April 22, 2014

'Militia' groups fear infiltration by feds at Bundy Ranch

By Lauren Rozyla
KLAS-TV Las Vegas


BUNKERVILLE, Nev. -- Militia groups are still surrounding the Bundy ranch days after the BLM ended its roundup of cattle. There is concern among some of them that they have been infiltrated by undercover federal agents.

One man, among the self-described militia, says at least two federal agents went undercover to gather information and are preparing to make arrests. This latest information is causing increased tensions among those who say their goal is to protect rancher Cliven Bundy. Around 50 people remain at the ranch, many living in tents, and are prepared to stay for weeks, even months. The men say they took an oath to protect, but they are worried there is a rat in the ranks

"When you pledge your life and your fortune, you're prepared to give it up," said Bobby Bridgewater, an Oath Keeper.

An atmosphere of uncertainty now surrounds the Bundy ranch. The so-called security guards aren't sure, but they believe it's possible federal agents are among them, posing as militia.

"You don't know until you actually catch somebody," Bridgewater said. "It is always something that we're always thinking about."

The Bundy supporters gathered in Bunkerville to protect the Bundy family. Cliven Bundy has allowed his cattle to graze illegally for 20 years on public lands. The feds began rounding up the cattle about three weeks ago, but stopped after some armed supporters interfered. Those supporters took Bundy's cattle back from a federal holding pen. The militia continue to guard Bundy and the nearby hills 24 hours a day.

Former Bundy guard Frank Lindysthe says it is all very troubling.

"They are now calling for militia. They're not in dug in positions, they are sitting on top of ridges. They don't have night vision capability," he said.

Lindysthe left the ranch in the middle of the night after at least two men tried joining the guard. He said the men made him uncomfortable.

"The people that are up there, they have a certain look about them. These are military. My belief is federal agents," he said.

Lindysthe feels the alleged federal agents are there to gather information on militia members and eventually conduct a raid.

"They're dirty. They're dirty," he said.

But, despite that belief, most of the militia show no signs of leaving and many say they're ready to die fighting.

The BLM is declining any on camera interviews and there's been no talk of any arrests connected to the dispute.

Downsize National Park Service, dumping costly, unpopular sites

EDITORIAL
Washington Times

The National Park Service is waiving entrance fees to America’s national parks and historic sites during National Parks Week. The freebies continue until April 27, but taxpayers aren’t getting a bargain, considering that the swollen agency spends $2.6 billion a year.

President Obama wants to spend still more money on parks, asking Congress to approve a scheme to spend an additional $1.2 billion over the next three years. The cash would be earmarked to celebrate the National Park Service’s centennial anniversary in 2016. It would fund, among other projects, an expensive youth work program and provide more muscle for the federales to wrestle land from individual property owners.

The National Park Service runs so deeply in the red because it’s too big. The agency runs 401 parks and historic sites, 23 trails and 58 rivers. For every majestic natural wonder and historic treasure, there’s a sparsely visited Park Service site of little value or significance. Many, if not most, of the Park Service’s nearly 500 properties might be better served in state, local or private hands.

Few national parks are financially self-sufficient. The rest are on the dole, requiring taxpayers to subsidize a failure to attract visitors, revenue and interest. Fees paid by park visitors fund only a nickel of every dollar devoured by the Park Service. Taxpayers fund the rest.

Playwright Eugene O’Neill’s hillside home in the San Francisco Bay is now a National Historic Site. It costs federal taxpayers $687,000 per year to keep open, though visitors trickle through at an average of just seven a day. That’s $270 for each and every visitor. In contrast, the Columbus, Miss., home of O’Neill’s contemporary, Tennessee Williams, was restored by private donors and is open to visitors at no cost to taxpayers.

Fewer than 11,000 persons visit the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in New Mexico every year, but it consumes nearly $1 million in tax dollars annually. An equally impressive fossil site in Gray, Tenn., draws nearly eight times more visitors and is funded primarily through corporate gifts and a few state grants.

Last year, Montana’s Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site attracted only 18,439 people, but taxpayers paid $1.5 million to keep it open. The cost of keeping the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River in Texas works out to $241 per visitor. The Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial near Oakland is an even bigger financial draw, requiring a $329 taxpayer subsidy per visitor. The federally managed site honoring the Wild West-era town of Nicodemus, Kan., draws so few visitors that the taxpayers are out $192 per visitor.

While National Park Service leaders want national park visitors to think they’re getting something for free this week, the gesture conceals an expensive truth. The National Parks are a wonderful treasure, all but unique to America, but the Park Service sometimes wastes money and mismanages many properties. Too much of a good thing can be too much.

Congress could commemorate National Parks Week by empowering private foundations and land trusts — or even state and local governments — to own and operate hundreds of the Park Service’s less visited, less significant and financially failing sites. This would free resources to protect the most worthwhile historic sites and ensure that neglected properties get the care and attention they deserve.

Reid: Cattlemen have lost over half their rangeland in the last 30 years... 'because of climate change.'

By Susan Jones
CNS News


It may not be tomorrow, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says "something will happen" to force a Nevada rancher to obey a court order to stop grazing his cattle on federal land and pay his grazing fees.

"It's obvious that you can't just walk away from this," Reid said in an April 18 interview with a Nevada's KSNV-TV News 3 program “What’s Your Point?”

"You can't have a law that is -- we're a nation of laws, not of men and women," he said.

Reid noted that most cattlemen pay their taxes, pay their fees, and follow the law, but he said rancher Cliven Bundy didn't do any of those things.

Reid again denounced the 600 people who came to Bundy's ranch, armed with "sniper rifles" and "assault rifles," to defend the him and his family.

"So 600 people -- if there were ever an example of people who were domestic violent terrorist wannabes, these were the guys. And I think that we should call it that way."

Reid made it clear that he wasn't calling the Bundys domestic terrorists. "I said the people that came there were...And I said, if these people think they're patriots, they're not...If they're patriots, we're in trouble."

Appearing on the program with Reid, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) called Bundy and his supporters "patriots," noting that there were veterans, Boy Scouts, even grandparents at the protest.

Heller said he was more troubled by the Bureau of Land Management "coming in with a paramilitary army" to round up the Bundy's cattle. "And to have your own government with sniper lenses on you made a lot of people very uncomfortable."

Heller is calling for congressional hearings on the standoff. He says the crux of the problem is the fact that the federal government owns 85 percent of Nevada lands, and he also expressed concern about armed wing of the government -- "200 armed men" moving on private citizens.

"I want to find out who's accountable for this," Heller said. "I hope someone at the BLM feels some accountability on exactly what happened, and I fear that there will be no answer to that question."

Heller noted that in the last 30 years, cattlemen have lost over half the rangeland on which their cattle can graze.

"That's because of climate change," Reid cut in. "We have wildfires that have decimated cowboy land."

Heller said rangeland burns precisely because cattle don't graze. Wait until the sage grouse is listed as an endangered species, Heller added. "I tell you, every cattleman here knows that...their lifespan of their occupation is short. Wait 'til the sage grouse comes."

April 21, 2014

Environmentalists pushed Bundy ranch standoff over endangered [sic] tortoises

A helicopter takes off from a staging area of BLM vehicles and other government vehicles off of Riverside Road near Bunkerville, Nevada over the weekend of April 12-13, 2014. (Reuters)

Michael Bastasch
Daily Caller


Some have speculated that the standoff between federal agents and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy is the result of a secretive deal orchestrated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and political allies in the solar industry.

But the Bundy standoff is really the culmination of a long battle with environmentalists who want to keep federal lands off limits to economic activity. The primary vehicle used by government officials and environmentalists to advance this goal has been the desert tortoise, which was listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act in 1990.

The land Bundy’s family had used for cattle grazing since the late 1800s suddenly became off-limits. Bundy refused to give up his grazing rights and wound up in a prolonged court battle. The court ruled against Bundy in 1998 and ordered him to remove his cattle, or else the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would do it for him.

The BLM even had a webpage detailing the problems they saw from Bundy’s “trespass cattle” that were grazing in desert tortoise habitat. The webpage, however, was deleted. So was the cached copy after the Bundy standoff became nationwide news.

A screenshot of the deleted page from the BLM’s website shows that environmental groups were some of the main forces aligned against Bundy’s trespass cattle. Environmentalists were pushing for the disputed federal lands to be used as “offsite mitigation” for the impact of solar development. Solar development in the area is heavily supported by Nevada environmental groups.

“Non-Governmental Organizations have expressed concern that the regional mitigation strategy for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone utilizes Gold Butte as the location for offsite mitigation for impacts from solar development, and that those restoration activities are not durable with the presence of trespass cattle,” the BLM page says.

“The Center for Biological Diversity has demanded action to resolve trespass in designated critical desert tortoise habitat in several letters,” BLM page notes. “Western Watersheds has requested a verbal status update and later filed a Freedom of Information Act request.”

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Western Watersheds Project (WWP) have been actively pushing the government to impose heftier grazing fees on cattle ranchers for years, along with pressuring officials to close of huge areas of public lands to grazing and oil and gas development.

