Events important for preserving America’s Constitution will be soon unfolding. Nevada rancher Cliven D. Bundy’s federal trial will finally begin in Las Vegas, Nevada, for a 2014 peaceful protest in support of the Constitution some incorrectly called “The Battle of Bunkerville.”
In fact, there was no battle from the standpoint of the peaceful protesters. Rather, it was the federal government – then run by former President Barack Obama – that threatened the Bundy family’s lives, beat the heck out of the sister of Cliven Bundy, Tasered his two sons, violently kicked the family dog and killed many of their cattle, burying them in a mass secret grave.
The trial of Bundy by Obama holdover prosecutors who want to make a name for themselves will be the real Battle of Bunkerville to now restrain the expansion of federal power, particularly over ranchers in the West, under any administration.
In Clark County, Nevada, Cliven Bundy and his family have been raising cattle on the Bundy ranch for more than 150 years, upon which grazing, water and other rights have been vested over time from the state of Nevada. The use of such public land for cattle grazing is common and permitted. Recognizing that the land is owned by Nevada, the Bundy family has dutifully proffered payment of the grazing fees to Nevada.
The federal government, however, falsely claims it owns the land and has demanded for many years that the Bundy ranch pay it instead of Nevada.
Like other overreaching excesses of the federal government, it claims to own 84.9 percent of Nevada, 64.9 percent of Utah, 61.6 percent of Idaho, 61.2 percent of Alaska, 52.9 percent of Oregon, 48.1 percent of Wyoming, 45.8 percent of California, 38.6 percent of Arizona, 35.9 percent of Colorado and 34.7 percent of New Mexico, all states where ranching was at one time a big industry.
But, lo and behold, the federal government never owned these lands, which it now uses to extort money from ranchers. The creation of the Western states followed the same legal system and pattern as the original 13 colonies: “[I]t was the intention of the parties to invest the United States with the eminent domain of the country ceded, both national and municipal, for the purposes of temporary government, and to hold it in trust for the performance of the stipulations and conditions expressed in the deeds of cession and the legislative acts connected with them” Pollard v. Hagan, 44 U.S. (3 How.) 212, 222 (1845) (emphasis added).
At most – and this is in doubt, too – the federal government held these lands only temporarily for administration, to be distributed to citizens, not as an actual owner. The Nevada state legislature explicitly repudiated federal ownership of these lands. Nevada Revised Statutes §§ 321.596 – 321.599. And the Nevada Constitution was amended in 1983 consistent with that position.
Advocates of federal absolutism falsely claim that the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo gave the federal government ownership of the land. But nothing in that treaty supports that view. Only the boundaries between the United States and Mexico are addressed.
Cliven Bundy firmly believes that the one legal precedent in claimed support of the federal government’s land grab, United States v. Gardner, 107 F.3d 1314, 1320 (9th Cir. 1997), is clearly wrong because it attempts to treat the Western states differently in legal analysis from the original 13 colonies. However, our Founders strongly rejected any such distinction. There can be no legal inferiority of some states in comparison with others.
Founding Father James Madison wrote in a first draft of the Constitution, “If admission be consented to, new states shall be admitted on the same terms with the original states.” Madison later insisted that “the Western States neither would nor ought to submit to a union which degraded them from an equal rank with the other States” (“Journal of the Debates in the Convention which Framed the Constitution,” Page 274, 1908).
To enforce its phony claim to the Bundys’ land, the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM – then run by not just Obama as president, but also a hand-picked lackey of corrupt Nevada Sen. Harry Reid – sent in armed para-military BLM agents to seize and slaughter scores of cattle being raised by the Bundy family. Upset and concerned by this intimidation and excessive use of power of the federal government, reminiscent of law enforcement excesses at Waco, Texas, and Ruby Ridge, defenders of the Constitution gathered from around the country. They used their First and Second Amendment rights to peacefully protest the unlawful arrogance and violent actions of the federal government.
But why would heavily armed BLM thugs from the U.S. Department of Interior want to invade the Bundy ranch, threaten the Bundy family’s lives, assault them and kill much of their herd?
When former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid is around, the smell of corruption is not far. Harry Reid and his son, Rory Reid, wanted the federal government to sell the land out from under the Bundys by reportedly handing it to Chinese company ENN Energy Group, again reportedly to line the Reids’ pockets and build a $5-billion solar farm subsidized by the Obama administration. So collecting grazing fees wasn’t the point. Like “Snidely Whiplash” of cartoon lore, destroying the Bundy family’s livelihood in favor of Chinese investors was the evil project of Obama and Reid.
But even that was not enough for Obama and Reid. Just before leaving office, on Dec. 28, 2016, President Obama declared through executive order a federal enclave, the Gold Butte National Monument of a 300,000 acres outside Las Vegas, which subsumes the Bundy ranch. This new federal seizure of state land is simply illegal!
So now, the federal government is seeking to maintain its threats and intimidation by burying the 2014 protesters in court, including most of the Bundy family. Despite the way that the rules have been bent and broken by federal Judge Gloria Navarro – you guessed it, the hand-picked jurist of Reid and Obama – to ensure convictions, the Obama hold-over prosecutors have failed so far to win many convictions among various groups of the defendants that have been tried thus far. Yet the expense, disruption and toll on the Bundy family are horrible. The trial is estimated to last three to four months.
However, because the federal government does not actually own the public lands of Nevada, the BLM’s paramilitary force did not have jurisdiction to either collect grazing fees or send in the U.S. Department of the Interior’s standing army to attack the Bundy family. The prosecution of the Bunkerville peaceful protesters is on unsustainable legal ground because the federal government lacks jurisdiction over land that is actually owned by the state of Nevada.
I am thus filing a companion civil lawsuit next week that seeks to require Nevada to stand up for its rights and reclaim the 84.9 percent of state land that the federal government has seized illegally and converted to its own use.
Please urgently and strongly support the Bundy family’s cause – which is also your cause – to protect We the People from government tyranny. See ClivenBundyDefenseFund.org.