed to the riff-raff.
The First Amendment clearly states Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
There are those who argue that telling people where they may have their free speech is not an abridgment of that right. But it is. Telling people where and how they are allowed to exercise their rights is as much a violation of their rights as telling people what they can and can’t say.
Protesters have been ignoring that little “free speech zone”, and the BLM has begun arresting people because of it. The governor of Nevada has called this action intimidation. Yes, that’s what stormtroopers do. They intimidate, and that is exactly what these jackbooted thugs are doing.
They have been tasering people, and even arrested the rancher’s son for videotaping them, a practice the courts have said over and over is perfectly legal. Watch the video for yourself:
All because they refused to be contained in their “free speech zone” cage.
My wife asked an interesting question, though. Why doesn’t this rancher graze his cattle on his own land? Doesn’t he have enough?
Unfortunately, that’s an answer that we may never get.
Two Federal courts have ruled against Bundy, and has created this standoff. Bundy insists that he isn’t doing anything illegal, because he believes that the Federal government doesn’t really own that land. It raises the question of Federal land ownership and the Constitution.
My position is that the Constitution, Article I, Section 8, clause 17 specifically limits what purposes the Federal government can own land. Article IV, Section 3, clause 2:
The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.
The Supreme Court has ruled that this clause gives the Federal government unlimited powers concerning property ownership, a position I strongly disagree with. You cannot read the different sections of the Constitution in a vacuum. While this clause says that the Feds can make the rules for property they own, Article I clearly defines what that property can be used for, and it is not unlimited. A friend of mine has stated that my understanding of the Constitution differs from the Supreme Court’s understanding. It does. I do not see the Constitution based on “precedence” and “case law”. I base my understanding of it on the Constitution itself, and on my research of it. If I find my interpretation to be incorrect, and I have, my understanding of it changes.
The Federal government owns nearly 85% of the State of Nevada. That is nearly 7/8 of the State! The State that is not a State! That should be their motto. The Federal government owns 53% of the State of Oregon, and not a single fort, magazine, arsenal or shipyard in sight.
Why does the Federal government need so much land?
There are those who argue that under this interpretation, the Louisiana purchase, the Gadsden purchase, the purchase of Alaska and Florida would have been unconstitutional. They could very well have been. Thomas Jefferson, who made the Louisiana Purchase was himself unsure of the Constitutionality of it, but at the same time, the Federal government did not hold onto it for long, instead dividing it up into territories as quickly as possible and turning the new territory into states.
It may have just been easier to take the land, like we took Texas, California, Nevada and Utah from Mexico.
There is an interesting paper on the internet about the Constitutionality of Federal land ownership and how it has been interpreted over the years that can be found here: http://www.law.umaryland.edu/marshall/crsreports/crsdocuments/RL34267_12032007.pdf. It is a very interesting read.
How much land should the Federal government be allowed to own? I have no problems with the Federal government owning property for the purposes of military bases and naval yards, but I do not agree that the Constitution allows for National Parks and National Forests, of which Nevada has none. I’m not even sure Nevada has any trees.
The policy of Federal retention of lands actually began in 1976, even though states, and sometimes the Federal government (under Reagan) tried to force divestiture of these lands. The reality is that this is a bigger issue in the west where the Federal government owns more land than they do in the east. According to this paper (https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42346.pdf) the Federal government owns 28% of all the land in this country. Over 1/4 of this nation!
Federal land ownership is concentrated in the West. Specifically, 62% of Alaska is federally owned, as is 47% of the 11 coterminous western states. By contrast, the federal government owns only 4% of lands in the other states. This western concentration has contributed to a higher degree of controversy over land ownership and use in that part of the country.
And so, we have the basis of the conflict between this rancher and the government. If the government were wiser, it would offer to sell the land to the rancher rather than confiscate his cattle.
If we had a wiser government, it would divest itself of a lot of this land, and work towards paying the national debt off. After all, isn’t that the sole purpose that the Federal government was formed for, to pay off the collective debt from the war?
let’s hope this gets resolved peacefully, and it does not escalate into another Ruby Ridge or Waco.