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Nevada Today

Nevada Today is a nonpartisan, independently owned and operated site dedicated to providing up-to-date news and smart analysis on the issues that impact Nevada's communities and businesses.


Cliven Bundy: A Federal Worker’s Perspective

“If you see Cliven Bundy approaching, call dispatch and get a ranger immediately!” This was the instruction given to the National Park Service’s exotic plant control crew several years ago. I was one of the contractors that Cliven Bundy complained was roaming around in the public land next to his property to the press. Our job was to eliminate a population of an exotic weed called camelthorn that was growing along the Virgin River near Cliven Bundy’s one-hundred-and-sixty-acre ranch. We were using an herbicide with an active ingredient called imazapyr, but the camelthorn was proving to be an extremely tough weed, and we were having trouble killing it. There was disagreement within our crew on what chemical to use and the techniques being applied. Controversies aside, the reason why we were trying to destroy the camelthorn was that it was a species of plant that was not native to the United States; therefore it had no natural enemies to keep its numbers in check. Without efforts to kill it, this small population of camelthorn was destined to take over the banks of the Virgin River and squeeze out native plant life.

Through the grapevine, we were hearing that Mr. Bundy did not like us spraying herbicide out there. We were treating camelthorn on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management and no one on our crew set foot on his property, as doing so was against the rules. Instead, he thought that what we were spraying was going to hurt his cattle, which was odd because the camelthorn, true to its name, is rather spiny and unappetizing to cattle, so his animals were not likely to eat what we were spraying. It was also strange that he would have no idea what we were doing, as herbicides are regularly used by cattle ranchers to kill unwanted weeds. By trying to get rid of the camelthorn, we were actually helping his cattle by giving their food room to grow, even though that was not our intent. If he wanted to know what we were doing, all he had to do was walk up and ask us. We would have called off the rangers as long as he appeared non-threatening. Of all the times we went out there, neither Cliven Bundy nor his sons ever approached us. Eventually, my employers stopped sending us out there, as Mr. Bundy was becoming more verbally threatening. In hindsight, we should have demanded an armed escort.

Cliven Bundy and his cattle became an extremely serious nuisance over the years. Since the 1990’s, he let his herd multiply from one-hundred-and-fifty animals to nearly one-thousand. Then he let it spread into areas that were off-limits to cattle grazing not only in areas that were managed by the Bureau of Land Management but also into lands controlled by the National Park Service and the state of Nevada, where no cattle grazing is allowed. He ignored several court orders demanding that he remove them. He also refused to pay the $1.86 per animal per month grazing fee and amassed nearly a million dollars of unpaid grazing fees and trespassing fines as his cattle began wandering across thousands of acres of public land.1

Nearly half of Cliven Bundy’s cattle were unbranded, and the only way to tell if they were his was whether or not they were mixed with the cattle that had the Bundy brand on them. He did not provide veterinary care for his animals, and some of them starved to death while trying to find adequate forage in the sparsely vegetated desert. Also, because his animals had little contact with humans, his herd became feral. They soon turned into wild and dangerous animals that became a threat to public safety on National Park Service lands. His cattle caused several car accidents and near misses and parts of the park had to be shut down at times because the bulls charged people. When I was treating weeds near his property, I had to chase a couple of his cows away from me so I could resume work and our crew was lucky enough never to have encountered a bull. His cattle had also eaten some trees that we had planted to restore an area. When you are in this line of work, this type of situation is infuriating.

Every attempt the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service made to communicate with Mr. Bundy to resolve the issue was rebuffed. They tried sending him letters, speaking to him over the phone, tried to set up a meeting with him through Clark County that was mysteriously canceled by Mr. Bundy at the last minute, and even offered him the proceeds if his cattle were impounded. They also offered to have some of his animals sent to a facility of his choice to be sold and for Mr. Bundy to be offered the proceeds of the sale. The only responses they got were threats of a “range war.”2

Cliven Bundy’s herd of feral cattle was documented on National Park Service lands trampling rare plants such as sticky buckwheat, bear poppy, ring stem, three corner milk vetch, and biological soil crusts which they were legally required to protect. His animals also trampled the shorelines of desert springs and damaged ancient rock petroglyphs carved by Native Americans by rubbing against the rock faces, causing them to break off. They trampled other archeological sites as well. Repairing all of this was estimated to cost taxpayers many thousands of dollars.3 To top it off, Cliven Bundy and his clan set out salt blocks, established watering troughs, and built cattle corrals on public lands, declaring it his personal property, even though the only land he legally owned was his tiny one-hundred-and-sixty-acre ranch.4 He physically traveled out there himself and harassed federal employees while they were doing their jobs (such as building fences around archeological sites and areas with rare plants to keep his cattle out).5

It started in 1993, when the number of cattle that were allowed to be grazed around the Gold Butte area, a part of which was formerly known as the Bunkerville grazing allotment, was reduced to one-hundred-and-fifty to protect the endangered desert tortoise, a sensitive and fragile species. Much of the area known as Gold Butte was determined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (not to be confused with the Bureau of Land Management) to be critical to the survival of the desert tortoise.6 Eventually, the Nature Conservancy, on behalf of Clark County, purchased the grazing leases from the Bureau of Land Management for 375,000 dollars and retired them to create an area where the desert tortoise population could persist.7 I was told by one of the park’s wildlife biologists, a man who worked there for a long time, that Cliven Bundy’s fifty to one-hundred cattle were not originally in the area that was critical to the survival of the desert tortoise until he let his herd expand to nearly one-thousand animals. In regards to much of Gold Butte, Mr. Bundy listed himself as a future stakeholder, so people knew ahead of time that they were going to have a problem with him. In other words, he decided he wanted to expand the size of his herd and went for it. No one said he could not graze, they just wanted the number of cattle to be reduced and Mr. Bundy’s refusal to talk with anyone made it impossible to strike a deal with him. Also, he stopped paying the standard grazing fee, and the Bureau of Land Management canceled his grazing permit in 1994. When he said on TV that he did not recognize the Federal government as existing, he meant it literally!