“While Cliven Bundy is an extreme example, WWP knows that this sense of entitlement and disregard for federal authority is not uncommon in public lands ranching,” WWP said in a statement. “Bundy’s cows are not the only livestock trampling fragile deserts, precious riparian areas, and imperiling native plants and animals. That is why WWP will continue working to end abusive public lands livestock grazing and to press for meaningful policy reform.”

“We’ve been working for the Mojave desert tortoise since 1997. Challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s grazing practices on arid public lands, we’ve helped protect millions of acres of fragile tortoise habitat,” CBD says on its website.

“It’s so blatant,” says Rob Mrowka, senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity said of Bundy’s trespass cattle in 2009. “Anyone can go out there anytime of the year and see cattle. BLM employees trying to protect sensitive plants and animals are very frustrated. It’s a problem that’s been going on and on.”

In April 2012, the BLM were preparing to remove Bundy’s cattle from federal lands, but mysteriously abandoned the operation — note that this was an election year. CBD filed an intent to sue against the BLM under the Endangered Species Act for failing to remove the Bundy’s trespass cattle that year.

CBD was also enraged when the BLM halted removing Bundy’s cattle this month during a fierce standoff between armed federal agents, Bundy supporters and militia members. The BLM returned the 400 cattle they had rounded up to Bundy, angering environmentalists.

“The BLM has both a statutory and sacred duty to manage our public lands in the public interest, to treat all users equally and fairly,” said Mrowka. “Instead it as allowing a freeloading rancher backed by armed thugs to seize hundreds of thousands of acres of the people’s land as their own fiefdom.”

“The BLM monumentally failed to remove the trespass cattle, collect fees, or protect the land for more than 20 years,” Mrowka added. “Now it backed down in the face of threats and posturing of armed so-called ‘sovereignists.’ This is absolutely pathetic and an insult to ranchers and others who hold permits and pay their required fees to use the public lands.”

The Bundy ranch is not out of the woods yet. CBD and other environmentalists have also promised to hold the BLM to its court-mandated orders to round up Bundy’s cattle.

“[I]t’s clear that the BLM has a legal duty to remove trespass cattle for the land entrusted to it by the American people,” Mrowka said. “It has a moral responsibility to not let armed thugs and threats of violence seize hundreds of thousands of acres of public land for their own. We intend to hold the BLM accountable to the American people, fair play, and to justice.”

What’s Next for the Bundys?

OPINION

By David Hathaway
LewRockwell.com


The federal response will definitely come. It will likely be in three areas; two of which don’t involve the Bundys specifically. First, a multi-faceted attack will be made on the Bundys; second, a broad-front regulatory response against other land users will be made for the purpose of retaliation against the whole group and as a deterrent; and third, new provocateur deployments will probably be made across the West into similar situations.

The attack on the Bundys will be planned to be large enough so as to not fail since precedents are being considered by the feds. To give an historical example, the precedent of voluntary militias forming in the nineties as a constitutional concept in lieu of standing armies was effectively derailed for twenty years when the whole movement was painted as obscene by multiple federal law enforcement agencies intensely targeting them, or anything that looked like them, while prosecuting a P.R. campaign in conjunction with the sycophant mass media in the wake of the provocateured Oklahoma City fiasco.

There is the possibility that doors will be smashed down in the darkness of early morning raids for all the Bundy family members, supporters, and ranch hands. There is the possibility that plants are feigning inside knowledge at this very moment and are seated with prosecutors scrolling through video and pointing out participants and ascribing statements or actions to them. Such violent raids on houses and places of business targeting these designated domestic terrorists represent one possibility. If that happens, it probably won’t be immediate. The following factors all affect the time-line for the response which I estimate to be in about three weeks, give or take a week or two.

The most likely first step for the violent option involves the impaneling of a grand jury that will be brought along slowly with presentations by government “experts” giving sensational overviews of generic un-American activities, terrorist groups, and right wing extremists. All of the activity involving the grand jury will be officially in “secret.” Power-point presentations will be made to the grand jury showing pipe bombs, smoking buildings, and nazi symbolism. It will be blatantly prejudicial to the eventual case presented for indictment but, there is no “other side” in this process to object. There is just a prosecutor, government agents, and the grand jury eating doughnuts in a little room. Period. The massaging of the jury’s mindset is done long before they are shown case-specific information. This process can go on for a week. It is not adversarial. It is a one-sided show. There is no defense. It is designed to paint a picture of a general evil class of people. It’s kind of like the process used to get police cadets ready to shoot people. There is no danger that the grand jurors will ever be identified by the Bundys or feel any guilt from having to face those they bravely accuse.

Next, with the extent of the balderdashing that needs to be done to the grand jury to obfuscate the truth in this case, the prosecutor will need another week of ominous head-nodding alongside the agent witnesses’ general summarizing of the evil network masterminded by the Bundys. That puts us at two weeks. Then, the grand jury would be asked to give a “true bill,” an indictment. The grand jury ALWAYS indicts if asked to do so. Always, always, always. Because if they don’t, they are dismissed and another one is impaneled until the indictment is handed down. The warrants on the indictment will then be issued by the federal magistrate by the following week.

And finally, the law enforcement agencies need a few days to draw up plans, print out Google Earth photos of all the target locations, bring in TDY support from other federal agencies, assemble for briefings, give out team assignments, and pick a date to execute search warrants and arrest warrants. So, all of that puts us at three weeks. The three weeks also gives a period of apparent peace and quiet. It will be hoped that this quiet period will cause any supporters to give up and go home. Agents from other agencies will be enticed, probably with notices going out right now, to volunteer for an all-expense paid week living on the Las Vegas strip at taxpayer expense enjoying wine, women, and song at a premier hotel. This is one of the possible approaches against the Bundys.

Another possibility will be considered by agency heads that are reviewing the news coverage, the iconic images of cowboys waving flags displaying historic “American” individualism, and the favorable reaction by much of the public to the visible stand taken by Bundy supporters. This possibility would probably begin to slowly go into effect along the same three-week time-line as the smash-and-grab scenario above. This one may involve the grand jury also but, as an “investigative tool.” While a grand jury is “investigating” a suspect or a “criminal organization,” unlimited secret subpoenas may be issued for anything. No other reason for the subpoena is needed other than the fact that the grand jury is investigating something. Anything and everything will be scarfed up. The feds will get financial information, phone information, and witnesses that will be compelled to testify or be incarcerated if they refuse to testify. There is no, “I stand on the fifth” when the grand jury asks you about something. You will be held in contempt merely for refusing to testify when in front of a grand jury. No day in court. No due process. No good time. No parole. No probation. You are locked up as a grand jury witness until you change your mind and decide to go along with the government.

Ex-parte orders would be obtained to obtain IRS records for all involved. Asset forfeiture orders for substitute assets could be obtained that would identify Bundy or supporter assets and forfeit those assets to the government in lieu of supposed specific losses sustained by the government from unpaid grazing fees or other claimed damages or from an estimated value of the illegal proceeds of the criminal activity (ranching). These designated substitute assets may have no identifiable connection to the asset classes designated as losses or as illegal income by the government. Money laundering charges could be filed for “conversion” of “illegally obtained” assets or income.

Archived call data or live “pen registers” may be obtained to make conspiracy connections within the “criminal organization.” Wiretaps may be initiated although this would be more time consuming and would lead to jury- sympathetic recorded conversations with fewer co-conspirator and criminal hierarchy connections than those which could be manufactured by experts analyzing the call data with link charts to be shown to a jury.

This alternate slower attack against the Bundys would be the nickel-and-dime approach that would result in service of seizure orders to banks and persons. Seizure notices would be posted on residential or business property accompanied by lis pendens filings recorded at the county courthouse against those properties. Notices would be mailed out. Administrative or judicial forfeiture action would commence against personal assets depending on value thresholds. Bank accounts would be frozen and then drained. Persons would be detained individually when they went shopping away from their homes to avoid video clips of militarized feds attacking the houses of ordinary Americans in military operations. Businesses and vehicles would be seized over time. Cars would be grabbed when driven away from home when the owners were alone in their vehicles so as to not precipitate a defensive response from supporters.

Both of these types of attacks on the Bundys would likely involve the task force concept where multiple agencies would be brought in to confer and participate in either the slow or fast take-down of the Bundys and their livelihood. The other three-letter agencies would likely be tapped to lend equipment, manpower, administrative authority, or proprietary investigative techniques to wage the good fight against the hard-working American cowboys and their loyal families.

The most likely response will involve the above techniques in a hybrid operation with the Sheriff’s Office or Nevada State authorities. Up to half of current federal agency prosecutions are done through county prosecutor offices or state attorney generals’ offices. The federal prosecutors don’t object since their resources haven’t always kept up with the expansion of federal law enforcement agencies. They are all too happy to see a federal law enforcement agency prosecute a case, or parts of a case, through state and county channels when similar laws exist on the federal and state side. Charging the core case via the county or state would be somewhat complex in this situation, however, since the base charges are primarily federal in nature regarding lands that the feds have proclaimed off-limits to various citizen and resident uses. That wouldn’t be a stopper though.

