This land is our land

Some lessons in futility can be learned from that little made-for-TV standoff between Cliven Bundy and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, but its current resolution cannot and should not stand.

We’re referring to that episode down in Clark County where a cattle rancher took up arms to defend his non-existent right to graze his cattle on lands he doesn’t own.

In fact, despite mainstream media’s attempts to make this a multifaceted issue with many reasonable sides, really there’s just one: Bundy has been illegally using other people’s lands to foster his business. The problem was that the feds tried to round up the cattle before they arrested those engaged in the criminal enterprise. That’d be like trying to get the money before detaining the bank robbers.

We live in the United States of America. While we agree that the federal government has often extended its reach into places it shouldn’t have, in general, we believe that we live in a country governed by laws. The U.S. Constitution is the basis for laws in this country. It was set up to, among other things, promote the general welfare.

Bundy claims his family’s use of the land beginning in the 1880s predates the BLM, which was formed in 1934, a consolidation of two older departments. That may be true, but the state of Nevada entered the Union in 1864. And when Nevada joined the Union, the state’s residents agreed to follow the Union’s laws. It’s called the “paramount-allegiance clause,” Article 1, Section 2 of the Nevada Constitution.

Bundy’s family followed the state’s laws for more than 125 years before he came up with this cockamamie idea and stopped paying his grazing fees. Bundy’s beliefs that he is somehow taking a stand in support of the state of Nevada is beyond misguided, it appears delusional. He’s joined in his delusions by fanatics who came from around the country, claiming to be patriots while out the other sides of their mouths they were saying they hate the government, and they threatened to shoot federal agents. We saw the Reuters photograph of one of these people with a Ar-15 trained on a crowd of people. Isn’t that at least “brandishing”? These “patriots” appear to care neither about the rest of our rights not to have our public lands despoiled by someone’s for-profit cattle operation nor about the meaning of irony.

Let’s be clear: We don’t think there was any reason to escalate that standoff. In fact, it was a clumsy effort to enforce the law from the very beginning. Nobody needs to be shot, but those cattle can’t remain on public lands, and Bundy can’t continue to break the law or use our public lands without paying for the privilege.

This is a 21st century problem in Nevada that needs a 21st century solution. Those cattle must be removed from public lands without endangering human life. As we point out in the feature story, drones have been used all over the world to protect American soldiers from delusional people who would kill them. Perhaps our burgeoning drone industry could think of a practical use for these illegal cattle that would encourage Bundy to remove his cattle or pay for the privilege to use our lands.