The former superintendent of the park that I worked for, who retired in 2000, wrote an article in the Las Vegas Sun in 2014 accusing Cliven Bundy of being an outright bully. He wrote:

“It is unfathomable to me that 20 years after the Bunkerville allotment was canceled in 1994, we are still wrestling with getting his cattle off the range. And there were issues of overgrazing that allotment before 1994. It is my opinion that the BLM and the Park Service have done everything possible administratively to try to resolve the issue.

Bundy is a bully who has used his threat of a range war and to do “whatever it takes” to stop the government from impounding his cattle to scare public officials.

The implications are that he would resort to a gun battle. And who wants to see another Waco? I was one of those public officials who were told to back off at one point because of concern for violence.

What Bundy is doing is a criminal act, and he should be accountable for his actions rather than be held up as a hero fighting the federal government.”8

Of course, calling Cliven Bundy a bully does not make it so. There must be evidence. I would soon find some proof, but I get ahead of myself here. Cliven Bundy took his case to court and lost. He was issued two court orders, one in 1998, and a more recent one in 2013, to remove his cattle and refused to do so. Part of the reason why he lost his court case was that he tried to argue that the court lacked jurisdiction because the Federal government did not own the lands around his ranch and tried to inject bizarre religious arguments into his case.9

Naturally, a person like me was wondering what kind of damage Mr. Bundy’s cattle were causing the desert tortoise. Cliven Bundy, along with a handful of other cattle ranchers, claims that cattle ranching and overgrazing is good for desert tortoises because they can live off of cow dung and get nutrition this way.10 It would be convenient if that were true, but it is nonsense. Desert tortoises are vegetarian and need fresh green plant life. The issue with grazing inside of prime tortoise habitat is not that the cattle eat all the greenery, but the fact that the grazing habits of the cattle will change the plant species composition of the entire range. For example, plants that are more difficult for both cattle and tortoises to stomach, such as creosote bushes, will increase their numbers in grazed areas. Also, the more nutritious plant species, such as desert dandelions, are eaten by both cattle and tortoises first, so the number of desert dandelions will be reduced in grazed areas. Also, the variety of plant species one finds in grazed areas is often less than what one sees in protected areas, thus giving the tortoises a less diverse menu of plants to choose from. Within grazed areas, tortoises need to travel further to forage and satisfy their nutritional demands, thus causing them to burn up more of their precious energy. Moreover, because of the size and weight of the cattle, the desert soil in overgrazed areas is more compacted, which makes it harder for certain plant species to grow in.

Desert tortoises usually eat cactuses in the summer, which because of their spines, the cattle cannot eat. Where their diets come into conflict is during the spring, when both cattle and tortoises like to eat annual grasses and highly nutritious annual spring wildflowers, such as the desert dandelion. Good nutrition during the spring is vital to desert tortoises because they are emerging from their winter hibernation and there are serious conflicts between cattle and tortoises during periods of prolonged drought, which is happening more frequently out west.

What is worse, cattle grazing and the soil disturbance that comes with it can pave the way for plants that do not belong on the range. Exotic grasses from other countries, like Mediterranean grass, can become established in grazed areas and overtake native plant life. Cattle grazing is a two-edged sword. Controlled grazing can be used to suppress exotic grasses in areas where they are established and can introduce them into areas where they did not exist. Tortoises will eat exotic grasses without fuss, however, they are not as nutritious as the spring wildflowers they crowd out, and tortoises will eat more exotic grasses in grazed areas than in ungrazed areas. Tortoises might not travel as far to find food if there is enough exotic grass, but if their diet is poorer, they may lay fewer eggs and be at risk of disease.11 Also, there is an exotic grass called rip gut brome, and true to its name, it is hard on a tortoise’s digestive system. Even worse, exotic annual grasses will drop their seeds in the spring and die before the summer, creating flammable hayfields. This and the frequent droughts have caused many wildfires in Nevada’s Great Basin. When one drives through the state, one can see the brome and numerous scars across the landscape created by frequent fires.

There is mounting evidence that because desert tortoises lack sweat glands and cannot urinate or drink often because of the dry conditions they live under, they prefer to eat plants that are high in moisture and nitrogen so they can flush the excess potassium out of their bodies. The desert plants that are high in moisture and nitrogen are intolerant of long dry spells and are usually the annual wildflowers that only grow after the spring rains. These are the desert dandelions, evening primroses, dwarf white milk vetches, and Greene foothill deervetches that cattle like to eat.12 This would be a good reason to keep cattle out of prime tortoise habitat, as this would mean that tortoises cannot handle any level of malnutrition. However, this is not agreed upon by all wildlife biologists.

As this was going on, I began to wonder if there was any similarity between the Bundy family and the people that set my Dad’s boat on fire in the middle of the night. So I got on the internet and looked at the website of the Las Vegas Justice Court to see if I could find any criminal records these people might have. I did not have to look long or hard. In 2013, one of Cliven Bundy’s sons, the thirty-four-year-old Cliven “Lance” Bundy, was charged with burglary and the theft of a gun and sent to jail.13 Another one of his sons, Ryan Bundy, who later participated in the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, had a driving record that included driving with expired license plates, parking in a handicapped spot, illegal parking, driving without insurance, speeding, and failure to yield at a stop sign.14 Early in 2015, he was also arrested in Utah for interfering with an animal control officer. Apparently, a horse of his was found loose near an airport, and when an animal control officer impounded it, he took the horse back without telling anyone. He got into a brawl with the sheriff’s deputies who tried to arrest him, but he was subdued and taken to jail. For some reason, he was released without bail.15

Ryan Bundy also had a run-in with the National Park Service in 1994 when he was a young man. One day the park dispatch at Zion National Park was given a description of a vehicle whose owner failed to pay at a gas station. A ranger stopped the car at the park entrance and requested the standard entrance fee. The driver, Ryan Bundy, said he did not recognize Federal authority and refused to pay the fee. He drove away but was stopped by another ranger. When a backup car arrived, Ryan Bundy fled, and a police chase ensued. Road spikes were set out to stop him, but Ryan swerved around the road spikes and nearly struck a Utah Highway Patrol Officer. He was eventually stopped, but he only went to a diversion program for this incident.16

Members of the Bundy clan also had records in other states for offenses such as attempted forgery and writing bad checks. Cliven Bundy himself was sued for negligence when a herd of his cattle blocked the interstate in the middle of the night. A driver and her passenger were severely injured when their vehicle collided with one of his cows.17 Ammon Bundy, the leader of the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, while he did not have a criminal record, owed over eighteen-hundred dollars in Federal taxes and had a half million dollar Federal loan out to support the truck repair business he owned.18 After viewing these records, it seemed to me that when the Bundy’s talked about states’ rights and freedom, they were not fighting for freedom. They were fighting for a deeply flawed notion of freedom.