Cliven Bundy has indicated that he would surrender or submit to justice if the Sheriff was the one making the request on behalf of the county or state. It is likely that the feds will approach the Sheriff and suggest that he be part of the face of leviathan when Bundy is approached with a combination of charges. The feds will pressure the county and state authorities to come up with a few token charges that could be dovetailed with the federal charges so that a county warrant, summons, writ, or subpoena could be presented by a local officer tacitly or overtly working with the feds. Local officers are quite often deputized with federal authority for the duration of a certain case or longer. Once the Bundy case is in the state system, criminally or civilly, the state charges could then be dropped or held in abeyance while county authorities defer to federal prosecutors awaiting the outcome of the federal case.

Aside from the Bundy family, all other ranchers will likely be punished by the feds via enhanced regulatory interventions in response to the actions on display in Nevada. This is common fare as a mechanism to teach the public to not mimic others who are standing up for themselves. USFS and BLM staff will be told at the headquarters level to crack down on ranchers in general and to give no quarter when dealing with “grazing permits” and “grazing fees.” The continual downward trend for the number of cattle allowed on historical grazing lands, i.e. “federal allotments,” will be announced to ranchers during their recurring annual grazing permit meetings with the feds. The continually reduced allotments will be enforced with vigor to teach the rancher scum a lesson. My family has had to deal for generations with perpetually reduced livestock “allowances” on grazing lands in Arizona along with the more recent “endangered species” excuse to stomp on the land and water rights of ranchers who willingly maintain infrastructure that benefits both livestock and wildlife at no taxpayer expense. This happens, and will continue to happen, on both private deeded ranching land and on historical grazing “permit” lands used by ranchers for generations that were beyond the acreage amounts permitted for official deeded homesteading claims. [By the way, these grazing “permits” on specific land parcels with their documented historical homestead linkages convey and are bought and sold just like other real estate.]

The final likely type of general response by the feds will be a chaotic, unpredictable deployment of provocateurs throughout the West trying to simulate the crisis presented in this trendy new visible law enforcement category. More visible crises are needed to allow Fox News and CNN to delineate between the good guys (the police state) and the bad guys (ranchers). Attempts will be made to catch evil ranchers operating their ranches while scheming, in recorded conversations, to keep operating their ranches despite growing opposition by the feds to the presence of ranchers. That won’t work since cowboys are wary and hard to trap, so provocateurs will try to find a bozo in a cowboy hat and suggest to him, after he consumes a 12-pack purchased by the provocateur, that the drunk pretend cowboy and his new found friend should have some fun and smash some turtles out in the desert. The feds would then save us from that fate just on the cusp of it occurring with federal planning, financing, and taxpayer purchased plastic turtle props. It would be made clear in press releases that no real turtles were harmed, lest we worry. The federal press releases for this activity would be glorious and be seen by most being read verbatim by a horrified network newsreader tossing her hair incredulously while sports scores scroll underneath the screen. A hammer over a turtle outline could be the graphic floating next to the newsreader’s head.

Or, attempts may be made to paint a rancher as evil by trying to compile statistics of drug loads arriving in the interior of the U.S. that federal experts would suggest must have traversed the rancher’s land; proving unequivocally, that the rancher can’t manage the grazing land as effectively as armed federal bureaucrats who will keep us safe from beef cattle on that land and other productive uses. These actions will all increase to prove that the feds will not be dictated to.

Although I cheer for the Bundys and applaud the courage of their sweet family, my heart would much rather see them running now and hiding out in a freer country like Mexico as opposed to becoming a decimated family of martyrs ravaged by the state.

April 20, 2014

Drought -- and neighbors -- press Las Vegas to conserve water

Lake Mead, the reservoir that supplies 90% of Las Vegas' water, is ebbing as though a plug had been pulled from a bathtub drain.

Lake Mead - An ongoing drought and the Colorado River's stunted flow have shrunk Lake Mead to its lowest level in generations. (Michael Robinson Chavez)

By John M. Glionna
Los Angeles Times


LAS VEGAS — Deep beneath Lake Mead, a 23-foot-tall tunnel-boring machine grinds through stubborn bedrock in a billion-dollar effort to make sure water continues flowing to this thirsty resort city.

For six years, the Southern Nevada Water Authority has been building an intake straw below the reservoir's two existing pipes. Due for completion in fall 2015, critics say it may not provide a long-term solution.

An ongoing drought and the Colorado River's stunted flow have shrunk Lake Mead to its lowest level in generations. The reservoir, which supplies 90% of Las Vegas' water, is ebbing as though a plug had been pulled from a bathtub drain. By mid-April, Lake Mead's water level measured just 48 feet above the system's topmost intake straw.

Future droughts and a warming climate change could spell trouble for the city's 2 million residents — and its 40 million annual visitors. Those people "better hope nothing goes wrong with the last intake," said water authority spokesman J.C. Davis.

"But if something does go wrong," he added, "we're in the business of making contingency plans."

For officials here, the scenario signifies a formidable job: providing water for the nation's driest city. Las Vegas uses more water per capita than most communities in America — 219 gallons of water per person every day — and charges less for it than many communities.

Summer temperatures top 115 degrees in a scorched environment that in a banner year receives a paltry four inches of rain. The inhospitable conditions have pushed officials to develop water conservation programs considered models worldwide.

Although this spring's snowmelt could temporarily replenish Lake Mead, the city's future still looks drier than ever, a prospect that has prompted the water authority to eye such long-term plans as a desalinization plant in California and a $15-billion pipeline to move water here from other parts of the state.

Environmentalists blast the proposed pipeline from central Nevada as irresponsible, calling it a resource grab comparable to William Mulholland's move that created an aqueduct to transport water south from California's Owens Valley to help expand Los Angeles a century ago.

They say the city has been cavalier about looming water shortages, pointing to projects such as Lake Las Vegas, a 320-acre artificial oasis built with man-made rivers and waterfalls amid the high-end homes and luxury resorts.

But water use — and how to curtail it — poses a complex puzzle, officials say. Take the casinos.

John Entsminger, the water authority's new general manager, says such seemingly careless spectacles as the elaborate fountains at the Bellagio resort feature recycled water. "The Strip uses only 3% of the region's water but supplies 70% of its economy," he said. "That's not a bad bargain."

Officials say they have prepared for myriad possible scenarios, including an emergency slashing of Las Vegas' annual water allotment. "It's important to remember that this would happen over a period of years, not months and not weeks," Davis said of such a cutback. "You don't wake up one morning and ask, 'Where did all the water go?'"

Still, water officials here acknowledge that their challenge is to keep Las Vegas livable while reining in several older neighborhoods that have resisted taking out lawns and other conservation measures. The authority has already achieved a remarkable feat: In recent years, Las Vegas and its suburbs have cut water use by one-third while adding 400,000 residents.

It was done in part with a $200-million fund to provide rebates for replacing grass with desert landscapes. Las Vegas also recycles all water that goes down the drain from dishwashers, sinks, showers and even toilets, and after reprocessing, it is pumped back into Lake Mead. With each gallon returned to the reservoir, the city gets to take another out.

The water authority plans to cut per-capita water use even further to 199 gallons a day by 2035, a rate still higher than California's present average of 182 gallons.

The Colorado River provides water for 40 million people across the Southwest — the majority of them in cities such as Las Vegas. The region's population is expected to almost double by 2060. In that time, Las Vegas will gain 1 million residents, forecasters say.

Many water experts say Las Vegas needs to immediately take a series of no-nonsense steps to help control its water shortage: Cut indoor as well as outdoor use; charge much more for water and punish abusers with precipitously higher rates; and start disclosing the rate of a neighbor's water use in residential bills to create more social pressure to conserve.

"At some point, you have to live within your means, but that doesn't fit with the image of Las Vegas," said Steve Erickson, Utah coordinator for the Great Basin Water Network, an advocacy group. "These people need to remember that it's a city built upon an inhospitable desert. What were they thinking?"

When it comes to water, this city has long been at a disadvantage: A 1922 Colorado River water-sharing agreement among seven Western states — one still in effect nearly a century later — gives Southern Nevada the smallest allotment of all: just 300,000 acre-feet a year. An acre-foot can supply two average homes for one year.

Worse, unlike such cities as Phoenix and Los Angeles, Las Vegas has just one major water source — Lake Mead — putting it most at risk during a prolonged drought and dwindling lake water reserves. The city receives a scant 10% of its water from underground local aquifers.

Officials say Las Vegas uses only 80% of its Colorado River allotment and is banking the rest for the future. But critics say that even if the city taps all of its entitled water, that amount would still not be enough to meet its needs in a prolonged drought. And after years of recession, building is starting to come back here, leaving many to ask: Where are all these new residents going to get their water?

"How foolish can you be? It's the same fatal error being repeated all over the Southwest — there is no new water," said Tim Barnett, a marine physicist at UC San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography and coauthor of two reports about dwindling Western water resources. His research concluded that without massive cutbacks in water use, Lake Mead had a 50% chance of deteriorating to "dead pool" by 2036. That's the level at which the reservoir's surface drops beneath Las Vegas' lowest water intake.

