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.