A “liberty celebration” is on tap this weekend, Friday through Sunday, at the Bundy ranch in Nevada where just a year ago the family and hundreds of supporters stared down the federal government over plans to confiscate cattle from their historic grazing grounds.
And ranch patriarch Cliven Bundy says the fight really isn’t over for Americans until the federal government is pushed back into Washington and stays there.
Federal bureaucrats “are still moving forward,” he told WND.
“What they’re doing now, they are coming into organizations, county organizations, police forces, city forces, even state forces … buying their way in,” he said.
Bundy said the population of the U.S. – which he calls “We the People” – need to teach the federal bureaucrats their job under the Constitution is limited to designated responsibilities, such as establishing monetary policy and maintaining a national defense, and the rest is left to the sovereign states.
It was just a year ago that the Bundy family, reinforced by hundreds of like-minded Americans who converged on the Nevada desert to offer their support, stared down the federal government, which had come to confiscate the ranch cattle.
They are planning a reunion this weekend to “gather in celebration of our liberties … and stand with God, for our U.S. Constitution, state sovereignty, property rights and to enjoy access to our lands.”
Invited are all people who “enjoy freedom,” including those “who express music, poetry, words, documentaries and other arts. Those who hold political office. The cowboys. Those who supported with prayers and finances. The militia who keep us safe. Media outlets both friendly and unfriendly (TV, radio, Internet, books, magazines and other). All those who have invited the Bundy family to speak and teach around the world.”
There will be camping, off-roading, hiking, river activities, barbeques, shooting, a live band, and more on Friday and Saturday. Sunday will feature a “testimony meeting, share your feelings for God and country.”
Who owns the land?
A year ago, WND columnist Tom Tancredo, a former Colorado congressman, summarized what had happened at the Bundy ranch.
“Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his family stood their ground in front of 200 armed federal government agents trying to confiscate his cattle. In fact, they did take his cattle, but then released them and left his ranch as a means to reduce tensions and avoid violence,” Tancredo wrote.
“What was Bundy’s crime? For 21 years he has refused to pay annual grazing fees he says are unconstitutional because, in his view, the federal government does not own the land, Nevada does. Besides the issue of the grazing fees, recently the Bureau of Land Management stopped issuing permits for cattle grazing in that area in order to protect the habitat of a desert tortoise now on the endeared species list.
“So, rancher Bundy’s basic problem is not the grazing fees, it is the denial of a grazing permit. The Bundys have grazed cattle on that same land for 136 years, but nowadays, the desert tortoise has more rights than Bundy’s cattle. Bundy is the only local rancher who has not yet been driven out of business by federal land management policies.”
At the time the feds withdrew, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, a Democrat, threatened, “It’s not over.”
‘We are still here’
Bundy told WND that those who participated in the standoff asked the ranch family to hold the reunion.
The message, he said, “We are still here. We still have some freedoms.”
Over the last year, he said, he’s been able to ranch without government interference, and citizens have been able to use the land there.
He also said he’s been working with members of the state legislature on a bill that would put the state in the primary role of managing public lands.
That plan, AB408, would have the state “adopt regulations that provide for the appropriate and registration of grazing, logging, mineral development or other beneficial use rights on public lands.”
The bill “prohibits the federal government from owning or regulating activity on any land in this state that it has not acquired with the consent of the legislature and upon which it has not erected forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards or other needful buildings … the rights to own and use such land are the common property of the citizens of this state.”
Getting very specific, the law states: “Except as otherwise provided … the federal government shall not own rights to use land or water, post signs on any land or dispose of, lease, issue permits for use of, collect fees relating to, prohibit or restrict the use of or enter into any contract relating to land or water with the borders of this state for any purpose.”
“Basically,” Bundy explains, “we are a sovereign state. We have good law. We’re trying to exercise that law.”
He said it was interesting that at the time of the standoff, the “armies” of federal bureaucrats, joined with state, county and even local law enforcement.
“We the People stood against all of those governments,” he said, adding the goal of authorities apparently was to establish “the federal government’s unlimited power over this land.”
He said there’s no doubt the federal government is needed, but it should function within prescribed limits.
“It’s place is back in Washington, D.C. It has nothing to do with our land in this sovereign state.”
Stripping agencies of ‘paramilitary power’
The conflict prompted a Utah congressman to propose stripping federal agencies of their paramilitary power, which he says is increasingly being used to intimidate citizens.
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, introduced HR 4934, also called the Regulatory Agency De-militarization Act or RAD, in late June last year.
He said: “People know it’s just so unnecessary for the federal government to have this kind of power. You’ve really got to twist yourself into a pretzel to defend this type of power.”
In recent years, nearly every federal regulatory agency – from the U.S. Department of Education to the Food and Drug Administration and the Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – has deployed some kind of SWAT-type unit with high-powered assault rifles, helmets, menacing black uniforms with faces covered, body armor and militarized armored vehicles.
Stewart said it’s disturbing for Americans to read stories of federal regulators armed to the teeth and breaking into homes and businesses with no reason to think there would be resistance.
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, from that time:
State lawmakers at the time criticized the heavy-handed federal response.
“Whether Bundy was right or wrong, was the BLM’s response reasonable? Anyone watching that unfolding fiasco can answer it was completely insane,” said Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., who added that guns should be taken out of the hands of federal land managers.
Weeks later, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said the conflict was as much the fault of the feds as of Bundy.
He explained in a meeting with a newspaper that the feds misled him and then refused to accept his advice.
The standoff resulted in several ranch cattle being killed, damaged fences and damaged water troughs, the family said.
When federal agents backed away from the ranch, they said their decision was because of “serious concern” about the safety of law enforcement officials and private citizens involved in the standoff.
WND reported retired Rep. Ron Paul, the father of presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., had warned back in 1997 about the weaponization of federal officers:
The warning from Ron Paul quoted WND founder and CEO Joseph Farah, who then was running the Western Journalism Center in Sacramento and had researched the massive number of federal officers Washington was arming.
Paul said: “Thanks to a recent article by Joseph Farah, director of the Western Journalism Center of Sacramento, California, appearing in the Houston Chronicle, the surge in the number of armed federal bureaucrats has been brought to our attention. Farah points out that in 1996 alone, at least 2,439 new federal cops were authorized to carry firearms. That takes the total up to nearly 60,000. Farah points out that these cops were not only in agencies like the FBI, but include the EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and the Army Corps of Engineers. Even Bruce Babbitt, according to Farah, wants to arm the Bureau of Land Management. Farah logically asks, ‘When will the NEA have its armed art cops?’ This is a dangerous trend.”
Paul said it’s “ironic that the proliferation of guns in the hands of the bureaucrats is pushed by the anti-gun fanatics who hate the Second Amendment and would disarm every law-abiding American citizen.”
“Yes, we need gun control. We need to disarm our bureaucrats, then abolish the agencies. If government bureaucrats like guns that much, let them seek work with the NRA,” he said.
“Force and intimidation are the tools of tyrants. Intimidation with government guns, the threat of imprisonment, and the fear of harassment by government agents puts fear into the hearts of millions of Americans. Four days after Paula Jones refused a settlement in her celebrated suit, she received notice that she and her husband would be audited for 1995 taxes. Since 1994 is the current audit year for the IRS, the administration’s denial that the audit is related to the suit is suspect, to say the least.”