Bunkerville, NV. Welfare Cowboy Cliven Bundy again threatened armed insurrection should Federal agents come after him anew to settle longstanding litigation over his grazing of cattle on public lands in South-Eastern Nevada. His threats came in a recent YouTube interview (now removed) with convicted anti-government activist Pete Santilli.
In his 2014 standoff with Burau of Land Management (BLM) officers attempting to remove his cattle from public lands to settle longstanding grazing fees owed to the federal government, Bundy rallied anti-government activists.
During the interview, Santilli, a convicted felon for his part in the 2014 standoff, prodded Bundy: “the Bundy ranch saga will continue, won’t it? Do you believe so? Do you believe that they’ll come after you?”
“Yes, I do,” Bundy replied. “They’ve been waiting for this … but it’s not only for Bundy ranch; it’s for all Americans. We’re in trouble if it changes.”
Bundy added: “We’re going to have to go forward. If we have to walk forward towards guns, which we did at the Bundy ranch, we have to do that. And we have to have faith.”
Santilli broadcast hundreds of hours from the 2014 standoff and did the same during the 2016-17 takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by Bundy’s sons, Ammon, Ryan, and fellow anti-government travelers. [I]
Jennifer Yachnin, in a E & E Greenwire article, points to a Facebook post where Bundy praises rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol building on January 6th. In the post, Bundy compared the January 6th event to his own April 2014 standoff with BLM agents.
“You can’t clean the swamp by standing off at a distance and smelling it,” Bundy wrote. “At Bundy Ranch, we had a job to do, go get it done, and “We the People” went forward and finished the job.”
Bundy and his son, Ammon, use two significant themes to rally insurrectionists. “We the People,” which Ammon Bundy turned into the “People Rights movement, and their view of Mormon scripture.
On December 15, 2020, Ammon Bundy told his “People’s Rights” members to escalate conflict “before the world comes to an end,” according to reporters for the Idaho Press.[ii] Ammon Bundy, a former resident of Mesquite-Bunkerville, Nevada, now lives in Emmett.
Yet like his father before him, Ammon Bundy lectures in religious parables while imploring his People’s Rights movement members to use violence in righteous defense of the Bundy family view of the world. His claims that “It is never righteous to use it [violence] in the offense” is a distinction without a difference.
The use of religion to defend insurrection beckons back to Cliven Bundy’s use of Mormon scriptures as a public defense against a November 3, 1998 court ruling permanently enjoining him from grazing his livestock within the Bunkerville Allotment and ordering him to remove his livestock from this allotment on or before November 30, 1998. Of course, Bundy refused, which eventually led to the 2014 standoff.
In 1999, following the Judge’s ruling, Bundy partnered with his Bunkervile, NV neighbor Keith Nay, asserting that their Mormon faith and Latter-day Saint scripture view the U.S. Constitution as eroding their rights.
They compiled their works into a 200-page anthology called “The Nay Book.” Bundy began the document with the central question: “What is the constitutional duty of a member of the Lord’s church?” Bundy found answers in the scripture that he believed directed and justified him in “defending my rights and my ranch against the federal government’s tyrannical” usurpation of his land.
BLM officials backed down from Bundy and his followers in the 2014 event and therefore failed to remove Bundy’s cattle or hold him accountable for his grazing fees.
According to Yachnin, it is an open question if Joe Biden’s nominee to head the Department of Interior, under which administers the BLM, New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland (D), will address Bundy’s legal grazing activities.
According to Yachnin’s sources, the Biden team will have more pressing issues to attend to following next week’s inauguration — like rolling back the impacts of President Trump’s “energy dominance” agenda and efforts to weaken the National Environmental Policy Act.
Yet, Yachnin points to Western Watersheds Project Executive Director Erik Molvar as feeling that the U.S. Capitol’s riot could reinvigorate the government’s interest in tamping down on Bundy’s continued defiance.
According to Molvar, Yachnin says “The lax law enforcement on public lands can be seen as a direct line to the lawlessness we saw in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Recapture Canyon in Utah and now in Washington, D.C.,” “The failure of the federal government to crack down on law on public lands has created a class of insurrectionists who feel entitled to break.
Yachnin argues that opponents of Bundy’s continued use of public lands could ask the Biden administration to pursue bureaucratic efforts such as the issuance of bench warrants holding Bundy in contempt of court for trespassing and refusing to pay federal grazing fees.
The federal government could also seek a lien on Bundy’s property — such as the cattle he often auctions at the Cedar City, Utah-based Cedar Livestock Market — to pay off his federal government debt, Yachnin wrote on September 17.[iii]
“It boggles the mind why these obvious tactics have not been used, and even why BLM kept planning these huge, all-or-nothing roundups,” said Richard Spotts. Spotts spent 15 years as the planning and environmental coordinator for BLM’s Arizona Strip District before retirement.
Issuing liens on Bundy’s cattle would at the very least “take the profit motive out of trespass grazing,” Spotts explained. The government could also seek to challenge Bundy’s real or personal property.
Had the government prevailed in its case against Bundy, it could seize up to $3 million via criminal asset forfeiture, listing the rancher’s cattle as well as firearms and ammunition. [iv]
Bundy continued his fight against the federal government, and on August 20, 2018, he went to court (Case # A-18-779718-C) absurdly claiming that Nevada’s 56 million acres of public land belong to the state. Three federal courts had previously rejected Bundy’s position, and on April 1, 2019, Eighth Judicial Court Judge Jim Crocket did the same.
Judge Crocket, in his ruling, said: “It is painfully obvious that the claims asserted by Bundy in the instant matter rest upon a fundamentally flawed notion advanced by Bundy since 1998 regarding ownership of federal public lands in Nevada.”
And on April 21, 2020, Judge Crocket openly congratulated the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which had entered the case in opposition to Bundy, and awarded them $92,586.02 in attorney fees and costs.
According to Yachnin, CBD Executive Director Kierán Suckling told E&E News that his organization was weighing whether to seek a lien against Bundy’s ranch on the Virgin River.[v]
However, Yachnin reports that in a recent statement, Suckling said a decision on how to procure the funds remains under review, noting that much of Bundy’s land is secured by trusts run by his children. “We don’t think this shell game works to shield them but are researching,” Suckling told Yachnin. [vi]
[i] The Judge in the Malheur case dismissed charges against Santilli for his participation in the Malheur case upon a motion to do so presented by federal prosecutors.
[ii] Suppe, Ryan, Simmons, Tommy, “Bundy group, People’s Rights, training to defend from government ‘force’. https://www.idahopress.com/news/local/bundy-group-peoples-rights-training-to-defend-from-government-force/article_fdf76b0a-2e2a-53f0-89e9-8c877c647bab.html[iii] Jachnin, Jennifer, “BLM mum as Bundy continues to send cattle to market,” Sept 17, 2020, at https://www.eenews.net/greenwire/stories/1063714017
[v] Yachnin, Jennifer, “Environmentalists could put a lien on the Bundy ranch, July 30, 2020, at https://www.eenews.net/greenwire/stories/1063656887
[vi] Yachnin, Jennifer, “Bundy to Biden: Stay away from my cattle,” January 15, 2021, at https://www.eenews.net/greenwire/stories/1063722595/search?keyword=bundy