Yet casinos and developers continue to push growth, and critics say lawmakers often seem to lack the willpower to draw the line. "Will Las Vegas remain a boom town in the 21st century? The city wants to appear confident but it's a place built on illusion and luck," said Emily Green, an environmental journalist who writes about water issues on her blog, Chance of Rain.

"When it comes to water," she added, "those aren't very good guiding principles."

The real water hog is not people, many say, but grass: About 70% of Las Vegas water goes to lawns, public parks and golf courses. A rebate program has already ripped out 168 million square feet of grass, enough to lay an 18-inch-wide roll of sod about 85% of the way around the Earth.

But is Las Vegas ready to ban grass entirely? "Well, at that point you're seriously impacting quality of life. We're not being complacent. We're just not ready for draconian cuts," said Davis, the spokesman for the water authority.

Barnett argues that's precisely the wake-up call people need. "All these people assume this water thing will just work itself out. Well, suppose we're looking at a change in our basic climate, where scarce water is only going to get more scarce. That's the alternative you need to plan for — and no one's doing it."

Many ask why Las Vegas continues to allow projects such as Lake Las Vegas. The lake is filled with 3 billion gallons of Colorado River water, enough to supply 18,000 residences for a year. And 1.4 billion gallons must be added annually to stop the lake from receding.

Davis said the project was conceived well before the current water crisis. "Would we build another man-made lake today? Clearly not. But stop supplying water there and values will plummet. How many lawsuits do you want to wade through regarding people's quality of life?"

The water authority is pushing forward with a plan for a 300-mile pipeline to import water from the state's agricultural heartland. The project has touched off such old Nevada grudges as north versus south and claims about urbanites enriching themselves as the expense of rural dwellers.

Environmentalists are challenging in court the right-of-way permits already secured by the water authority, and are promising a long legal battle.

Entsminger, the head of the water authority, believes the American Southwest must fight its water crisis together. He said the seven states drawing water from the Colorado River collectively form the world's fifth-largest economy — just behind Germany but ahead of France and Britain.

Southern Nevada, he insists, will do its part. And a big part of that, he said, will mean turning off the lawn sprinklers. He acknowledged he's a culprit.

His front yard features a small patch of ornamental grass planted by the previous homeowners. "I know I should take it out," the water czar said with a grimace. "It's on my list."

Bundy Family Posts Photo Of Dead Cow Euthanized By BLM

The Bundy Ranch Facebook page, run by Cliven Bundy's daughter Bailey, posted a photo late Saturday night with the caption: "Digging up 1 of the HUGE holes where they threw the cows that they had ran to death or shot. I feel that this NEEDS to be put out for the public to see."

by KERRY PICKET
Breitbart News


Nevada Republican Assemblywoman Michele Fiore previously told Breitbart News on Friday about the practices she has heard the Bureau of Land Management has engaged in when confiscating livestock from ranchers.

"I have literally gotten e-mails from ranchers across Nevada telling me that the BLM does the same practices when they are herding horses. The foals are getting killed. Horses are getting killed. It’s really horrible and cruel. I don’t know any other term than cruel,” she said.

April 19, 2014

Range showdown draws armed supporters to Nevada

Flanked by armed supporters, Cliven Bundy speaks at a protest camp near Bunkerville, Nev. Friday, April 18, 2014. (John Locher/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

By Associated Press
Washington Post


LAS VEGAS — To self-described militia members sleeping in wind-whipped tents, drinking camp coffee and patrolling rocky hillsides with military-style weapons, protecting Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his family from an overreaching federal government is a patriotic duty.

“There are people out here who will sacrifice their lives and their fortunes and their sacred honor to defend them,” said Jerry DeLemus, a camouflaged former U.S. Marine sergeant from New Hampshire who called himself the leader of a Bundy security force of some 40 people.

“If someone points a gun at me, I’ll definitely point my gun back,” he said.

The armed campers are still guarding Bundy’s melon farm and cattle ranch a week after a tense standoff between gun-toting states’ rights advocates and federal Bureau of Land Management police over a roundup of Bundy cattle from public rangeland.

The BLM backed off, citing safety concerns. They were faced with military-style AR-15 and AK-47 weapons trained on them from a picket line of citizen soldiers on an Interstate 15 overpass, with dozens of woman and children in the possible crossfire.

BLM police released the 380 cattle collected, gave up the weeklong roundup and lifted a closure of a vast range half the size of the state Delaware. The agency said it would resolve the matter “administratively and judicially.”

Left unresolved was the government’s claim that Bundy owes more than $1.1 million in fees and penalties for letting some 900 cows trespass for 20 years on arid rangeland of scrub brush, mesquite, cheat grass and yucca near the rustic town of Bunkerville, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Bundy backers claimed victory.

“We won the battle of Bunkerville,” said retiree Bevalyn Marshall, 53, who heads home at night to nearby Scenic, Ariz., but returns by day with her shotgun and her Vietnam veteran husband to a makeshift stage lined with fluttering flags.

It’s a place where conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh’s voice spills out of travel trailers, and a woman waves a sign at passing traffic reading, “Come Stand With Us For Freedom.”

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., called Bundy’s supporters “domestic terrorists” and said a federal task force was being formed to deal with the unrest. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., told a KSNV-TV interviewer on Friday: “What Sen. Reid may call domestic terrorists, I call patriots.”

Where Heller saw Boy Scouts, veterans and grandparents cordoned off by federal agents, Reid saw a crowd of 600, including men armed with automatic weapons in sniper positions on the freeway overpass, and women and children facing BLM agents in the riverbed below.

Bundy, the 67-year-old patriarch of a Mormon family with more than 50 grandchildren, seems to enjoy the attention. He met the media this week flanked by personal guards headed by a man who called himself Buddha Cavalier.

Bundy took to the stage fashioned from a flatbed trailer to tell reporters he wants sheriffs around the country to seize weapons from federal bureaucrats. He invited everyone to a Friday barbecue at the Virgin River, and rode a horse waving an American flag for photographers.

Then he headed to a Fox News trailer for an interview with conservative TV commentator Sean Hannity.

Bundy said he doesn’t recognize federal authority on the land his family settled and has used since the late 1870s, when Bunkerville was founded.

His dispute with the BLM dates to 1993, when the government designated the scenic Gold Butte area as protected habitat for the endangered desert tortoise and cut his allotment of cows. Bundy quit paying grazing fees that today can be as little as $1.35 per cow per month.

The agency canceled his grazing permit and ordered him to remove his cattle. Federal judges upheld the agency action.

The dispute has reopened a debate about federal land ownership and states’ rights in a Western region where the BLM controls vast stretches of rangeland. Federal park, military and land agencies today control more than 85 percent of the land in Nevada. In New York, by comparison, the figure is about 1 percent.

“This would never happen in any state east of the Mississippi, because they own their own land,” said Janine Hansen, a state’s rights advocate.

Not everyone supports Bundy’s resistance. Andy Robinson, a pub and pizzeria owner in the nearby resort town of Mesquite, said he didn’t like bloggers and radio talk show hosts comparing the standoff with deadly federal confrontations at a religious compound in Texas in 1993 and a farm house in Idaho in 1992.

“Being compared to Waco and Ruby Ridge doesn’t help anything,” Robinson said.

Ammon Bundy, 38, one of 14 Bundy children, was hit with stun gun darts fired by BLM agents during a confrontation 10 days ago. He was not charged with a crime. He said his father received several certified letters this week from the BLM, but hasn’t opened them.

BLM spokesman Mitch Snow said the letters offer Bundy a chance to keep his cattle if he pays the $1.1 million in trespass fees, plus “reasonable expenses of the impoundment.” Agency officials have said the contract for the roundup was $900,000.

Demar Dahl, a prominent rancher who pays his grazing fees, said he knows Bundy won’t back down. “He’s got his mind made up that he’s not going to leave,” Dahl said. “Cliven is the last man standing. He has taken the position that the state of Nevada owns the land, not the federal government.”

DeLemus and other armed campers say they have no plans to leave. They suspect government drones and helicopters are watching them.

“We stay until the Bundys tell us we can go home,” said Jack Commerford, DeLemus’ friend from New Hampshire who drove 41 hours cross-country with a yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.

Right or wrong, controversy surrounding Cliven Bundy continues

Cliven Bundy during a press conference, Bunkerville, Nev., April 14, 2014 (Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News)

Written by Mori Kessler
St. George News

ST. GEORGE – It has been a week since the standoff between the Bureau of Land Management and the supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. Since then the 67-year-old rancher has been hailed as a hero and a villain. During this last week, Cliven Bundy has called for the disarmament of “federal bureaucracies” by county sheriffs; detractors have decried the supposed use of human shields during the standoff; dead cattle and destroyed infrastructure have been found on the ranch; and one of the nation’s most powerful Democrats has labeled Bundy supporters “domestic terrorists.”

