Give us back our land!!!
Get it Right: Nevadaâ€™s Cattle and the Federal Government
By April 22, 2014 12:00 am â€¢ Pamela Openshaw
Cliven Bundyâ€™s Nevada cattle are part of a crisis that unites western lands, the county sheriff and a governorâ€™s power to nullify federal abuse.
These three issues have grown into a standoff with national implications.
At issue is the question, who owns the land â€” the federal government, or the people who form the government?
If the federal government owns America, Bundy is an obstinate, stubborn trespasser. If the people own America, they have the right to use it. No federal bureaucracy should own 84 percent of Nevada, or any other state.
Americaâ€™s Northwest Ordinance of 1787 set the policy that all states entering the Union came in under the same terms. Land within a newly admitted state would be sold to those who then became its residents. Minimal federal lands for postal roads, arsenals and such were purchased from each state.
The vast majority of a stateâ€™s land would be privately owned under state administration.
Eastern states were admitted under this policy. It was ignored for western states, the poor stepsisters of the American Union. The federal government refused to sell western lands, and held vast portions of it, which were rich with natural resources. This was unethical and illegal. The federal government now unlawfully owns 35 percent of the United States, mostly in the West.
Though this illegality occurred well over a century ago, time has not rendered it less illegal. Impervious to its misconduct, the federal bully now runs states and individuals off the land it dishonestly withheld from them.
Cliven Bundy knows this history. For two decades he has grazed cattle on â€œfederalâ€ lands that should be state owned. He has refused to pay what he terms illegal federal grazing fees.
The issue has become explosive.
Another problem ricochets through this incendiary conflict: that of environmentalists and the endangered desert tortoise.
Bundyâ€™s grazing areas are near, but not on, the desert tortoiseâ€™s designated natural habitat. In a process known as â€œsue and settle,â€ attorney Judson Phillips of the Tea Party Nation explains that environmental groups work quietly with the Environmental Protection Agency to take control of state lands.
They bring a lawsuit, and the EPA mounts a tame defense.
When the environmentalists win, the EPA is justified to launch new regulations that effectively strip the land from state jurisdiction.
These are the â€œtricks of the tradeâ€ to escalate federal authority.
Cliven Bundy and his cattle inhabit both issues â€” land ownership and EPA excess.
There comes a time when those who uphold the law must stand against those who trespass it. The stand against illegal federal ownership of state lands should have been waged and won more than 100 years ago.
After Ronald Reaganâ€™s election in the early 1980s, the Sagebrush Rebellion lit the West to demand that the feds back off.
Those driving the â€œrebellionâ€ could better have demanded that the feds move off.
Cliven Bundy may have decided to do just that â€” move the feds off. There is a western movement building under Rep. Ken Ivory (R-West Jordan) and the Utah-based American Lands Council to give misappropriated lands to their rightful state owners.
If Bundy works peacefully and within the law, he could earn public support.
Will Bundy have the support and authority of his governor and county sheriff to protect him against the federal bully? Clark County sheriff Doug Gillespie can protect him. Governor Brian Sandoval can stand with him and begin the process to nullify unconstitutional federal authority. Will either accept the challenge?
It is a major step to stand against the federal government. That action would not be easy, swift, cheap, placid, or simple. It is, however, necessary.
The only way to stop a bully is to push back, and stick with it. Without that, the bullying continues and results in more confiscations of state authority and lands.
Someone has to start the ball rolling and stand against unfairness. Cliven Bundy may be that person.
Western states need not be Cinderella step-sisters; they have the rights to their territories, just as do eastern states. Bundy deserves the support of his governor, county sheriff, and Utah, as well.
Does the Federal Government own Nevada?
By Harold Pease, Ph. D- The most important question with respect to the Bundy Ranch Standoff remains unanswered. Why does the federal government own Nevada? It does not own New York or Virginia or Massachusetts. Cliven Bundy says that the state of Nevada owns the contested land. The Bureau of Land Management clearly considers the property the federal governmentâ€™s, hence the 200 snipers posted on the property and the tasing of the Bundys for resisting when the feds confiscated their cattle. Who is right?
But the problem isnâ€™t Nevadaâ€™s alone. The percentage of land owned by government exceeds fifty percent in Alaska (98.5), Idaho (63.8), Oregon (52.6), and Utah (63.6). Indeed, the federal government claims to own a third of all the landmass in the United States (Inventory Report on Real Property Owned by the United States Throughout the World, published by the General Services Administration, page 10). Government owns almost half of California (47.5). Basically the federal government did not give western states all their land when they qualified for statehood. States were so excited to get coveted statehood that they went along with the conditions despite the confiscation of, for most in the West, at least a third of their land.
States wanting their confiscated land returned, so as to be on equal footing as with 19 sister states who actually own their land, call their long-term bid to do so the Sage Brush Rebellion. Equality between states was established by giving them equal representation in the U.S. Senate, thus the assumption of the Founders was that property would follow. Without it they are not on equal footing and instead may be more servile to the federal government than states that own themselves. This could negatively affect our system of government known as federalism as states collectively serve as a check on federal overreach. This check is impaired when the federal government owns part or most of their land.
But this is not the most serious violation of the Constitution. The Founders understood that the size of land holding was proportionally related to the perceived size of the federal government and they intentionally wanted that perception small. The Federal government was permitted to have but 10 square miles for a federal capital. The only other land that they could acquire had to be for military purposes as specified in the common defense clause of the Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 which reads: â€œand to exercise like Authority over all places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the same shall be for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock Yards, and other needful Buildings.â€
Any new acquisition, outside the capital, had (1) to be purchased, (2) have the consent of the State Legislature where the land exists, (3) and be for military purposes. None of these constitutional requirements were met with respect to any of the states cited above although some military bases do exist in most of them. Nor have there been any additional amendments to the Constitution authorizing additional federal ownership of land as required for any additional federal power. Constitutionally there exists no federal land or Bureau of Land Management or even public land.
Again, in the case of the Bundys, the land in dispute was not purchased by the federal government, did not receive the consent of the Nevada State Legislature for sale to the feds and is not for military purposes. The fact that the federal government acquired it fraudulently in the first place, or that both political parties have ignored this part of the Constitution for over a hundred years, does not make federal confiscation now constitutional. Constitutionally Bundy has more right to be there than does the Bureau of Land Management. Still, his stand is not practical given our long-term departure from the document and to get back to the Constitution some may do jail time, as have others like Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom has never been cheap.
Sage Brush Rebellion states now, having someone willing to stand, should seize this moment to remind the federal government that they too want their land back. If they stand together now it is more probable than ever that it will happen. One suggestion for Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada is to declare the contested property Nevadaâ€™s and have Bundy begin paying Nevada for grazing rights. That would diffuse the standoff between citizen and federal government moving it to the state instead where it belongs, and give strength to the intended objectiveâ€”getting back to the Constitution.
Dr Harold Pease is a History and Political Science Teacher at Taft College, CA