Also, I got a copy of the deed to his ranch. Cliven Bundy said that his ancestors grazed cattle in these lands since the 1850’s before the Bureau of Land Management was formed and therefore had ancestral rights to the lands around his ranch. When I looked at the deed, it said that his father bought the ranch in 1948.19 They did not start grazing cattle in the area until 1954. Even worse, I dug up a census from 1900 in Arizona that showed that on his father’s side, his ancestors lived in Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, and North Carolina long before moving west and establishing Bundyville, Arizona. The people on his mother’s side lived in Utah and later Nevada, but the locals told me they were not part of the original group of settlers that settled the area.20 In regards to ancestral rights; Mr. Bundy was lying at the worst and exaggerating at the least. He had no legal leg to stand on, and the only people that could legitimately claim ancestral rights to the land around his ranch were the Paiute Indians.

After twenty years of doing nothing, the Bureau of Land Management made plans to collect on the trespassing fees and round up Mr. Bundy’s cattle in 2012 but canceled it because of the presidential election. After this, the Center for Biological Diversity threatened to sue the Bureau of Land Management under the Endangered Species Act for failure to protect the desert tortoise.21 A new cattle roundup ensued in the April of 2014. It turned out that Cliven Bundy was with the Sovereign Citizens Movement. This is a group that believes that the fourteenth amendment turned Americans into citizens of the Federal government instead of citizens of the states; therefore the federal government is an illegitimate sham and no laws other than “common law” or “constitutional law” apply to them. He was also connected to the Tea Party, and as the cattle roundup was starting, he threatened to bring in all the “Tea Party people.”22

The cattle roundup was expected to take three weeks, as there were almost one-thousand cattle spread out over one-hundred-and-fifty-thousand acres of rugged land. For this reason, many rangers, park personnel, and contractors were lodged in local hotels for the duration of the roundup. At first, it went smoothly, minus the fact a few aggressive bulls had to be shot. However, a video surfaced of a scuffle BLM rangers had with Cliven Bundy’s family and a group of protesters while they were escorting a civilian driver through a road that ran past Bundy’s ranch. In response, Tea Party-affiliated militias such as the Oath Keepers, The White Mountain Militia, and the Praetorian Guard began pouring into the area to defend them. They seemed unaware that many of the Bundy’s were petty criminals.23

At first, my supervisor wanted the exotic plant control crew I was part of to stay in one of the local hotels so we could do weed control work for a week, not around Bundy’s ranch, but in another area out of the way of the cattle roundup. The chief of natural resources, bless her heart, called him and told him not to send us out there because she believed it was too dangerous. So we were sent to do weed work in Arizona, and while we were there, the Clark County sheriff met with Cliven Bundy and a group of armed protesters on his ranch and said the Bureau of Land Management was suspending the roundup. From the protesters, there was cheering and jubilation, but Cliven Bundy was not satisfied. He demanded that the cattle that the BLM had already rounded up be returned immediately and then made a demand to the sheriff that gives one insight into Cliven Bundy’s mind:

“Sheriff, this is what we the people are asking this morning. Disarm the Park Service. At Lake Mead and Red Rock Park and all the other parks that the Federal government claims that they have jurisdiction over. Take your county bulldozers and uh loaders and tear down the entrance places. The – where they ticket us and where they uh injure us and make us citizens pay their fees. You take down the – you get the county equipment out there and tear those things down this morning! You–you–you– disarm those Park Service people! You take a pickup and haul up those arms. We want those arms picked up, don’t we? Call (Inaudible) disposal and go up here to this compound, and we want all of those arms put in that compound today! We want those arms delivered right here under those flags in one hour. And media? Are you here media? I want you to go to every place they gotta federal park service uh station, and you watch those county machines tear down those places today in the next hour! And you report back to these people, we the people in one hour! If it is not, if they’re not done, then we’ll decide what we’re going to do from this point on!”24

This demand made no sense. You could not drive from either one of those parks to where Cliven Bundy was standing in one hour; much less disarm every park ranger in that time frame. And he wanted all the weapons brought to him! Of course, the sheriff did not comply with this ridiculous demand. After an hour or so, Cliven Bundy, instead of simply waiting for the BLM to let the cattle go on its own, led a group of Tea Partiers, Sovereign Citizens, and armed militiamen several miles up the interstate to a bridge above a desert wash. Below this wash stood a cluster of heavily armed rangers, snipers, and the corral that the BLM was storing Cliven Bundy’s wayward cattle.

A group of protesters, some of which were armed, marched to the bottom of the wash to the cattle corral while other militia-men blocked the interstate and took up sniper positions on the bridge above. The bridge was lined by those concrete dividers that taper at the bottom. These concrete dividers had gaps between each of their individual sections, which were perfect for pointing rifles through them. In essence, the militias had the high ground on that bridge and were protected by the concrete barriers in such a way that they could shoot at the rangers, but the rangers could not shoot back at them. They also outnumbered the rangers by a ratio of at least four to one.