There remain two very different opinions over what lies at the heart of the ongoing conflict between the BLM and Cliven Bundy.

  • The BLM maintains the rancher has illegally grazed his cattle on public land for 20 years and owes $1 million in grazing and trespass fees. To them, the rancher stands in violation of two federal court orders and continues to engage in illegal activity on public lands. The BLM began to round up Bundy’s cattle on April 5, but ultimately ended operations due to “grave concern about the safety of employees and members of the public.”
  • Cliven Bundy has declared that the federal government has no authority to own lands within a state according to the Constitution, and thus chooses to not recognize the federal authority. Cliven Bundy and his supporters see this as a states’ rights issue and example of government overreach and overreaction. For them, the issue is much bigger than unpaid fees and cows.

So who owns the land?

According to two federal district court orders, the federal government owns the land. The BLM itself manages the land as an arm of the Department of the Interior.

In both court orders, the first from 1998 and the second from 2013, the court ruled that the federal government has jurisdiction over the land.

Despite using arguments of state sovereignty, the court declared Bundy’s claims to be “without merit,” and that “suggestions to the contrary are entirely unavailing.”

For their part, the Bundys have never claimed to own land beyond their 150-acre ranch in Bunkerville, Nev. However, they claim grazing and water rights to the land predate those of the BLM, said Ammon Bundy, a son of Cliven Bundy and family spokesman. As such, those claims should be honored, the Bundy family has said.

The Bundys argue the public land is state-owned – period. As for the federal government, Cliven Bundy refuses to recognize it in this capacity.

In the end, as much as states’ rights advocates argue otherwise, the federal government retains control of the public lands in the West. However, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, and Oregon are pursuing measures promoting the transfer of public lands over to state control.

The majority of the land overseen by the BLM is in the West. Nevada is over 80 percent public land, or, as argued by the BLM – over 80 percent of Nevada is owned by the federal government.

Human shield controversy

It has been widely reported that Richard Mack, a supporter of the Bundys and a former Arizona sheriff, told Fox News that a strategy had been put in place to set women on the front lines during the standoff, according to The Blaze.

“If they are going to start shooting,” Mack said, “it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers.”

Mack is the founder of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officer’s Association, and arrived in Nevada to support the Bundys, albeit after the standoff took place, Ammon Bundy said.

“Sheriff Mack wasn’t even there,” Ammon Bundy said. “There was no strategy.”

He said the women were there because they chose to be there.

One of those woman was Lilley Bundy-Spencer, one of Cliven Bundy’s sisters.

“There were some tense moments that could have turned to tragedy, but didn’t,” Lilley Bundy-Spencer said.

“We do have tough women in our family and community,” Ammon Bundy said.

As for how the media is characterizing Mack’s words, Ammon Bundy said: “You can spin it how you want.”

Damaged infrastructure and dead cattle

In a press conference Monday, Ammon Bundy said a dead bull had been found on the range and some dead animals – two calves, 3-4 months old – were also found in the corrals where the BLM had been keeping the cattle before being forced to release them. There was also a corral full of injured animals, he said.

The Bundys have since found another dead bull and a grave where at least one cow was found buried. There was fresh dirt around the area where a cow’s leg was found sticking out of the ground, Ammon Bundy said.

Craig Leff, a BLM spokesman, said in an email: “Two bulls were euthanized, both of which posed a safety hazard. The gather and holding had been conducted according to best practices for gathering cattle.”

As for infrastructure, Ammon Bundy said a watering station has been destroyed. Fences and corrals were also reportedly damaged, as were water lines.

“As part of the operation,” Leff said, “the BLM was completing range improvements to remove structures illegally placed on public lands that damaged the land and water.”

As for any possible damage the roundup could have done to desert tortoise habitat, Leff said: “The BLM completed an environmental assessment prior to the operation that included measures to minimize the impact of the operation on desert tortoise and desert tortoise habitat.”

Manipulated by fringe elements?

In the wake of the April 9 viral video that showed an altercation between the BLM and Bundys, people from across the West and across the nation poured into the Bundy Ranch to show their support. Among those supporters were armed individuals and militia men who began to act as security and body guards for the Bundys.

Following the standoff between the BLM and the Bundys and their supporters, commentator Glenn Beck said on his program that Cliven Bundy’s cause – that public lands should belong to the states and not the federal government – was attracting a fringe element.

“They don’t care what the facts are, they just want a fight,” Beck said, according to TheBlaze.

“You’re always going to attract those kind of people,” Ammon Bundy said. “The BLM attracts them too – people attracted to power and authority.”

Asked whether or not he felt his father and his message were possibly being manipulated by outsiders that poured in with the militia, Ammon Bundy said “no”.

“No, not one bit,” he said. “Believe me, if the BLM can’t do it, no one can, and the BLM is all about manipulation.”

The people here love freedom and are worried about it, Ammon Bundy said. He also had something to say about the negative view popular media had toward the militia.

“Militia is not a bad word,” he said. “It’s a right in the Constitution. They are the people’s army that are called upon when the government fails.”

“Domestic terrorists” and Patriot Party

“Those people who hold themselves out to be patriots are not. They’re nothing more than domestic terrorists,” Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, told the Las Vegas Review Journal Thursday during a press event.

Reid said he has spoken to Clark County Sheriff Douglas Gillespie, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and the FBI and Department of the Interior about the Cliven Bundy situation.

“It is an issue that we cannot let go, just walk away from,” Reid said.

Cliven Bundy and his supporters are taking the label in stride. The Bundys held a “Patriot Party” at their ranch Friday in honor of the people who supported them during the conflict with the BLM.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal was also at the Patriot Party, and reported Cliven Bundy being on stage and asking the crowd if they were domestic terrorists. The crowd responded with cheers and applause. Many of them wore name tags with “domestic terrorists” written on them.

Live music was provided by Madison Rising and Ron Keel, and while people gathered and celebrated, militia men continued to stand guard around the ranch.

The fight between Cliven Bundy and the federal government is far from over. The BLM has vowed to continue the fight “administratively and judicially.”

“Here’s a citizen defying them,” Ammon Bundy said. “Civilian disobedience. They can’t have that.”

He also said his father has had a number of lawyers approach him who are offering to look into his case for free. Having been to the federal level twice, however, some, including Reid, have said Cliven Bundy has exhausted his options in court.

Washington County Commissioner Alan Gardner said during the Washington County Republican Convention that Bundy’s dispute with the BLM has brought the issue of public lands to the forefront.

Gardner, like many commissioners across Utah, support having ownership and control of public land transferred from the federal government to the states. While other western states are exploring the possibility, Utah passed legislation to this affect in 2012.

Western lawmakers strategize on taking control of federal lands

April 12, 2014: The Bundy family and their supporters fly the American flag as their cattle were released by the Bureau of Land Management back onto public land outside of Bunkerville, Nev. (AP/LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL)

FoxNews.com
Associated Press


Officials from nine Western states met in Salt Lake City on Friday to discuss taking control of federal lands within their borders on the heels of a standoff between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management.

The lawmakers and county commissioners discussed ways to wresting oil-, timber- and mineral-rich lands away from the feds. Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart said it was in the works before this month's standoff.

The BLM rounded up hundreds of Bundy's cattle, saying he hasn't paid more than $1 million in grazing fees he owes for trespassing on federal lands since the 1990s. But Bundy does not recognize federal authority on the land, which his family has used since the 1870s.

The BLM released the cattle after a showdown last weekend with angry armed protesters whom Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid referred to as "domestic terrorists."

"What's happened in Nevada is really just a symptom of a much larger problem," Lockhart said, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

The Legislative Summit on the Transfer of Public Lands, as it was called, was organized by Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory and Montana state Sen. Jennifer Fielder. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, addressed the group over lunch, the Tribune reported.

"It’s simply time," Ivory told reporters. "The urgency is now."

Fielder said federal land management is hamstrung by bad policies, politicized science and severe federal budget cuts.

"Those of us who live in the rural areas know how to take care of lands," said Fielder, a Republican who lives in the northwestern Montana town of Thompson Falls. "We have to start managing these lands. It's the right thing to do for our people, for our environment, for our economy and for our freedoms."

Idaho, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington also were represented, but none of the other states has gone as far as Utah, where lawmakers passed a measure demanding that the federal government extinguish title to federal lands.

The lawmakers and Gov. Gary Herber have said they're only asking the federal government to make good on promises made in the 1894 Enabling Act for Utah to become a state. The intent was never to take over national parks and wilderness created by an act of Congress, said Lockhart, a Republican from Provo.

"We are not interested in having control of every acre," she said. "There are lands that are off the table that rightly have been designated by the federal government."

Ivory said federal government's debt threatens its management of vast tracts of the West and its ability to make payments in lieu of taxes to the states, the Tribune reported. He said the issue is of interest to both urban and rural lawmakers.

"If we don’t stand up and act, seeing that trajectory of what’s coming … those problems are going to get bigger," Ivory was quoted as saying.

The University of Utah is conducting a study called for by the legislation to analyze how Utah could manage the land now in federal control.

