All in the Family featured the curmudgeonly Archie Bunker. Archie was television’s most famous grouch, blunt, blustering, straightforward and untouched by the PC crowd. He was the archetype of the conservative male. Michael desprately tried to reeducate him, but he persisted in his breviloquence.

Looking back at the last 40 years, we realize: ARCHIE WAS RIGHT!



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.


  1. Anonymous7:26 AM

    They aren't stealing his cows. They are removing them from BLM property. He was asked to do that and failed.

    I appreciate the level of detail you went to in this explanation. What is now clear is that the Bundy family and his ancestors, FAILED to make proper claim on the land because there were financial benefits to letting the BLM keep title to it. Thus, they made a conscious choice. They gambled that the rules would always stay the same and they lost.

  2. Anonymous7:33 AM

    The common law claim is interesting but has a few holes in it. How much contiguous land can be claimed like that? The laws you specify do not say. Can I claim the entirety of Yellowstone National park by building a cabin in the back park area and remaining undetected for 20 years? I would agree that those areas in 1 acre parcels surrounding improvements might be claimed as such. But allowing your cattle to roam unrestricted hardly qualifies as "improvements". Is there even a fence encompassing the entire property?

  3. Those are a couple of good points. However the laws do specify "Sections". A section is a 1 mile by 1 mile square, 640 acres. There are 36 such squares laid out in a township. Under the laws he is utilizing he must claim (and pay for)each section.

    Bundy isn't doing anything unusual every by todays practices. There are pieces of orphaned BLM land all over the west that are used for free by the ranchers whose property surrounds them.

    I haven't seen a map of Bundy's ranch, but I suspect that he owns water holes, drink tanks etc and has improvements there. I don't know how many or the lay out. From the articles I've read, there is a dispute about road use, which means he has developed some two track access roads. Those would be considered improvements too.

    The Bundy family took possession of the land 69 years before the BLM, who claims the right to the land, came into existence. Mr Bundy lived on the land from 1949 to 1997 (48 years) with no problems with the BLM over his ranch and practices.

    FWIW a 900 cow ranch is a very small cattle operation. He has to work very hard to make it pay and the BLM is putting him out of business for the sake of bunny huggers who don't even live in NV.

  4. Anonymous1:48 PM

    When BLM came into existence is moot. The US govt came into existence in 1776 and was modified several times since then. They have held title to that land since 1848, before the BLM was administratively created to handle the management.

    Mexico, and several Indian tribes can also make historical claims and claims by occupation. But TITLE matters.

    It doesn't matter why BLM is restricting the land use. They can be doing it to open a spring break location for boy scouts or to create a desert preservation area. They have the legal authority to do whatever they wish on their own property.

    Bundy's family has had a hundred year free ride and is complaining that it isn't a 200 year free ride. other ranchers either buy their own land and pay taxes on all of it, or they pay for grazing rights on someone else's land. Common practice != legal practice.

    It is common for people around here to drive 85MPH on I-95. But if I get ticketed for going 75 the action is legal and proper. I don't get to complain about it.

  5. Anonymous1:54 PM

    He is out of business because he wants to be a rancher but doesn't own a ranch. He could open a machine shop. Assuming he buys a machine shop and puts machines in it.

    I wonder why with all the media coverage on this, there are no pictures of the ranch yet. No list of improvements. No Powerpoint diagrams or google maps showing the particulars so we can all understand the relevant issues. This all looks like a deliberate deception because easily available information is being concealed. So all the people out here in the East are thinking about their own 3 acre lots being surrounded by 200 SWAT team members.

  6. Anonymous4:07 PM

    At the heart of the issue is that the federal government does not afford US citizens on these lands your Constitutional rights and if you do not have those rights you have nothing. I cannot understand why anyone, whether you agree with grazing or not, thinks that is OK. To me, whatever you perceive the issue to be, not ensuring that each and every citizen has their Constitutional rights is unfathomable.

  7. WaterBoy5:25 PM

    The ranch is located here.

  8. I like the google map. It doesn't show the same things that a plat map would. Guessing from what I've read, it looks like he probably owns the irrigated areas as deeded land and has held the grass by right of occupation.

  9. Susan1:19 PM

    Drudge has had some headline links up today that involve a $5billion dollar deal Harry Reid's son is trying to broker with the Chinese. Something about a solar wind farm.

    Supposedly, Bundy's ranch is holding up the whole deal. Wonder what Salt Lake City elders think about Reid trying to screw over a fellow Mormon?

    Drudge also had reports of militia units moving in to help defend Bundy and his property.

    Whatever is going on, I am sure that Obama and Reid don't want this dragging on with midterms coming up.

  10. Susan1:22 PM

    Also read today that Bundy tried several times in the mid 90's to pay whatever money he owed. It was refused. So after several attempts, he stopped trying to make the effort.

    I realize that the black and white of the law says one thing, but running rough shod over the rights of private citizens is never right.

  11. BLM was backed off this afternoon and his cattle released. They threatened to shoot the people and the cowboys but they didn't back down so the Feds had to. He has most of his cattle back. The Feds left, so if they were in the right, why did they pack up and leave today. Because they were in the wrong, and no one was afraid of their guns.

  12. Susan,

    I wasn't aware of the wind farm stuff till I saw you post on it. If that proves true, then there is a lot more going on than a normal BLM dispute. I had seen that some of the federal debt the Chinese had bought was securitized by federal real estate holdings. Maybe they want a piece of the green energy scam and title to some land before the .gov goes bankrupt.

    Mormons don't care about justice. Whatever lands the church the best deal is who they will side with.

    I was doing some research and while I don't know if it applies to Bundy's case, it seams that some of the older "open range" agreements with the federal government were negotiated to run "in perpetuity". I don't know if this is the case for Bundy, but his families holdings are old enough to fall into the time period when that was a common practice.

  13. Anonymous7:23 AM

    ... so if they were in the right, why did they pack up and leave today

    Because it was a simple law enforcement action, not the tyranny showing it's ugly face. The reasons given about unacceptable risk to public safety and federal employee safety were perfectly logical.

    Don't worry, they will be back.

  14. Giraffe8:52 AM

    Much as I hate to admit it, the professor is right.

    Bundy doesn't own the land. It was ceded to the govt in 1848 by Mexico. You cannot claim public land by adverse possession.

    Reid is a slimeball but there is no chinese solar farm deal anymore, and it wasn't on this land anyway.

    That said, I was rooting for Bundy even though he was wrong because at this point I pretty much hate the federal government. I don't understand them spending 3 million to round up cattle when they claim 1.6 million is owed. I don't like the way the Feds manage the public land that I hunt on.