Clive Bundy is in the news again.
There are some things you easterners don't understand. That perhaps you should. The first is that all states except Texas and Hawaii that came into the union after the war of northern aggression, do not enjoy the same property rights as those states that joined before. That means that things don't work the same way in our part of the country as they do in yours.
The first thing that is different is what is called split or divided estate. If you live out east a split estate is rare. Basically if you are a eastern land owner you probably own the rights to the minerals, water, and access to all lands that you hold deed to the surface rights. Another issue that is different is water rights to streams and surface water. Out east if you live on a river you can generally take as much water as is reasonable for your use out of the river. Not so in the west. Water rights are determined on a totally different basis, which amounts to a first filed first served sort of rule. I'm over simplifying but this isn't a class on the legal peculiarities of the west.
The next way things are different is the manner of settlement. When the west, by which we are talking about west of the Mississippi river, except again Texas and Hawaii, was settled it was under a system of land grant, mining and homestead acts. The specifics of each system isn't all that important, just keep in mind that each system had a method where by a person could gain ownership rights to the land.
The Louisiana Purchase which gave us a big chunk of "The West" was considered by some as "Jefferson's Folly" due to the fact that much of the land was believed unsuitable for farming. This is why some maps of the time labeled the area "the Great American Desert". After the war of Northern Aggression the US Army had a abundance of killers and nobody left locally to kill. Those men were sent west to invade and murder people living on land that Jefferson had purchased form France. France never told the Indians that it wasn't their land but that's another story.
After the war some enterprising men decided to round up unbranded cattle and sell them to the folks back east. The great trail drives began. Cowboys became ranchers and the smart ones began to play by the rules and settle vast areas of previously unutilized land. Most all the land was what is called "open range". Open range means that unless someone held a deed purchased from the government, or otherwise officially recognized by the government i.e. Royal Spanish Land Grant anyone could use the land. First come first serve. What the smart ranchers started doing was filing deeds on waterholes, staking mining claims, establishing logging companies and other wise tying up the useful land, while not wasting money on the marginal grazing land.
Everyone, including the Federal Government was happy with this arrangement.
Typically this is how things have worked here for about the last 140 years or so. This is why when you see a ranch for sale like this one the listing breaks down the deeded and lease acres.
Which brings us to Clive Bundy and his ranch in Nevada. Clive's ranch is a mixture of deeded land, water rights, state lease and open range. That open range was claimed by the Bundy family and continuously operated from 1877 until 1993 with no problems. Do the math that's 116 years of Federal, State and local government APPROVED constructive possession.
So what happened 20 years ago to disrupt the apple cart? Some bunny huggers decided that there is a special kind of turtle on some of the land that Bundy's cows run on. That's when the BLM decided to place a special "Tax" on Mr. Bundy so they could get some funds to "do something" for the turtles. Just to confuse you a bit, apparently there are some biologists that feel that cow pies provide a enhanced dietary option for the turtles. Turtles eat the cow pies because the nutrients in the dung are more concentrated than eating the raw forage. That's right the cows are good for the turtles.
How many cows are we talking about? 908. That's right 908 cows, not 908 AU, 908 cows. In an area of several square miles. The BLM is claiming that Mr. Bundy owes them over $1 million dollars in grazing fees. I'm not sure what the mix of deeded and open range is that Bundy is using, but assuming the data from the BLM is correct, and assuming the rate of $1.35 AU/mo for the grass, land that was considered to poor of quality to lease prior to 1993, I arrive at a figure of $145,000 for 20 years of grazing (450AU X $1.35 X 240months). That ain't over a million dollars. Most ranchers wouldn't pay for 240 months, more likely it would only be 4 or 5 months for each year which gives us a figure of $72,900 for the last 20 years!
You know why Bundy didn't pay BLM lease fees? They aren't entitled to them.
I won't get into Agenda 21, States Rights v Federal Government, BLM grazing policy, the right of these turtles to exist in the desert, or the fact that they've gotten along just fine with the cows for the last 140 years, and might even be doing better because of them. All of that plays a part and I'm not disputing it. Make what you will of those issues. Mr. Bundy has by right of settlement 116 years of undisputed constructive possession of the land, plus his deeded rights, PLUS over 20 years of disputed or at worst adverse possession of the land. Under common law its his land. The BLM gave up any rights to this land in 1897. Don't believe me. Believe Cornell Law's online resource. Better yet here is the statue in Nevada.
Bundy owns that land.
Bundy's cows are being rustled.
Bundy's civil and property rights are being trampled.
If Clark County NV wants to assess property taxes, even back taxes for the last 5 years, I'm OK with that.
The BLM is out of line. They could solve all of this by agreeing that the Bundy family has proved up on that land back in 1897 and assess them the 12 1/2 cents per acre demanded by law and turning over the deed. Make Bundy pay for the land by section like he would have had to back them, and make him pay in silver dollars if you want. Assuming 50 sections at 12.5 cents/acre the BLM would gross $400,000. They're spending more than that to steel his cows.