What was truly horrifying about this spectacle was the fact there were small children mixed in with the crowd and the militias appeared to be using them as shields. Eventually, the Las Vegas Metropolitan police arrived to try to help diffuse the situation, and one of them described the scene as follows:

“Oh, it’s not a rumor. Because when we first got out there, that’s who we, when we pulled up, and-and-and-and made the left there to divide the I-15 North and South is where we were set up. Um. That’s all you saw! You saw the kids, and you saw the women. And you see you see the horses you know off in the backdrop. And then you see the men. Guns everywhere. They’re lying on the ground, there in the back of pickup trucks, and you’re going wow! This would never happen down in Las Vegas! But it was there, that’s not a rumor. Um, that was reality! And I saw that with my own eyes! No doubt!”25

Amazingly, a militiaman, the bridge sniper that was famously photographed pointing an assault rifle through the concrete barrier on that bridge was foolish enough to brag about the tactic of using children as shields to a reporter from Utah, and the following exchange took place:

Reporter: “Are you part of one of the militia groups?”
Sniper: “No. Just independent.”
Reporter: “Just independent down here….?”
Sniper: “Just a county civil defense unit.”
Reporter: “Okay. Um what do you, what does this mean, what does this victory for the Bundy’s mean do you think?”
Sniper: “I think it means a lot, but it needs to keep happening. We need to keep matching show of force. There’s a rancher in Texas right now under threat from the BLM. Ninety-thousand acres on the Red River they’re trying to take from him. Right now. If you’re in Texas, go there! Get on a bridge! Show em force!”
Reporter: “Um. Do you think…We saw some-some uh some younger people down there that looked like they might have been children. Do you think that was wise to have the….to have those kids down there? Do you think this could have turned dangerous?”
Sniper: “That was the only thing that kept them from getting gassed. They threatened to shoot chemicals into that crowd.”
Reporter: “Do you think that it was good to have the kids down there then?”
Sniper: “Absolutely!”
Reporter: “Um. Do you think it was danger– do you think this could have potentially turned violent?”
Sniper: “Absolutely!”26

Even the unarmed protesters seemed to think that having children in the line of fire was okay. One female protester, wearing a yellow Gadsden flag shirt with the classic rattlesnake decal and the “Don’t Tread on Me!” logo had an exchange with the same reporter:

Reporter: “What do you think about children being down there and possibly in the line of fire if something happens?”
Female Protester in Yellow Gadsden Shirt: “Well if they’re in the line of fire then BAD on the sheriff’s department!”
Reporter: “Well what do you think about the children being – Do you think the children should be down there right now?”
Protestor: “Yeah I do. I think its fine.”
Reporter: “You’d think that if one of them gets killed?”
Protester: “No. Because that isn’t our fault! It’s not their parent’s fault!”
Reporter: “But it’s clearly a dangerous situation. Would you admit that it’s a dangerous situation?”
Protestor: “It’s a dangerous situation because the government has made it such!”27

What Bundy’s people were doing was not something that was done in the heat of the moment, but was clearly a result of pre-meditation and meticulous planning. That bridge and the cattle corral were scouted out ahead of time, and the tactical maneuver of placing those snipers on that bridge behind those concrete barriers was thought out well in advance.28 The positive coverage that they got on Fox News was also staged in advance. The strategy of mixing kids in the crowd was also something that was probably planned in advance, as evidenced by a former sheriff and Oath Keeper Richard Mack when he infamously quoted, “We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front. If they were going to start shooting, it’s gonna be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers!”29

When I learned of this, I felt sick to my stomach. Of all the hikes that I lead kids on, I could tell anyone without a moment’s hesitation that if I thought a dangerous situation was brewing, every natural instinct I had would have told me to get the kids someplace safe and let the adults handle the situation. Animals protect their young better than those people did! There was no reason at all they needed to do that! And over what? Cattle? Who were these kids and where were their parents?

From the locals, I learned of an even more frightening incident that took place at two hotels where government employees and contractors were staying. At one hotel, they said, the militias blocked the driveways to keep government employees from leaving, but the local police arrived and made them move. I think that was the one that was sent threatening phone calls, saying that if they did not kick the BLM personnel out of the hotel, they would not be standing in the morning. At another hotel, a young pregnant clerk was told she would be taken to the parking lot and shot like a dog if she did not tell the militia where the government’s people were staying. Again, the local cops arrived and told them to leave. Not a single militia member was arrested in any of these incidents. Eventually, I found a copy of a police report that confirmed part of this story.30 It is not every day you learn you might have been in a hostage situation.

In the end, the rangers of the BLM backed down without a shot being fired and let the protesters bust open the corral and release the cattle. Upon returning to the park from Arizona, everyone was in quite a stir. Someone found an employee directory and a few BLM employees began getting death threats on their cell phones. I remember a guy on our crew that complained of getting one of these random death threats, and of course, he was not even an employee of the BLM. Also, park employees were not allowed in the northern section of the park because of armed protesters. Apparently, the cattle roundup started on National Park Service lands.

My questions about this were partially answered by a YouTube video of a man named Bobby G. Gronauer, who was running to be elected as the Clark County Sheriff. He stated that relatives of his were trying to enter a nearby state park adjacent to this area, when a man wearing a red bandana and a belt of ammo strapped across his chest, brandishing a machine gun, stopped them and refused to let them pass.31 Indeed, Steven Horsford, the local congressman, wrote a letter to the County Sheriff and told him that his constituents were complaining that militias were setting up armed checkpoints and demanding that the locals show them proof of residency before being allowed to pass.32 When the media investigated, they did not find many such checkpoints, and the militias may have put a stop to them because they did not want to push the locals too far.

The worst was yet to come. On June 8, 2014, two militia wannabee’s, a young couple named Jerad and Amanda Miller, who spent time at the Bundy Ranch, decided to go on a suicide mission in Las Vegas. Jerad Miller was ejected from the Bundy Ranch by the militia leaders (so they said) because of his past felonies (ironic isn’t it), but that did not deter him. The couple walked into a Cicci’s Pizzeria and executed two Las Vegas police officers at point blank range while they were eating lunch. They then covered their bodies with a Gadsden flag and took over a nearby Walmart. An armed Good Samaritan tried to stop Jerad Miller, but he did not see the girl, and she shot him dead. The two died in a hail of police gunfire.33 While this was not as devastating as the more recent shooting in Las Vegas, this was a huge local tragedy. Flags everywhere were flown at half-staff, and I remember bagpipes being played over the radio.

