Cliven Bundy’s Battle Not Yet Finished!
The show of force by the BLM backfired.
One year after the biggest Western standoff in recent history, the Battle of Bunkerville still is smoldering.
The citizen militiamen with guns and “Don’t Tread on Me” flags are long gone from Cliven Bundy’s ranch, where a federal attempt to round up the rancher’s illegally-grazing cattle went terribly wrong, but major questions remain.
Bundy continues to graze his cattle on federal land with impunity. He claims the desert scrub 70 miles northeast of Las Vegas is rightfully his. He still hasn’t paid the government the estimated $1.1 million he owes in grazing fees and interest. And the federal government, so far, has done nothing about it.
“We’re probably living in the freest place in the whole world,” Bundy recently told The Sunday. “We have not had any type of government interference.”
That could change. When the Bureau of Land Management decided last April to abort its roundup before someone pulled a trigger, officials in Washington promised to find a way to uphold the law. They handed the case over to the Department of Justice and FBI — what some insiders say should have happened in the first place.
The Department of Justice now is investigating Bundy and the dozens of militiamen who traveled from across the country to defend him. But it’s not clear what prosecutors will decide to do with the case, or when they will make a decision.
In the meantime, some say the government’s inaction has only emboldened Bundy and his supporters.
“It makes the BLM’s overall job more difficult when it appears they are unable to take effective measures against a scofflaw like Cliven Bundy,” said David Alberswerth, a historian and former BLM aide.
Last week, Bundy and a group of fans traveled to Carson City to support a Republican-backed bill that declares a swath of federal land in Nevada the “common property of the citizens of the state.” It prohibits the federal government from claiming water rights and owning any land in the state unless it’s for a military operation or approved by the Legislature.[…]
BLM officials won’t speak publicly about what went wrong last April. Agency officials were caught off guard by the underground infrastructure that compelled dozens of people to load their rifles, pack their pickup trucks and drive — some from as far away as Massachusetts — to face off against the government threatening Bundy’s ranch.
“It’s not about the cows,” said Cliven Bundy’s cousin, Jake Fraught. “It’s about the freedom to make our own choices close to home.”[…]
Bruce Babbitt, former secretary of the Department of the Interior, said asking for the court order was the BLM’s first mistake. The agency should have asked for judicial cover to punish Bundy another way.
“A better way would have been to go to court and put a lien that would prevent the sale of the cattle,” Babbitt said.
The BLM also underwent a change in leadership right before the melee. The cattle roundup took place shortly after Elko native Neil Kornze took charge of the agency.
Kornze wouldn’t comment on the incident but recently told a House panel, “I think it’s important to clarify that grazing is not a right.”