April 18, 2014

Bundy supporters party, welcome ‘domestic terrorist’ label

Justin Giles of Wasilla, Alaska stands on a bridge over the Virgin River during a rally in support of Cliven Bundy near Bunkerville, Nev. Friday, April 18, 2014. (John Locher/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

By KEITH ROGERS
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL


BUNKERVILLE — Wearing a cowboy hat and with a copy of the U.S. Constitution poking from his shirt pocket, controversial rancher Cliven Bundy on Friday asked dozens of supporters of his cattle-grazing feud with federal land managers what they thought of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid calling them “domestic terrorists.”

“Are you guys domestic terrorists?” he asked the crowd gathered around a stage near the north bank of the Virgin River.

The supporters, many wearing name tags that said “domestic terrorist,” erupted with cheers and applause.

“That’s what I thought. I thought Harry was right,” said the 67-year-old Bundy, who was accompanied by armed escorts.

He made the statement before a “Patriot Party” that started at 5 p.m. with music by Madison Rising and Ron Keel, who sang with Black Sabbath briefly in 1984. A party atmosphere among a few hundred people grew as more supporters trickled in around 5 p.m. Some people were cooling off in the river while dozens of armed militia members wearing camouflaged fatigues patrolled in and around the area.

Bundy was reacting to Reid’s comments Thursday in Las Vegas describing him as a law-breaker for not paying grazing fees and an estimated $1 million he owes the Bureau of Land Management for 20 years of non-compliance with public lands grazing privileges and defiance of court orders to remove up to 900 head of his desert cattle that roamed the Gold Butte area.

BLM agents and contractors on horseback and helicopters rounded up more than 300 of the herd but released them back to Bundy and his backers after an armed standoff on April 12. Because his militia supporters had rifles and assault weapons pointed to where federal officers guarded a corral holding the cattle, Reid on Thursday said a task force would be assigned to deal with what he described as domestic terrorists.

The Bundy camp had asked that the federal law enforcers remove their guns and secure them in a truck while the cattle were released.

At Friday’s news conference, Bundy said, “We’re not asking the county sheriff to disarm the citizens of the United States. We’re asking the United States to take the government-issued guns away from these people, and when they have uniforms on they shouldn’t be packing a gun.”

Asked what he’d do if he was served with a warrant for violating federal laws, Bundy answered, “What I said is, I’d yield to the sheriff but I wouldn’t yield to the feds.”

If the sheriff served the warrant he said he’d surrender. “Well, I’d have to.”

He said he has a right to graze his cattle on public land, not just a privilege.

“They’re rights. And I own those rights,” he said.

Bundy told his supporters that they were the heroes in the standoff, not him.

“You are the heroes. You people are the ones who did it,” Bundy told them.

When a few of the supporters were asked what they thought of Reid calling them “domestic terrorists,” they welcomed the label.

“Him and his organization are the terrorists of this country,” John Vasilchin, 85, of Las Vegas, said about Reid.

“They’ve been destroying this country for the last eight years and previously back to (President Bill) Clinton,” Vasilchin said.

Mike Vanderboegh said he will unveil the “2014 incitement to civil war trophy” to Reid on Saturday at the protest area.

“Harry Reid said this ain’t over. You better believe this ain’t over,” said Vanderboegh, a self-described “Second Amendment activist” from Alabama.

Sitting inside his camper off a road in view of the Virgin River, Thomas Firth offered his perspective on Reid’s domestic terrorist description.

“That would be typical of Senator Harry Reid,” said Firth, 64, of Anza, Calif. “Seems like it was a few years ago when we all got lumped either as a Christian, or a veteran or ‘you own a gun.’ You got lumped into that.

“If that’s the moniker they want to put on this, well so be it. I take a little bit different look at it. I think we are people who are actually standing up for our rights,” said Firth, a former cattle rancher.”

Star Hill, 45, made the short drive to the the rally from Logandale.

“For him to stoop to name-calling is probably pretty appropriate considering what people think of him,” she said about Reid.

She said she doesn’t consider herself a terrorist. Instead, “I consider myself somebody who came out to the river for a picnic.”

Senator urges hearing on Bundy ranch dispute

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.)
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

By Mario Trujillo
The Hill


Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) on Friday called for a Senate hearing into the dispute between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over cattle grazing.

Heller described as "patriots" the people who came armed to Bundy’s ranch after the BLM began to seize his cattle for refusing to pay grazing fees and fines that now total more than $1 million.

Heller debated the ranch standoff on a Nevada television station with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who has called the armed Bundy supporters “domestic terrorists.”

"What senator Reid may call domestic terrorists, I call patriots," Heller said. "We have a very different view on this."

"If they are patriots, we are in trouble," Reid shot back.

Reid blasted the supporters for showing up with assault weapons and boasting about putting children in the front of the pack.

Asked if he wanted to clarify his "domestic terrorist" remarks, Reid said he meant "just what I said."

Heller blamed the BLM for inciting the incident by bringing in armed officials to help roundup the cattle. He said he wants to know who gave that order.

"I want to talk about the fact that they have this kind of authority and the ability to bully and come in with 200 armed men into a situation like this," he said. "I would like to have hearings. I would like to find out who is accountable for this.”

The BLM was acting on court orders to round up and remove the cattle from public land — a point Reid emphasized. Reid said the rancher does not recognize the federal government's authority, but said it is clear in the state constitution that the area in dispute is public land.

"These characters walk around with their Constitution in their pocket. They should read the Nevada Constitution," Reid said.

The Bureau of Land Management has said it would continue to try to solve the situation “administratively and judicially" after ceasing the roundup over the weekend over safety concerns.

Reid said it is unclear what happens next, but said he had talked to a number of federal and state officials about it.

“We can speculate all we want to speculate about what is going to happen next,” he said. “I don't think it is going to be tomorrow that something is going to happen, but something will happen.”

Sheriff caught in middle of Nevada rancher feud

Rancher Cliven Bundy (2nd L) greets Clark County Sheriff Douglas Gillespie in Bunkerville, Nevada on April 12, 2014. (REUTERS)

FoxNews.com

The family of the Nevada rancher in a simmering feud with the federal government over rangeland rights is refocusing attention on the local sheriff, claiming he could put the standoff to rest with a wave of his hand.

"He could stop this right now, and he knows that," Bailey Logue, daughter of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, recently told Fox News' "On the Record."

Logue claimed all the sheriff has to do is say "no" to federal authorities who for years have gone after Bundy for unpaid grazing fees. "He has more power than all those feds do in this county. This is his county, he runs it. He has got full control over this county. If he says no, they have to back down," Logue said.

Other supporters have made similar comments, suggesting Clark County Sheriff Douglas Gillespie can tell the federal Bureau of Land Management to high-tail out of Nevada.

Gillespie backed federal agents who seized close to 400 head of cattle from Bundy over his refusal to pay more than $1 million in grazing fees over the past two decades.

The sheriff now appears to be caught in the middle of a broader battle between landowners and the federal government -- a battle not just over grazing rights, but the basic authority of federal officials. Despite the family's claims that the sheriff could kick out the feds in an instant, Gillespie has told media outlets he is simply following the law.

The Nevada state Constitution would appear to underscore federal authority, as it allows the federal government to "employ armed force in compelling obedience to its Authority" if people try to secede or "forcibly resist the Execution of" federal laws.

Gillespie, who was elected sheriff in 2007, has more than three decades under his belt with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. As Clark County's top law enforcement official, he oversees more than 4,700 sworn officers and civilian employees and is responsible for the safety of nearly 2 million Vegas residents as well as 40 million visitors to America's party capital each year.

Gillespie's office has not made the sheriff available for an interview despite repeated requests by FoxNews.com.

Before the ranch standoff, Gillespie's reputation was relatively unsullied. Earlier this year, Gillespie was named by the National Sheriff's Association as the winner of the Ferris E. Lucas Award as Sheriff of the Year for 2014. The award has only been given to 18 people since 1995 -- and there are 3,080 sheriffs in the country.

Gillespie, though, surprised local residents when he announced late last year he would not seek a third term, instead saying he would finish out his second term through the end of 2014.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., also presented Gillespie with a Congressional Proclamation for being selected Sheriff of the Year. Gillespie's closeness with Reid has recently made him the target of vitriol-laced accusations by Bundy's supporters, who have called him a turncoat.

Reid fanned the flames further Thursday when he referred to Bundy backers as "domestic terrorists" during an event sponsored by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Reid also indicated that Gillespie continues to play an active role with the feds -- Reid, according to the Review-Journal, said Gillespie is working with federal officials on putting together a task force to deal with the Bundy family.

"Clive Bundy does not recognize the United States," Reid said. "The United States, he says, is a foreign government. He doesn't pay his taxes. He doesn't pay his fees. And he doesn't follow the law. He continues to thumb his nose at authority."

Officials tell FoxNews.com that it's likely they'll renew their efforts soon, though they declined to say when a new push against Bundy would take place.