While the militias may have kicked the Millers out of their camp because they thought they were too crazy, the Millers were only slightly crazier than the bulk of the people down there. At one point after the standoff, rumors began spreading that the Attorney General had authorized a drone strike on the Bundy Ranch. The Oath Keepers wanted to pull their men out of there, and in response, the other militias accused them of cowardice. In time, the militias were pointing guns and threatening to shoot each other. Some of them also knocked others to the ground.34

I remember being a teenager and thinking that the young thugs I grew up around, as they grew older, could be useful cannon fodder for criminal gangs, terrorist organizations, or politicians with malevolent intentions and this would someday be a problem for our society. Had I been right? These guys bore an eerie resemblance to the punk kids I knew from my days in middle school. Indeed, one of them allegedly told a reporter from GQ magazine, “Barbie likes J.I. Joe a whole lot more than she likes Ken.”35 Interestingly though, within the militia groups, the young guys appeared to be a minority. Most of the militiamen had gray in their hair, indicating the hyper-masculinity and narcissism got its start long before my generation came to be.

And all the while, Cliven Bundy proclaimed, “The Lord told me … if (the sheriff doesn’t) take away these arms (from federal agents), we the people will have to face these arms in a civil war.”36 So now he thinks that God is talking directly to him and telling him to commit acts of violence? Why did Fox News portray him as a hero? I thought we were supposed to be rejecting this mindset when we declared war on Osama Bin Laden? What direction is our country going? Are we becoming the very enemy we are fighting?

In the background, there is a well-known push to have the Bureau of Land Management and even National Parks and Wildlife Refuges shut down, and have the land handed over to the states. The big catch is many of the states do not have the money to manage all of the lands (think wildfires) and will try to sell off some of that land to the highest bidder. Indeed, the state of Utah passed a bill in 2012 demanding this. The groups supporting this push include the American Lands Council, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Utah Precious Metals Association, and the John Birch Society, an extremist group that was created in the 1950’s to convince Americans that Communists were infiltrating the government.37 These groups do not have the interests of the common man in mind, and the ordinary people that support this push will be disappointed by the outcome. Corporate America would own these lands and would not have their maintenance and health in mind. These folks have tried to latch onto Cliven Bundy’s cause and use it to promote their agenda. Cliven Bundy, however, has become a constant source of embarrassment for them.

There is a claim that there were ulterior motives on the BLM’s part for the seizure of Cliven Bundy’s cattle. The story goes that Neil Kornze, the deputy director of the BLM and a former staffer of Senator Harry Reid, who was confirmed as the deputy director in April of 2014, staged the roundup so Harry Reid could build a solar electric plant on Cliven Bundy’s land and sell the electricity to the Chinese. There is a grain of truth to this, as both Harry Reid and his son Rory were involved in an effort by a Chinese energy giant, ENN Energy Group, to build what was supposed to be our nation’s largest solar energy plant in Laughlin, Nevada. People jumped on this story and claimed that the Laughlin site was next to the Bundy Ranch. In truth, Laughlin is nowhere near Cliven Bundy’s Bunkerville Ranch. All you need to do to disprove this is to go to Google Maps and plot a course from Bunkerville to Laughlin and see that it is a two-and-a-half-hour drive. Not only that, the project never got off the ground and was dead by 2013. Moreover, the habitat protections for the tortoise were put in place over twenty years ago, long before such deals with the Chinese existed and Cliven Bundy was refusing to pay grazing fees since that time.38

Then there is the story that began on Alex Jones’s that Harry Reid was promoting the construction of another solar energy project on Dry Lake, which is next to the Bundy Ranch. The article accusing Harry Reid of this, at first glance, looks like a well-researched piece of journalism until one takes a close look at its accompanying map. Again, one only needs to spend a little time on MapQuest to find out that Dry Lake is a forty-five-minute drive from Bundy’s Ranch and is well outside of the area where his cattle trespass. The plant was also under construction at the time.39

Alex Jones is also a fanatical peddler of every conspiracy theory under the sun and is considered to be the most paranoid man in America. He preaches that 9 /11 was an inside job, super-secret weather weapons are used to steer tornadoes into cities, and the Sandy Hook shooting was fictionalized by the government to justify gun control legislation. My personal favorite was that all high school nerds grow up to be “evil little people” and head out to exploit everyone around them because they were not the jocks in high school. Interestingly, Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers, one of the militia groups involved in the Bundy standoff, is a regular guest on his program.40

Then there is the website Truth and Action, with links to the Clark County website that appear to show that Harry Reid owns ninety-three acres of land next to Cliven Bundy’s Ranch. This property is listed under the name Reid Bunkerville LLC. This website almost had the author convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that Harry Reid was up to something, as this land was only a couple of miles up the road from Bundy’s Ranch. That is until I logged onto the website of the Clark County Recorder’s Office and found the name Laverne Reid, a cousin of Cliven Bundy as I understand it.41 According to the locals, Reid Bunkerville LLC is now managed by Joseph L. Bowler of Bunkerville, a man who had Bunkerville’s elementary school named after him.

None of this is to say that the Bureau of Land Management has never done anything wrong. Cliven Bundy was not the only person to have their cattle rounded up by them. Two sisters of the Shoshone Indian Tribe, Mary and Carrie Dann, also ranched and had their cattle and horses rounded up by the BLM. This land was unquestionably their own, and later gold was found on that land.42 Gee! No wonder people do not trust the BLM out there! Of course, the militia did not show up to defend the Dan Sisters, or the tribe protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline for that matter. They defended a petty criminal instead, which is how things go sometimes. Also, the BLM’s chief ranger was a lunatic himself, and escalated the situation by rounding up the cattle directly in front of Bundy’s family, thus putting his own officers in the middle of a tense situation when he did not need to. The militia would never have arrived had he not done this. Maybe.

Harry Reid pushed for Gold Butte to be turned into a National Conservation Area, but so have many scientists and conservationists, including yours truly. Harry Reid is well known for protecting public lands and promoting clean energy. Making Gold Butte a National Conservation Area would make it impossible for any development to take place on that land and Bundy’s cattle would not have been such an issue had he not let them multiply. What is more, the Paiute Indians, the original owners of the land around Bundy’s Ranch, also support turning Gold Butte into a National Conservation Area.43 I’m with them. Why take the side of a cattle rancher that appears to have no respect for the land or anyone else around him?

