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“By the 1960s, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) began to evolve into more of a control board, telling ranchers what they could and could not do. By 1976, they had become managers of all concerns regarding public land-use beyond just ranches, to include recreation, mining, environmental, and more. And so, with this new-found power, the BLM, began to dictate the amount of animal units (which quickly translates into the size of the herd) that could be grazed on each rancher’s allotment, often cutting AMU by 40% or more, which cut the BLM’s revenues down. So, in response, the BLM raised their AMU fees to 100 times what they were when they began.
“Now remember, this fee thing was done originally because the ranchers wanted – and agreed to pay for – the services the Federal Government had offered: their adjudication, range improvement, and record keeping. But now, with all the new controlling factors the BLM introduced, the ranchers began to push back. So, in response their push back, the Federal Government began to require contracts for all ranchers, inserting ‘small print’ (clauses) that gave the Federal Government the ultimate power over the ranchers’ ranches.
“That is when we (the Bundys) became the last ranch left. We simply stopped signing any contracts with the Federal Government, putting the BLM on notice that we no longer needed their ‘services.’
“But by then, the BLM was under the impression (and gave the impression—strongly) that they owned the land. Like squatters, who had settled in; but nobody (in authority) could do anything about it, because no one (of the neighbors) was complaining. Everyone had forgotten who owned the land in the first place, the way I see it, because they’d been there for so long. Not even the State Government, nor the common rancher. Operating their own ranches, they came to believe they were leasing the land from the Federal Government to graze their cattle on—thinking they were buying the grass!
“But we knew better. We knew that the Land belonged to the State of Nevada, and that the Constitution does not allow the Federal Government to own land, except for the District of Columbia in Washington, for military uses, and for “certain buildings,” like post offices, administration buildings, etc., because the framers of our Constitution never intended for the Federal Government to lay claim over this much land, as in the case of the Bureau of Land Management has done here, laying claim to approximately 85% of the entire State of Nevada! The Constitution requires the Federal Government to pay for whatever land they do own.”
Here, Cliven opens his pocket Constitution to Article 1, Section 8, Item 17 of its list of 18 items.
“Here, read this, right here…,” as he points me into this little book:
The Congress shall have the power: … (a list of several powers, the next in its midst) To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, and other needful buildings: … (the list continues to its end).
U.S. Constitution Article 1, Section 8, Item 17 (Emphasis added.)
“So, did the Federal Government pay for the State of Nevada?” Cliven rhetorically emanded, “Did they pay for California? Or how much of Oregon did they pay for? What about the rest of the Western United States? How much did they pay for those States’ land?”
I quickly pressed on, fumbling, somewhat, to avoid giving or allowing an answer to these questions. “Now, Cliven, ah, is it true that you’ve refused to acknowledge any Federal Government claims over Nevada public land … and that since 1998 you’ve just ignored the Federal Government … um, … insisting that the Clark County Sheriff, elected by the citizens of Nevada in Clark County, is in the rightful position to be your protector for your life, your ranch, your property, and your Constitutional rights and from any efforts of the BLM to force you to sign a public lands use contract to use those lands by virtue of the use rights that you exclusively own, right?”
Cliven waited patiently—to see if I’d clumsily found my way to some sort of finished question.
He responded, “Yes. Every time since 1998, when I would have an encounter with the BLM Federal Agents, I would just call the local sheriff out and that would settle the problem. The local sheriff’s department wrote up a memorandum of understanding between the Sheriff’s Department and the BLM regarding the procedures of the BLM to gain access to my ranch.”
“So, Cliven, in your opinion, who is the problem here?” I began to see his point of view.
“Clearly, the States are. As they should be, exercising their rights to the lands that they own. And then, there’s the ranchers, too. They should be willing to stop signing ’em contracts, which give the Government the power over ’em, for without those contracts, the Federal
Government would have no power at all,” Cliven said forcefully.
Out came his pocket Constitution again. “Here, read that,” pointing to:
No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
To be continued…
But there is much more to tell about the story of Cliven Bundy challenging the government’s authority over federal land … so, stay tuned.
About Michael Stickler
Mike is an author, radio host, ex-felon, and a highly sought after conference speaker. His best-selling book, A Journey to Generosity, is widely acclaimed throughout the Christian community. He is the publisher of Generous Living Magazine and writes for the Christian Post, 'A Generous Life' column (MikeStickler.com)