For the Bundy family, it's a decades-old, legally complicated fight between the federal government and a family that has ranched the area since 1877. Last week's dustup ended Saturday with federal land managers backing down during a standoff with Bundy after hundreds of states' rights protesters and armed militia members showed up in support of Bundy and in protest of government officers seizing his cattle.

But the feud dates back decades, and this isn't Bundy's first time at the rodeo.

The dispute started in March 1993 when the Bureau of Land Management designated hundreds of thousands of acres of federal land for strict conservation efforts.

That meant eliminating livestock grazing and imposing strict limits on off-road vehicle use in protected tortoise territory in Nevada.

The BLM purchased grazing rights from cattle ranchers who had previously used BLM land. It was then when the Bundy family, who had a ranch in the area in 1877, accused the government of a "land grab," and said they wouldn't sell.

The Bundy family has maintained they do not recognize federal authority on what they say is their land.

April 17, 2014

After Nevada ranch stand-off, emboldened militias ask: where next?

Eric Parker from central Idaho stands watch on a bridge with his weapon as protesters gather by the Bureau of Land Management's base camp, where cattle that were seized from rancher Cliven Bundy are being held, near Bunkerville, Nevada April 12, 2014.(REUTERS/JIM URQUHART)

BY JONATHAN ALLEN
REUTERS


(Reuters) - Flat on his belly in a sniper position, wearing a baseball cap and a flak jacket, a protester aimed his semi-automatic rifle from the edge of an overpass and waited as a crowd below stood its ground against U.S. federal agents in the Nevada desert.

He was part of a 1,000-strong coalition of armed militia-men, cowboys on horseback, gun rights activists and others who rallied to Cliven Bundy's Bunkerville ranch, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, in a stand-off with about a dozen agents from the federal Bureau of Land Management.

The rangers had rounded up hundreds of Bundy's cattle, which had been grazing illegally on federal lands for two decades. Bundy had refused to pay grazing fees, saying he did not recognize the government's authority over the land, a view that attracted vocal support from some right-wing groups.

Citing public safety, the BLM retreated, suspending its operation and even handing back cattle it had already seized.

No shots were fired during the stand-off, which Bundy's triumphant supporters swiftly dubbed the "Battle of Bunkerville," but the government's decision to withdraw in the face of armed resistance has alarmed some who worry that it has set a dangerous precedent and emboldened militia groups.

"Do laws no longer apply when the radical right no longer agrees?" said Ryan Lenz, a writer for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors militia group activity.

Armed Americans using the threat of a gunfight to force federal officers to back down is virtually unparalleled in the modern era, militia experts said. But the BLM, which says it is now pursuing legal and administrative options to resolve the dispute, has won praise for stepping back and avoiding violence.

Energized by their success, Bundy's supporters are already talking about where else they can exercise armed defiance. They include groups deeply suspicious of what they see as a bloated, over-reaching government they fear wants to restrict their constitutional right to bear arms.

Alex Jones, a radio host and anti-government conspiracy theorist whose popular right-wing website, Infowars, helped popularize Bundy's dispute, called it a watershed moment.

"Americans showed up with guns and said, 'No, you're not," before confronting the armed BLM agents, Jones said in a telephone interview. "And they said, 'Shoot us.' And they did not. That's epic. And it's going to happen more."

Militia experts interviewed by Reuters said they could not think of another example in recent decades where different militia groups had banded together to offer armed resistance to thwart a law enforcement operation.

In the days since the showdown, right-wing websites have begun searching for other Bundys. Several conservative and survivalist blogs have seized on the case of Tommy Henderson, a rancher on the Texas-Oklahoma border who they say is fighting BLM attempts to seize some of his land.

MILITARY FATIGUES, RIFLES

Few people had heard of Bundy and his ranch until a few days before the stand-off. Right-wing websites and advocacy groups such as Americans for Prosperity, founded by one of the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers, cast his tale in a folksy David and Goliath light and helped spread it online.

Someone who has known Bundy since his early 1990s fall-out with the BLM is Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff who founded the militia group Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association.

Mack is also a prominent member of Oath Keepers, a similar group of serving or former soldiers, police and firefighters who view themselves as defenders of the U.S. Constitution. More than 100 Oath Keepers headed to the desert, Mack said.

Mack, who proposed putting women on the front line of the stand-off with the agents, said armed resistance was a justified response to a "totally unnecessary" show of force by the BLM.

"It was so obvious it looked like it was going to be another Waco or Ruby Ridge," Mack said, referring to two bloody sieges in the 1990s involving federal agents and armed civilians that fueled the militia movement.

"We weren't going to let that happen again," he said.

A number of Bundy supporters wore military fatigues and carried rifles and pistols and had traveled from California, Idaho, Arizona, Montana and beyond. Most kept their handguns holstered.

Mack, who wore his gun on his hip, and other Bundy supporters interviewed by Reuters said they would not shoot first but would retaliate if fired upon.

"We did not want anything to get out of hand," Mack said.

GAME-CHANGER?

The weekend showdown marked the latest resurgence of violent, anti-government sentiments that have existed in rural America for centuries, said Catherine Stock, a history professor at Connecticut College who specializes in rural militias.

"The question is whether we're going to see sustained flame-up now. We could see more of that if they actually think that the federal government is going to stand down," she said.

"It's not the groups, it's not their concerns, it's not their anger, all of that is old, but the federal government backing down? I was like, wow! Seriously?"

Stock said the rise of right-wing media outlets and websites and the election of Republican politicians who have shifted the party further to the right have given a new legitimacy to groups that were once dismissed as being on the fringe.

At least half a dozen state legislators from Nevada, Washington, Utah and Arizona attended protest rallies in Bunkerville at the weekend.

Michele Fiore, a Republican Nevada assemblywoman from Las Vegas who said she joined the protesters daily after getting a torrent of supportive emails about Bundy from constituents, called the resistance "justified."

"This is historic," she said. "This is the first time we went arm to arm with the federal government."

GOVERNMENT MISSTEPS?

The Bundy dispute has been simmering since 1993, when the BLM took over the management of the land on which his cattle grazed. The agency ordered him to reduce the number of grazing cattle to protect the habitat of the desert tortoise, which had been listed as "threatened."

Bundy refused and has not paid grazing fees since then. The BLM says he now owes more than $1 million.

Critics of the BLM, which administers 245 million acres of public land in the 12 Western states, say it mishandled the situation and was unprepared for the armed resistance, despite fears in past years that the seizure of the illegally grazing cattle could spark violence.

BLM spokesman Craig Leff said the "safety of employees and the public was key throughout the course of the operation." The BLM, National Park Service and the U.S. Park police "had the minimal personnel needed to maintain the safety of the operation," he added.

Two sets of images were frequently cited by those who saw the roundup of Bundy's cattle as a call to arms.

The first showed BLM agents using a stun gun to subdue one of Bundy's sons at a small protest on April 9, bloodying his shirt over his heart, and a female relative of Bundy being knocked to the ground in a tussle with agents.

"Looking at that made it extremely clear that these federal agents are willing to hurt people and didn't think they would be accountable," said militia leader Mack.

Photographs of a so-called "First Amendment Zone", a taped-off patch of desert where agents would allow protests to be held, also prompted outrage.

Mack, and other militia members, say they have yet to pick their next battle. "We're only reacting to what the government does," he said. "We hope that they'll keep it a little calm from now on and not overreact."

What the Networks Aren't Telling You About the Nevada Cattle Battle

Cliven Bundy's son interviewed on the Today show.
By Rich Noyes
Newsbusters.com


The showdown between federal authorities and rancher Cliven Bundy, his family and supporters in Nevada is one of those rare topics from the libertarian-conservative news agenda that actually made its way into the establishment media. Between last Thursday and Monday, ABC, CBS and NBC gave the story a total of nearly 16 minutes of coverage on their morning and evening newscasts.

Network journalists have consistently framed the case as one of a rancher failing to pay the requested fees for his use of government land. But they have failed to use the case to tell the larger story of how environmental rules — in this case, regulations to protect the desert tortoise, have been implemented in ways that help favored interests (land developers, or solar companies) while hurting others (cattle ranchers, for example).

The networks have focused on the amount of money the government has demanded of Cliven Bundy, and let the Bundy side talk about the government’s heavy-handed tactics in seeking collection. On Saturday’s Good Morning America, for example, ABC’s Mike Boettcher framed the story this way: “For 20 years, rancher Cliven Bundy has refused to pay rent to herd his cattle on government land, $1.1 million in grazing fees.”

The next morning on NBC, Sunday’s Today included a soundbite from Bundy’s son, Ammon, talking about the intimidating force employed by federal agents: “They had the tasers, they had the weapons, they had the dogs, and we had nothing except us. We were almost equally numbered, and then they were the aggressors.”

Omitted from the network coverage: How cattle ranchers like Bundy have been victimized by federal government plans to protect the desert tortoise, and how the current showdown was provoked by an environmentalist lawsuit. As the Las Vegas Sun explained: “Things came to a head when environmentalists threatened to sue the agency to protect the endangered desert tortoise that lives on the land where Bundy’s cattle grazed. The BLM said Bundy’s cattle trampled the tortoise’s habitat.”

