Online Messenger #272
It isn’t every day that public lands livestock grazing garners national media attention, but last week’s conflict with Nevada scofflaw Cliven Bundy had both mainstream news sources and right-wing conspiracy bloggers keeping a real-time watch on a long overdue trespass cattle roundup in the Mojave desert.
Bundy’s resistance to following federal law is nothing new. He stopped paying grazing fees in 1993 and refused to get his cows off in 1998 when his permit was formally retired. He has twice bulldozed reservoirs on public lands and publicly announced that he doesn’t recognize the existence of the United States Government. The District Courts have ordered him to remove his cows on more than one occasion and verified BLM’s authority to remove the cows if he didn’t.
Last week, Bundy’s resistance reached a new level. When the Bureau of Land Management went out to round up the livestock, Bundy and right-wing media announced it a “range war” and about a thousand armed civilians showed up to defend Bundy’s “right” to ignore numerous federal laws including the Endangered Species Act. Touting ideas like “Freedom,” and “Liberty,” these protestors were really endorsing ecological destruction, privitization of public lands, and violent intimidation of federal employees.
It’s a shame, too, because the land that Bundy is trespassing on is critical habitat for the Mojave desert tortoise. Also, Bundy’s permits have already been bought-out as mitigation for development elsewhere and the Gold Butte area is supposed to be a refugia from the deleterious effects of livestock grazing for this and other species.
It’s particularly egregious that Bundy and his supporters believe that he is entitled to these lands because his family has been ranching there for several generations; desert tortoise have been in the Mojave for millenia and are at risk of extinction because of the activities of humans.
While Cliven Bundy is an extreme example, WWP knows that this sense of entitlement and disregard for federal authority is not uncommon in public lands ranching. Bundy’s cows are not the only livestock trampling fragile deserts, precious riparian areas, and imperiling native plants and animals. That is why WWP will continue working to end abusive public lands livestock grazing and to press for meaningful policy reform.