Calming winds amidst the Nevada ranching storm

April 15, 2014

Along with the dust and tumbleweeds, there’s a lot of misinformation swirling around Gold Butte, Nev. these days. And when you combine that with myopic right-wing ideology, guns and the reach and speed of social media, that manure gets flung across the country, and the Internet, pretty darn fast.

Much of the right-wing media is promoting the Bundy Ranch conflict as some sort of righteous cause instead of what it really is: a bully rancher refusing to follow the law despite numerous court orders. To explain why he won’t pay the fees owed or remove his cattle, Cliven Bundy, the rancher at the center of it all, has said “I don’t recognize the United States Government as even existing.” It’s not hard to see how idolizing this kind of thinking quickly leads other right-wing Bundy supporters to push the envelope even further. Former Arizona Sherriff Richard Mack told reporters that

“We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front. If they are going to start shooting, it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers.”

Fortunately, there’s plenty of reasoned and reasonable voices weighing in too, even if it is hard to see, hear or find them through all the noise and vitriol. And you might be surprised to see where some of the calls for moderation and sanity are coming from.  We’ve compiled a few here for those of you writing, arguing or advocating on this topic.

First up is a clear, hard look at the facts, from none other than The Blaze, media roost for Glenn Beck. This is a good place to check underlying facts of the story. “It’s important to note that like most states, in its constitution Nevada recognizes federal authority over public lands,” the piece says, adding that “it’s worth remembering Nevada joined the union in 1864. Bundy’s family didn’t start working the Clark Country area until the late 1880s.”

Other commentators offer additionally measured perspectives and links to original sources.

Mary Soukup, Editor, Drovers CattleNetwork

Federal lands’ ranching has a rich heritage and continues to be a driving force in rural economies across the West. These ranch families not only raise and care for livestock, but they also provide critical care to vast portions of the land, water and resources across the West. This one case involving the Bundy family and BLM may be grabbing headlines across the country, but it is not indicative of the overall industry. And let’s hope it doesn’t come to define federal lands ranching.”

Walter Olson, Cato Institute:

“The federal government should not be in many different lines of business that it currently is in, but that doesn’t create a right of individual citizens to occupy federal installations for personal economic benefit despite court orders directed against them to the contrary.”

Former GOP Congressman, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, as reported on NewsMax

“Anybody that calls himself conservative and tries to wrap themselves around this cause where the federal government has land, you go to the courts, you do it legally, and every court decides that you don’t have a right to graze on federal land without paying the United States government for that right is not conservative,” Scarborough said.

People should “attach another label to it” if they defend Bundy’s actions, Scarborough said. It’s not a conservative position to “ignore one judge after another judge after another judge after another ruling after another ruling,” he said. (includes video)

Alan O’Neill, former superintendent of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

“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. Most of the grazing permit holders on public land are good stewards and law-abiding citizens, and Bundy is doing them a disservice with his actions. He is a perfect example of someone who publicly states that he abhors the federal government but who relies on it for his welfare. He is grazing free on the public’s land to the detriment of the environment and the honest taxpayers who support his welfare lifestyle.”

John Lamson

Photo credit: Gordon2208 via Flickr/Creative Commons