In their coverage of the Nevada showdown, neither ABC nor NBC ever acknowledged the role of regulations designed to protect the tortoise, while CBS’s Teri Okita in a Friday morning report included it as an afterthought: “Authorities want the cattle off this land for another reason: Environmentalists say it’s home to the endangered desert tortoise and it’s protected land.”

In fact, the tortoise is listed as a “threatened” species, not yet “endangered,” but it’s that designation (applied in 1989) which led to restrictions on cattle ranchers’ use of land in Nevada, California and Utah. And the federal government has for decades permitted some destruction of tortoise habitats if they like the project, while cracking down on others as they see fit.

As the Powerline blog has well-documented, the BLM has enforced these rules in ways that favor projects endorsed by federal bureaucrats, such as solar projects, while being tough on the cattle ranchers.

But go back more than 20 years, and you’ll find a similar effort in the Clinton era to sacrifice 22,000 acres of tortoise habitat to Las Vegas area land developers, even as they set up restrictions on cattle ranchers including Cliven Bundy. As the Washington Post’s Tom Kenworthy documented in a March 21, 1993 article (retrieved via Nexis, so no link):

Three years ago, with tortoise populations crashing largely because of habitat destruction across its range in Nevada, California, Arizona and Utah, the federal government added the tortoise to its list of threatened species. The designation immediately imperiled tens of millions of dollars worth of construction projects in this development-crazed city.

But it also triggered a novel experiment in the peaceful resolution of endangered species conflicts that is similar, in many respects, to the process Babbitt would like to try nationwide to defuse explosive development-versus-environment fights.

Employing a rarely used mechanism approved by Congress a decade ago, environmentalists, developers, government officials, cattlemen, miners and off-road vehicle enthusiasts began negotiating a “habitat conservation plan.” The hope was it would satisfy both the needs of the tortoise and the Las Vegas area’s rapacious appetite for development.

The result was a plan to protect the tortoise by providing vast tracts of federal land as a refuge while sacrificing other tortoise areas to development....

By mid-1991, the Fish and Wildlife Service had approved a short-term conservation plan that allows for development of about 22,000 acres of tortoise habitat in and around Las Vegas in exchange for strict conservation measures on 400,000 acres of federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land south of the city. The plan is funded by development fees of between $ 250 and $ 550 an acre paid by builders. Almost $ 10 million has been raised so far.

Among the conservation measures required are the elimination of livestock grazing and strict limits on off-road vehicle use in the protected tortoise habitat. Two weeks ago, the managers of the plan completed the task of purchasing grazing privileges from cattle ranchers who formerly used BLM land....

Cattlemen are particularly irate, and have gone to court to prevent grazing restrictions on BLM land now outside the tortoise management area, where the federal agency has tried to keep cattle from competing with tortoises for forage for three months in the spring. Ranchers like Cliven Bundy, whose family homesteaded his ranch in 1877 and who accuses the government of a “land grab,” are digging in for a fight and say they will not willingly sell their grazing privileges to create another preserve.

The Post article was written more than 21 years ago, before Bundy had been assessed even one dime in fees, and validates his claim that his grievance is about the intrusiveness of federal rules aimed at protecting the desert tortoise, and how the government has used the rules as yet another tool to pick economic winners and losers.

It’s background and context that the networks could have provided as they picked up on the story of a rancher fighting the feds — but, sadly, was omitted from the broadcast coverage this past week.

Congressman Accuses Obama Administration Of Illegal Action At Bundy Ranch

He cites a severe violation of U.S. Code

Congressman Steve Stockman (R-TX)

B. Christopher Agee
Western Journalism


After the federal Bureau of Land Management agents backed down from their intimidating stance at the Bundy Ranch last weekend, ample evidence has surfaced indicating the standoff between the government and the Nevada ranching family is far from over. Throughout the weeklong stalemate, members of the Bundy family were physically assaulted by armed officers, numerous cows were shot dead, and protesters faced threats of gunfire for merely expressing their outrage.

Immediately after what many considered a victory against a tyrannical federal agency, a number of leftist voices – most notably, Sen. Harry Reid – indicated the action against this family will continue.

In response, Texas Republican Rep. Steve Stockman sent a letter to Barack Obama, Department of the Interior Sec. Sally Jewell, and BLM Director Neil Kornze, laying out his position that any such action by the agency would violate the U.S. Constitution.

“Because of this standoff,” he wrote, “I have looked into BLM’s authority to conduct such paramilitary raids against American citizens, and it appears that BLM is acting in a lawless manner in Nevada.”

He cited the limited powers granted to the federal government, noting the bureau has no “right to assume preemptory police powers, that role being reserved to the States,” and explained “many federal laws require the federal government to seek assistance from local law enforcement whenever the use of force may become necessary.”

The letter included a section of the U.S. Code — 43 U.S.C. Section 1733, Subsection C — stating exactly that point. [Emphasis Stockman's]

“When the Secretary determines that assistance is necessary in enforcing Federal laws and regulations relating to the public lands or their resources he shall offer a contract to appropriate local officials having law enforcement authority within their respective jurisdictions with the view of achieving maximum feasible reliance upon local law enforcement officials in enforcing such laws and regulations.”

In the case of the Bundy Ranch, he continued, “the relevant local law enforcement officials appear to be the Sheriff of Clark County, Nevada, Douglas C. Gillespie.”

Gillespie, however, conspicuously took a back seat to BLM forces during the standoff.

“Indeed,” Stockman wrote, “the exact type of crisis that the federal government has provoked at the Bundy ranch is the very type of incident that Congress knew could be avoided by relying on local law enforcement officials.”

The stated purpose of the correspondence is for the Obama administration “to bring the BLM into compliance with 43 U.S.C. section 1733.”

Absent a full investigation into the agency’s actions, he concluded, “the federal government must not only stand down, but remove all federal personnel from anywhere near the Bundy ranch.”

Legislators and law enforcement personnel have stood alongside state militia members and the Bundy family in opposing the excessive force employed by the BLM. Stockman’s letter adds even more weight to the growing sentiment against the federal overreach.

April 16, 2014

Huge solar project questioned

The proposed Silurian Valley solar project would install photovoltaic panels such as those pictured here at the First Solar is project near Desert Center. The project would cover 11 square miles of public lands north of Baker, dwarfing the mammoth Brightsource Solar project near Ivanpah Dry Lake. (David Danelski)

David Danelski
Riverside Press-Enterprise


Worries about possible environmental damage from another large-scale solar project proposed for the Southern California desert has prompted the federal government to give people more time to submit comments on the proposal.

The Silurian Valley solar project would go on 11-square miles of public land in San Bernardino County, about 10 miles north of Baker, between Death Valley National Park and the Mojave National Preserve.

The project calls for erecting thousands of photovoltaic panels that would generate a peak of 200 megawatts of electricity -- enough for more than 35,000 homes. The panels would be arranged in several arrays and connected by 44 miles of new roads.

Art Sasse, a spokesman for the developer, Iberdrola Renewables, said the location was chosen because of its ample sunshine and proximity to power lines. The company is the United States subsidiary of Iberdrola SA, which is based in the autonomous Basque region of northern Spain.

The project is one of many large-scale solar plants proposed in Southern California deserts. The Obama administration has approved six commercial-scale solar projects on public land in the deserts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Three already are operating. An additional eight are in the planning stages.

After people raised several concerns about the Silurian Valley solar project during a public meeting in Barstow last month, Sasse said his company supported extending the public comment period by a month. The new deadline is May 28.

“The public needs more time to express its interest in the project,” he said.

David Lamfrom, the California desert program manager of the National Parks Conservation Association, said the project is “poorly sited” and well outside a solar energy development zone set in 2012 by the Obama administration to avoid environmental conflicts.

The project would mar what is now a scenic, 30-mile drive on Highway 127 between Death Valley National Park and Mojave National Preserve, he contends.

”We know this site is critical for kit fox and golden eagle, and is a stunning landscape enjoyed by millions of residents and (park) tourists alike each year. We know there are better places for these projects,” Lamfrom said.

The project area also may have cultural significance. The site is near trails used by Native Americans and it’s close to the Old Spanish Trail, which was the route Mormons and other white settlers took after crossing Death Valley, said Joan Patrovsky, a real estate specialist for the BLM.

Sasse said Iberdrola is following a stringent environmental review process designed for projects that fall outside the solar designation zones and these reviews will address all concerns raised about the project.

He added that projects outside solar zones also are needed to bolster the nation’s alternative energy supply that’s needed to cut the carbon emissions associated with global warming.

He also said the company wants to be transparent and is working with the BLM to publicly release biological surveys and other reviews and studies commissioned by the company during the past three years.

The BLM asks that comments about the projects’ impacts on views, air quality, recreation, wildlife, cultural resources and any other issues be sent to: Katrina Symons, BLM Barstow Field Manager, 2601 Barstow Road, Barstow, CA 92311 or by email to Silurian_Valley_Solar@blm.gov.