The Sagebrush Rebellion is Dead

Photo courtesy of The Westerner

Photo courtesy of The Westerner

The sagebrush rebellion is dead. No range war by Nevada ranchers is going to resurrect it. This battle was fought by very intelligent lawyers and statesmen and they lost. They conceded their loss; so should everyone else attempting the same fight. But let’s set the record straight, there is a difference between the Sagebrush Rebellion and the Bundy’s battle: The Sagebrush Rebellion was fought in court. It recognized the laws of the land and acquiesced to them. The Bundy’s are inciting rebellion, aggressively antagonizing federal agents to get a reaction, and they have opened Pandora’s Box for other radical groups to take up arms against the government. Bundy also had his day in court, but has not accepted the decision. Because of that, their cause is not just, moral, or right. At this point, their personal battle is dangerous, reckless, and is encouraging anarchy. It’s over. The BLM is going to finish this. It is time for Cliven Bundy to call it off for the sake of safety. Here are their claims and counter arguments:

The land in Nevada is not federal land: They are wrong. That land was ceded to the U.S. Government from Mexico in 1848. In the 1860s the citizens of Nevada voted to turn over un-parceled land to the federal government in exchange for statehood (as did Utah).
They have Preemption Rights: Preemption rights on public land were valid in the early 1800s and were largely discontinued with the Homestead Act. The Bundy’s would certainly have gotten pre-emption rights under the Homestead Act and the Taylor Grazing Act. The land that was guaranteed was their own private land, not public land. As stated above, it was federal land before the Bundy’s settled there.
They cite Prescriptive Easements: As for prescriptive easements, courts will rarely, if ever, grant a prescriptive easement in situations where the easement is over public land, which is the case with Bundy.
They claim rights under Beneficial Use: Beneficial rights are given to people who have grazing allotments, which means they have been authorized to graze their cattle on public land. Bundy does not have an allotment or rights to graze his cattle. He forfeited all of his beneficial rights when he stopped paying his grazing fees. That being said, he was offered compensation for the water and improvements he made.
The BLM does not have law enforcement authority: The BLM does have law enforcement authority from Congress. They were given that authority by Congress when it passed the Federal Lands Management and Policy Act of 1976.
The “Life, liberty, and property” clause: The 5th Amendment states that no one will be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Cliven Bundy did get due process. The courts did not see it his way.
Thier end goal: To abolish the BLM and NPS and put public lands in the hands of the people (According to Ryan Bundy on the radio station Fox 1450AM).

The laws of our nation embody (or are supposed to embody) the principles enshrined in the constitution. Laws that conflict with those principles typically get over-turned, as in the case of the Defense of Marriage Act which was over-turned by the Supreme Court under the principle that all people are created equal and deserve equal treatment under the law. Law builds on itself. One cannot honestly tout a law that was passed in the 1800s as the final say. It ignores all law and cases that were built on it and passed after it. Law is a fluid thing that builds on precedent. It upholds principles, but is constantly changing with the times. As Richard Bryan, former Attorney General, Governor, and Senator of Nevada who led the Sagebrush Rebellion in Nevada stated, “The Bundy argument has been fought and lost and the current situation is dangerous and unneeded.” Belligerently and aggressively confronting federal agents in an attempt to incite violence is wrong, dangerous, and hurts their cause. This is why the Bundy’s will not prevail, why the State of Utah will not prevail, and why no one else who attempts it will prevail. The responsible thing for Cliven Bundy to do is call it off. It’s over. It’s just a matter of time.

Richard Bryan’s interview on Ralston Reports:


Posted on April 4, 2014, in Nature and the Environment and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. flyingtigercomics

    This would all be more convincing in favor of the grand seigneur over the cowboy if the grand seigneur wasn’t going to kill 700 of these tortoises because a federal rentseeker center didn’t get enough OPM to stay open. That proves it isn’t about an animal made scarce by a nanny state law banning keeping them as pets but it’s all about stalinism: a war against the kulaks.

    Study history or watch it repeat.

    • Jonathon,
      Thank you for your comment. You are wrong, however, and could stand to do a little research. The Desert Tortoise Conservation Center is only euthanizing sick or diseased tortoises that were brought in by people who had kept them as pets and no longer wanted them. They cannot ethically put diseased tortoises back into wild populations because they will wipe them all out. The Fish and Wildlife Service is caring for tortoises, adopting them out, and yes, euthanizing the sick ones. Here is a link if you are truly interested:
      Beyond that, they do not determine their own budgets, Congress does that. If you have an issue with how they spend their money, take it up with your representative. As for Stalinism, Stalin said religion is the opiate of the masses. If that was what our government was pushing, they would push religion.

      • flyingtigercomics

        For someone who suggests others do research, try doing some yourself… Are you 100% sure that it was stalin who called religion the opiate of the masses..?

        And if irrational ecology fetishism isn’t a religion, what is?

      • Oh, my bad Jonathon, you caught me on a wrong attribution. I actually did not research it, but recalled it from memory and just got it wrong. For anyone who doesn’t know, it was Karl Marx. As for “irrational ecology fetishism,” whatever that is, there are extremists in all groups. I happen to agree with you that many extreme environmentalists do act like religious people.

  2. I admit, I’m going back and forth on this. I agree with the facts of history about how Nevada became a state and how the lands were granted to the US Federal government. However, I sympathize with the ranchers’ frustrations concerning bureaucratic control of the lands.

    Most of what you’ve posted seems to me to be factually correct… and I appreciate that. It seems to me, though, that the heart of the issue is whether protesting federal, bureaucratic control of those lands is just.

    This is an emotive issue because it fits in with a narrative that so many people believe. What’s needed is more facts.

    • I really appreciate your comment. I too went back and forth on this issue. This is why facts are so vital, they give you bearing when trying to work out where you stand on an issue. I also sympathize with Cliven Bundy and his family and have racked my brain trying to find something that would allow me to put my support behind him, but for me, there isn’t much to support beyond sympathy for the situation he is in.

      That being said, your point about his story fitting into an American narrative is dead on and that is where I believe the ticket is. Once you have discerned the facts, you can then move on to the story. Robert Mckee said, “On one side is the world as we believe it to be, on the other is reality as it actually is. In between is the nexus of story.” Story is what can move people and can get us beyond the facts and heated rhetoric. I believe that Cliven missed an opportunity to tap into that American narrative and I made that case in my post on his legacy. I think that he should have looked forward rather than backward. I think he should have fought for new law rather than breaking current law.

      Because ranching is such a vital symbol and part of the American West and American Spirit, I believe a case could be made for preserving that way of life as a living heritage and tradition. Furthermore, I believe that most people would support it. Reasonable people are moved by a reasonable cause. Maybe it is something all of us could unite behind. I know I would.

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