Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
The Battle Over Bunkerville The Bundys, the Federal Government and the New Militia Movement
They had come to defend Cliven Bundy, a longtime Nevada rancher who had declared a “range war” against the federal government. Bundy’s cattle had grazed freely across public lands near the town of Bunkerville for more than 20 years, in defiance of orders from the federal Bureau of Land Management. Bundy had ignored penalty fees and three court orders requiring him to remove the animals. Now, the bureau had begun impounding the cattle to auction them off.
The bureau had expected resistance from Cliven and his sons, who had vowed to defend a livelihood their family had maintained for generations. They even thought there might be protests from local friends and family.
“What we really did not anticipate is hundreds of militia members, many of them armed, coming from around the country,” said Steve Ellis, then the BLM’s deputy director of operations, who was watching the situation unfold from his office in Washington, D.C.
The standoff had been coming to a head for several days, and by that Saturday morning, the BLM estimated, hundreds of militia and other supporters had gathered — some on horseback, many of them armed. They vastly outnumbered the federal agents on the scene.
It was the largest gathering of militia anyone had seen in decades, and it sent shockwaves through the land management agency. Like most of his colleagues at the BLM, Ellis, a soft-spoken forester from the midwest, spent his time thinking about how best to manage public lands, not armed standoffs. Now, some of his officers in Nevada were worried they might never see their families again. Hoping to defuse the mounting tension, BLM officials in Washington made a decision. Saturday morning, they ordered the agents on the ground to stop rounding up Bundy’s cattle. The local sheriff, Doug Gillespie, drove out to Bundy Ranch to deliver the news. He stepped up on a makeshift stage decked out in American flags and red, white and blue bunting. The crowd roared its approval as he explained that the BLM would stop the round-up and begin dismantling the military-style compound it had set up nearby to carry out the operation.
“My intention is to keep a very emotional issue safe,” he said, turning to Cliven Bundy, who was standing with him on the stage. “What I’d like to sit down and talk with you about is how that is facilitated in a safe way.”
But Bundy had other ideas.