Since there is a political push to shut down Federal lands and the information accusing Harry Reid of having a hand in what happened out there is coming from sources well known for pumping out false and misleading information, there is no reason to trust it. Of course, one cannot be one-hundred percent sure there were no ulterior motives for the cattle roundup, as the only people that would know would be the folks high in the chain of command. I have heard everything from fracking to magnesium mining. One thing is for certain though, the people crying foul need to get better evidence. If they were to prove their point, this would mean that both the militias and the environmental community were being played like fiddles by two different parties with two different agendas.

Regardless of this, unknown to most people, what happened in Nevada has enormous implications for the whole country. Cliven Bundy and the militias that supported him are connected to the Tea Party movement, a force that has grown with ferocious speed over the years. The Tea Party Movement is funded by a small group of wealthy and powerful elites, such as the former House majority leader Dick Armey and his FreedomWorks organization. Other organizations that sustain the Tea Party include Americans for Prosperity, The Heritage Foundation, and The Cato Institute. Several of these organizations are bankrolled by some right-wing businessmen; the best known of whom are Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries, the sons of Fred Koch, a founding member of the John Birch Society. Lobbyists are also involved. These elitist organizations are all about defending unfair power and privilege and convincing the common man to do the same.

What this means is the Tea Party is a farce, and evidence from surveys suggests that most ordinary Tea Partiers know little about the powerful organizations that fund their movement and capitalize on their efforts. And while not all Tea Partiers are extreme in their beliefs, the movement has become a magnet for ignorant and xenophobic characters, which could control the movement if conditions favor it. Racist and anti-gay sentiments for example, while not present among most Tea Partiers, are more common among them than what one finds in the general population.44

One dangerous individual the Tea Party movement has spawned is Donald Trump. He makes statements that are intended to appeal to angry working class people and to scapegoat minorities. Here are a few examples:

“If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them would you! Seriously! Okay! Just knock the hell…..I promise you; I will pay for the legal fees. I promise! I promise!”

“The polls, they say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters!”

“When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families!”

“Early in the century, last century, General Pershing, did you ever hear? Rough guy! Rough guy! And they had a terrorism problem! And there’s a whole thing with swine and animals and pigs. And you know the story they (Muslims) don’t like that! And they were having a tremendous problem with terrorism….and by the way; this is something you can read in the history books, not a lot of history books because they don’t like teaching this. And General Pershing was a rough guy! And he sits on his horse, and he was very astute, like a ramrod. And the year was early 1900’s. And this was a terrible problem. They were having terrorism problems just like we do. And he caught fifty terrorists who did tremendous damage and killed many people, and he took the fifty terrorists, and he took fifty men, and he dipped fifty bullets in pig’s blood! You heard that right! He took fifty bullets and he dipped them in pig’s blood!!! And he had his men load his riffles, and he lined up the fifty people, and they shot forty-nine of those people, and to the fiftieth person, he said, ‘You go back to your people, and you tell them what happened!’ And for twenty-five years, there wasn’t a problem!”45

Mr. Trump has the mind of a middle school bully and clearly wants to bully his way into power. Make no mistake; he knows what he is doing when he says things like this. With this rhetoric, those that learned in their youth that bullying others was the way to go will be drawn to this movement like magnets. Even if they learned to fear the consequences of their actions as young adults, the fact that a man (or men) running to be the most powerful person on Earth is promoting violent behavior will embolden them. If he means some of the things he says, we could be in trouble. It will not matter if the bulk of Donald Trump’s supporters are decent people because if you throw aggressors into the mix with non-aggressors, the aggressors will quickly become the alphas and dominate the movement.

Indeed, a member of Donald Trump’s campaign, Jerry DeLemus, was arrested in connection with the 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff. Both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have posed for photos with Jerry DeLemus, and the fact that Jerry DeLemus’s wife is a representative in New Hampshire’s legislature strongly suggests that he is a high profile figure.46 That his wife also accuses the Pope of being the Anti-Christ indicates a lack of mental stability.47 Even worse, Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime political advisor, not only supported Cliven Bundy but someone also photographed him meeting in a restaurant with John Ritzheimer, a leader of the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Mr. Trump himself catered to the demands of those armed occupiers by pardoning the Hammonds, and he has other dangerous supporters.48 It was not rare for people to get beaten up at Trump rallies, and then we had Charlottesville. One heavily tattooed alpha male had this to say to a bunch of Hispanics protesting Donald Trump:

“I’ll **** your whole ******* family with by big ******* ****! Get the **** out of here! Our country ************! Our country! Proud ******* American! Made in USA *****! Made in ******* USA! Go ******* cut my burrito *****! Go ******* make my tortilla ************ and build that wall for me! Trump!!!! I love Trump!!!! **** you!!!! I love my country! Yeah, I’ll **** like at least ten of you up in one ******* second you ******* *****!”49

If we keep up this insane political rhetoric, there will be bullies coming out of the woodwork you did not know were there and it will be much worse than anything you see on a school playground. The bulk of the millennials, however, are not supporting Donald Trump. Instead, it is the older generations that seem to embrace him. If I were still in high school, this would have surprised me and is an indication that there may be some hope for my generation. Apparently, my view of my generation was too narrow.

Works Cited & Further Reading

1. Vincent, Carol Hardy. “Grazing Fees: Overview and Issues.” Congressional Research Service. 7-5700. RS21232. 19, June, 2012.

2. United States District Court. District of Nevada. United States of America vs. Cliven Bundy: United States’ Motion for Summary Judgment: Case 2:12-cv-00804-LDG-GWF, Document 18. 12/21/2012: 1-31.

SEE Also: United States District Court. District of Nevada. United States of America vs. Cliven Bundy: United States’ Motion to Enforce Injunction: Case 2:98-cv-00531-LRH-VCF, Document 50. 4/11/13: 1-16.

