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From Bunker Hill to Bunkerville, struggles continue

In this April 12, 2014, file photo, the Bundy family and their supporters fly the American flag as their cattle is released by the Bureau of Land Management back onto public land outside of Bunkerville, Nev. The federal Bureau of Land Management says six cattle died in the roundup of animals it says rancher Cliven Bundy allowed to graze illegally on public land outside his southern Nevada property.A Texas land dispute has outgoing Gov. Rick Perry and the Republican candidate favored to replace him, Greg Abbott, decrying the same federal agency currently embroiled in an armed standoff in Nevada. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jason Bean, File)

In this April 12, 2014, file photo, the Bundy family and their supporters fly the American flag as their cattle is released by the Bureau of Land Management back onto public land outside of Bunkerville, Nev. The federal Bureau of Land Management says six cattle died in the roundup of animals it says rancher Cliven Bundy allowed to graze illegally on public land outside his southern Nevada property.A Texas land dispute has outgoing Gov. Rick Perry and the Republican candidate favored to replace him, Greg Abbott, decrying the same federal agency currently embroiled in an armed standoff in Nevada. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jason Bean, File)

In early April, hundreds of heavily-armed federal agents descended like a swarm of locusts upon the remote, rural Bunkerville ranchlands near Mesquite, Nevada. They came with a helicopter, hired cowboys, sharpshooters, and officers with police dogs who fired painful high-voltage Tasers at unarmed citizens. They were not after the drug cartels or human traffickers who routinely slip through our porous southern borders, but instead they targeted an American ranching family on the land that they have worked since the 1870s.

In the 1990s, environmentalists sued to end ranching on this land, and now politicians and government bureaucrats claim that the Bundy family owes Uncle Sam $1 million. They contend that during the past 20-years, Bundy cows have allegedly eaten federal grass without a valid permit, bovine-fodder apparently reserved for an ornery herd of unpermitted desert tortoises. I am unfamiliar with the merits of the legal case, whether the Bundy cows are guilty or innocent of “grass-napping,” but I am appalled by the estimated cost of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) heavy-handed operation, spending more money in one week than the 20-year accrued grazing debt that they were attempting to collect. Strong-armed debt collection is typically not the presumed function of the BLM. However, in that this was in fact a local police matter, BLM’s expensive failed operation could have been entirely avoided and handled instead by the Clark County sheriff.

Concerned that the federal confrontation could become another Ruby Ridge or Waco-style tragedy, I took an unofficial, unpaid April 12 weekend trip to Nevada to meet with those gathered at the Bundy ranch, and I shared those experiences with my fellow legislators back at the Arizona State Capitol during regular session. At the Nevada ranch, I had the pleasure of meeting some very nice, patriotic people including two Bundy neighbors: Ken a retired NASA engineer and his lovely wife.

I do not personally know the Bundys, and I am not taking sides as to whether the Bundy family or BLM is legally correct in this matter. Since my Nevada visit, Mr. Cliven Bundy has made statements that I simply do not agree with, especially racially insensitive statements. We need to treat all people with respect and do everything that we can to help them succeed, which is vital for America’s success

However, several days later, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., had the audacity to refer to anyone who gathered at the Bundy ranch (which includes me) as “domestic terrorists,” a slanderous accusation that impugned hundreds of American citizens, questioning their motives and loyalties to our country. I find Senator Reid’s statement just as offensive and unacceptable as the racial comments made by Cliven Bundy.

So why should an Arizona state legislator be concerned with the events occurring in Nevada? It is my duty and responsibility, and that of every red-blooded American, to speak up whenever government officials behave inappropriately or unlawfully. The aggressive BLM action was completely out of proportion to the 20-year old grazing dispute in question, and thank God no one on either side was injured or killed.

Our citizens need to express loud moral outrage whenever federal officials usurp our state sovereignty, our local policing authority or our citizen’s constitutional rights and liberties. If this abuse of federal power can happen to the citizens of Nevada, it can surly happen right here in Arizona as well. It is high time that the federal government reduce its presence by relinquishing the vast land holdings it controls within each Western state, as it already did over one hundred years ago in the Eastern states. Please learn more at www.americanlandscouncil.org.

— Bob Thorpe is a Republican state representative from Flagstaff.

4 comments

  1. Dear Mr. Thorpe:
    I’m planning a vacation to Arizona but I’m having trouble finding an affordable place to stay. After reading this piece, I realize that the answer is simple — I’ll camp out in your office! In that way I’ll be just like Mr. Buncy parking his cows on public land without the necessity of paying the bill. I hope you have a mini-fridge in your office. And remember, trying to evice me from that office built by and funded by the taxpayers will result in me calling all of my friends who own rifles and pistols coming there to protect my Freedom.”

  2. Local authority in this country is created by state constitution and state rights are enabled by the US constitution. If you truly support the Bundy follower’s position that local authority trumps federal power, I really question your patriotism and your qualifications for serving in the state legislator. In America we should allow anarchy when it comes to public debate but not under the threat of violence. I find it ironic that many of these so called “patriots” running around in camo playing Special Ops dress up were doing it under the banner of the US flag. This is an insult to our military personnel serving in harms way.

  3. Your behavior in this debacle is unAmerican and wholly irresponsible. You should consider resigning as a member of the Legislature. No amount of back stepping is going to rectify your gross misconduct.

  4. It is unfortunate that you either are ignorant of how the West came to be (Federal conquest, Federal purchase, Federal reconquest, etc) or you are willfully ignoring all of this. You don’t begrudge the Federal Government in all the water infrastructure that has been invested or the massive amount of Federal investment in the Defense companies and military bases out here, or the large amount of National Parks that benefit all the states they reside in, but you cry out when one man decides to break the law and then wave the flag.

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