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The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

What A Mess

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

 For the past couple of weeks, a public lands ranching family from Nevada has, in some cases, taken over the national news. Cliven Bundy and his family have done a pretty good job of telling their story to America, and for the most part it was done before a sympathetic newsperson and audience.

Everyone should be sympathetic towards the Bundy family, maybe not for some of their actions, but for the actions of the BLM to resolve the issue. The Bundy family hasn’t paid their grazing fees for close to 10 years as they believe their grazing lands are not federal but state lands, and they are not going to budge from that belief. So, they are standing up for their principles. One has to admire that, but to say on camera in an interview for a national news program for the BLM to “come and get them” is asking for it, in my opinion. 

If you look back at the actions of the BLM in the roundup of the cattle and how they handled the press and the public, you would think it would make a great training tool for what an agency or organization should not do in a case like this. Rounding up cattle with small calves with four-wheelers, helicopters and machine guns is not an image America wants to see on the evening news. Pictures of dead cattle and disposal of animals by covering them up in holes, using dogs, armed guards and tasers against the public and family members are not means to resolve an issue peacefully. No matter of the family’s legal issues, no American should be treated as such for not paying a grazing bill, and no ranching family should let it get to that point where there is no future for those who wish to stay on the ranch.  

We can all sympathize with dealing with endangered species, overbearing regulations that have forced all the neighboring ranchers off the lands, a harsh grass and water country that will only sustain the toughest native cattle and a government agency using Gestapo tactics on its own citizens. Being right or wrong doesn’t matter under those conditions.

I read in one column that the Bundy family has been operating so long without a grazing permit that maybe legally they have prescriptive rights. It went on to say that, in most states, if a trespass or use of a land occurs regularly for at least five years without the “owner” of the land taking legal action, prescriptive rights come into play. That might explain why the BLM has not taken this issue to court and never bothered to file a lien against the cattle.  

Regardless of who is right or wrong, it happened on the new National BLM Director’s watch, who just happens to be from Nevada and was a past aide for many years to Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid. “If it talks like a duck and walks like a duck…”  

On a positive note, the situation in Nevada with the Bundy family did bring to national attention the challenges of being a public lands rancher.

I feel for the young members of the Bundy family. It doesn’t look like they have much of a future on their ranch, and that’s an important part of agriculture. And after their Dad’s racial comments this past week, he won’t have much of a future either!

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