SEE Also: Gettys, Travis. “Bundy Cattle May Be Starving After Overgrazing: “Cliven’s Management Practices Leave a Lot to be Desired.” Raw Story 15 April, 2016

3. United States District Court. District of Nevada. United States of America vs. Bundy: Attachments M-O to Declaration by (Name Censored): Case 2:12-cv-00804-LDG-GWF, Document 20-2. 12/21/2012: 1-21.

SEE Also: United States District Court. District of Nevada. United States of America vs. Bundy: Attachments A-H to Declaration by (Name Censored): Case 2:12-cv-00804-LDG-GWF, Document 19-2.12/21/2012: 1-57.

SEE Also: United States District Court. District of Nevada. United States of America vs. Bundy: Attachments H-L to Declaration by (Name Censored): Case 2:12-cv-00804-LDG-GWF, Document 20-1. 12/21/2012: 1-34.

4. United States District Court. District of Nevada. United States of America vs. Bundy: Attachment E: Case 2:12-cv-00804-LDG-GWF, Document 21-2: 12/21/2012: 1-38.

5. United States District Court. District of Nevada. United States of America vs. Bundy: Attachments A-E to Declaration by (Name Censored): Case 2:12-cv-00804-LDG-GWF, Document 26: 12/21/2012: 1-20.

6. Department of the Interior: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Federal Register. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of Critical Habitat for the Mojave Population of the Desert Tortoise: 59 No. 26 (1994): 5827.

7. Center for Biological Diversity. Press Release. 25 Mar. 2014.

8. O’Neill, Alan. “Rancher in Land Dispute is a Bully, Not a Hero.” Las Vegas Sun 6 April. 2014.

9. United States District Court. District of Nevada. United States of America vs. Bundy: United States’ Motion for Summary Judgment. Case 2:12-cv-00804-LDG-GWF, Document 35: 7/9/2013: 1-5.

SEE Also: United States District Court. District of Nevada. United States of America vs. Cliven Bundy: Judgment in a Civil Case: CV-S-98-531-JBR (RJJ), 11/6/1998: 1-12.

10. Cliven’ n Carol Bundy: What Happened to the Desert Tortoises? You Tube, 2014. 2 min. 19 sec.

11. Avery, H. W. Ph.D. Nutritional Ecology of the Desert Tortoise(Gopherus aga ssizii) in Relation to Cattle Grazing in the Mojave Desert. University of California, Los Angeles, 1998: xv-xvi,116-118, and 128-138.

SEE Also: “Desert Tortoise Council Proceedings of the1995 Symposium.” Publications of the Desert Tortoise Council, INC. (1995): 31-45.

12. Oftedal, Olav T. “Are Desert Tortoises Nutritionally Constrained By A Shortage of High PEP Plants, and If So, What Do We Do?” Department of Conservation Biology, Conservation and Research Center, Smithsonian National Zoological Park (2003): 21-23.

SEE Also: Oftedal, Olav T. “Does Nutritional Ecology Underlie the Greater Susceptibility of Mojave Tortoises than Sonoran Tortoises to Population Crashes?” Department of Conservation Biology, Conservation and Research Center, Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Washington, DC 20008

13. Las Vegas Justice Court. Criminal Case Search. Case No. 12F13150X

SEE Also: “Bundy Son Facing Arrest in Separate Criminal Case.” NBC News 14 July. 2014.

SEE Also: Associated Press. “Cliven Bundy’s Son Dropped from Drug Court, Faces Prison.” Las Vegas Sun 22 Jan. 2015.

14. Las Vegas Justice Court. Criminal Case Search. Case No(s). 102791772,
D00030970, 103540645, 1S318750, E10074052605802, 13C006726, and 104736346

15. Associated Press. “Nevada Rancher Cliven Bundy’s Son Arrested in Utah after Altercation with Cops.” Daily Mail 29 Jan. 2015.

16. MacNab, JJ. “Cliven Bundy’s Son Had Run-In with Park Service Two Decades Ago.” Forbes 9 May, 2014.

SEE Also: Utah Canyoneering History. Morning Report Excerpts – 1994.

17. Clark County Courts. Register of Actions: Danielle Beck, Plaintiff(s) vs. Cliven Bundy, Defendant(s). Case No. A-14-706962-C

SEE Also: Brean, Henry. “Bundy Sued After Car Hits Cow on I-15.” Las Vegas Review Journal 17, September, 2014.

18. Gunderson, Laura. “Ammon Bundy: His History and a $500,000 Federal Loan.” Oregon Live. 5 January, 2016.

19. Grant Bargain Sale Deed: Pioneer Title Insurance & Trust Company. No. 274942. State of Nevada, County of Clark (1948) Book 54: 241-242.

20. United States. Twelfth Census of the United States. Schedule No. 1-Population, Littlefield Village, Arizona. Maguire, Paul, Enumerator. 1900.

SEE Also: Sixteenth Census of the United States. Department of Commerce: Bureau of the Census, Mesquite, Nevada. 1940.

SEE Also: Hayes, Chris. “About Cliven Bundy’s ‘Ancestral Rights.” MSNBC 22 April, 2014.

21. Center for Biological Diversity. Press Release. 25 Mar. 2014.

22. Donahue, Mike. “Bundy Declares Range War: BLM to Impound Embattled Rancher’s Cattle.” Desert Valley Times 25 Mar. 2014.

SEE Also: Caldwell, Leigh Ann. “Rancher Cliven Bundy Hits the Campaign Trail in Nevada.” CNN 10 Sept. 2014.

23. Bundy Standoff! Bundy Ranch Protesters Tasered by Federal Agents and Attacked by K9’s. Pete Santilli Show. You Tube. 9 April, 2014.

24. Bundy Ranch Standoff, Exclusive Video Report by Michael Flynn: The Independent. YouTube, 2014.

25. 8 News NOW / KLAS-TV8 Cliven Bundy Compilation: Adams, Matthew. YouTube, 2 July, 2014.

26. Interview with Sniper in Bundy Standoff: The Independent. You Tube, 2014.

SEE Also: The Video The Feds Don’t Want You To See: The Alex Jones Channel. YouTube, 2015.

27. Bundy Ranch Standoff, Exclusive Video Report by Michael Flynn: The Independent. YouTube, 2014.

28. Lenz, Ryan, Potok, Mark, and Beirich, Hedi. “War in the West: The Bundy Ranch Standoff and the American Radical Right.” Southern Poverty Law Center. July 2014: 14.

29. Tea Party “Coward” Richard Mack Planned to Use Women as Human Shields: The Atemi Cast Network. You Tube, 2014.

30. Mesquite City Police Department. Police Report Incident # 140411-20. 11 April, 2014: 1-4.

31. Bobby G Gronauer: VietnamVets. YouTube, 11 May, 2014.

32. Sebelius, Steve. “Horsford Working with Sheriff to Get Armed Campers to Go Home.” Las Vegas Review- Journal. 5 May, 2014.

33. 8 News NOW / KLAS-TV8 Cliven Bundy Compilation: Adams, Matthew. YouTube, 2 July, 2014.

34. Neiwert, David. “Militiamen and Oath Keepers Drew Weapons, Threatened to Kill Each Other.” Southern Poverty Law Center 2 May, 2014.

35. Baron, Zach. “Cliven Bundy’s War: Inside the Rancher’s Independent Sovereign Republic.” GQ Magazine 1 July, 2014.

36. Thompson, Catherine. “Cliven Bundy: Ranch Standoff Was A ‘Spiritual’ Battle.” TPM. 4 Aug. 2014.

Cliven Bundy: Ranch Standoff Was A ‘Spiritual’ Battle

37. Utah’s Freedom Conference: Liberty and Prosperity Through Sovereignty:

SEE Also: American Lands Council. Access-Health-Productivity:

SEE Also: Casey, Tina. “Cliven Bundy’s Lawyer Hits Up Koch Brothers For Cash.” Triple Pundit 25 May, 2016.

38. Greenberg, Jon. “Did Sen. Harry Reid Drive the Standoff at the Bundy Ranch for Personal Gain?” Pundit Fact. 24 April, 2014.

39. Daniels, Kit. “Breaking: Sen. Harry Reid Behind BLM Land Grab of Bundy Ranch.” 11 April, 2014.

Breaking: Sen. Harry Reid Behind BLM Land Grab of Bundy Ranch

40. Alex Jones: Nerds Are Evil People with Brains Want to Take Us Over. ShadeManVendetta. YouTube. 20 April, 2013.

SEE Also: Stewart Rhodes In-Studio on Alex Jones TV {Sunday Edition} 1/3: Orders We Will Not Obey! The Alex Jones Channel. YouTube. 7 Feb. 2010.

SEE Also: Smoking Gun Evidence That 9/11 was an Inside Job. The Alex Jones Channel. YouTube. 12 Sept. 2012.

SEE Also: Alex Jones: Government “Weather Weapon” Could Have Been Behind Oklahoma Tornado. MMFA Alt. Channel. YouTube. 22 May, 2013.

SEE Also: Alex Jones: Bombshell Sandy Hook Cover Up. Tim197834. YouTube. 14 May, 2014.

41. “Busted: Harry Reid Owns 93 Acres Next to Bundy Ranch.” Truth and Action.

SEE Also: Clark County Recorder’s Office. Records Search System.

42. ITCMN Staff. “Video: Dann Sisters’ Battle to Save Their Cattle Is Stark Contrast to That of Cliven Bundy.” Indian Country: Today Media 19 April, 2014.

43. Siegler, Kirk. “In Nevada, Tribes Push to Protect Land at the Heart of Bundy Ranch Standoff.” National Public Radio. 18 Aug. 2016.

44. Wilson, Angelia R., and Burack, Cynthia “Where Liberty Reigns and God is Supreme: The Christian Right and the Tea Party Movement.” New Political Science, 34 No. 2 (2012): 170-190.

SEE Also: Berlet, Chip. “Taking Tea Parties Seriously: Corporate Globalization, Populism, and Resentment.” Political Research Associates, PGDT 10 (2011): 11-29.

SEE Also: Williamson, Vanessa, Skocpol, Theda, and Coggin, John. “The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism.” Harvard University. Volume 9, No. 1 (2011)

45. Schwartz, Ian. “Trump to Iowa Crowd: If Someone Throws A Tomato At Me, Beat The Crap Out of Them. I’ll Pay Your Legal Fees.” Real Clear Politics. 1 Feb. 2016.

SEE Also: “Trump Cites Bullets Dipped in Pigs’ Blood.” CNN Politics 20 Feb. 2016:

SEE Also: “Donald Trump – “You Have to Take Out Their Families” Carsend. YouTube, 29 Feb. 2016.

SEE Also: “Donald Trump Says He Could ‘Shoot Somebody’ Without Losing Votes.” ABC News. You Tube. 23 Jan. 2016.

46. Goldberg, Barbara. “Judge Denies Bail for Trump Campaign Co-Chair Arrested Over Bundy Nevada Standoff.” Raw Story 9 Mar. 2016.

Judge denies bail for Trump campaign co-chair arrested over Bundy Nevada standoff

SEE Also: Weigel, David. “Ted Cruz Encounters Former Cliven Bundy Security Chief on the Campaign Trail.” Bloomberg Politics 22 April, 2015.

47. Strauss, Daniel. “New Hampshire State Rep.: ‘The Pope is the anti-Christ’.” Politico. 22 Feb. 2016.

48. Hatewatch Staff. “Trump Confidant Seeks Pardon for Bundys.” Southern Poverty Law Center 2 August, 2017.

SEE Also: Sullivan, Eileen and Turkewitz, Julie. “Trump Pardons Oregon Ranchers Whose Case Inspired Wildlife Refuge Takeover.” The New York Times 10 July, 2018.

49. MADE IN F*CKIN’ USA!” | Donald Trump Rally | Phoenix, AZ | June 18, 2016. YouTube, 2016.

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About Author

Kevin L. Reichling is a naturalist. He has written articles for Lets Talk Nevada, the Boulder City Review, and the Wilmington News Journal on environmental and political issues. He worked for a state park as a naturalist, for the National Park Service on an exotic plant control crew, and at a county park as a conservation technician. In college, he majored in wildlife management and educates others on environmental and social issues.

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