- Big profits are being threatened by animals grazing on prime real estate, but the real story has been lost in a haze of inciteful rhetoric
- A rancher’s refusal to sell his land and stop his cattle from grazing nearby may have created a crisis in the real estate industry
BUNKERVILLE, NEVADA – Neil Kornze joined the Bureau of Land Management in 2011. He has been leading the BLM as Deputy Director for the past year. Before his appointment, Kornze worked as a Senior Policy Advisor to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
In 2013, following a five year recession, business in Mesquite, Nevada, five miles north of Bunkerville and 80 miles north of Las Vegas, began a miraculous recovery. Millions of dollars began to be invested in the area, and tired resort properties were lavishly refurbished. Retirement communities such as Sun City Mesquite sprung back to life and realtors began to again find buyers for expensive riverside or golf course frontage homes.
However, unbeknownst to the public, several miles down the Virgin River from the City of Mesquite, a lone hold out Mormon rancher named Cliven Bundy was about to throw a wrench in the works and bring anticipated development in the Riverside Road and Gold Butte area to a sudden stop because his cattle were “trespassing” on some of the most desirable real estate in Clark County. He was to act alone because all his fellow ranchers had sold their spreads earlier.
Enter United States Senator Harry Reid.
On April 5, 2014, dozens of heavily armed federal agents arrived near Bundy’s Ranch and began seizure of his cattle that were illegally grazing on prime real estate presently controlled by the BLM. Federal agents also entered Bundy’s 160 acre ranch and later admitted to destroying water tanks, and killing six cows.
The BLM’s armed cattle seizure was undeniably an extreme and very expensive over reaction, when a lien could have been placed on the ranch until the court ordered grazing fees are paid. That’s why many believe there’s an underlying reason such a raid occurred, a reason the BLM does not want the public to know.
Undeveloped BLM grazing land near Bunkerville, April 2014
Developed former BLM land near Bunkerville, May 2013
As a former land developer, and later a member of City of Las Vegas and Clark County land planning boards, I learned that the Director of the BLM has the authority to schedule auctions of public land. That’s how the land surrounding Las Vegas was bought cheap and developed. Too often, the choice of what land to auction, when, and the minimum acceptable bid has political overtones. If Neil Kornze decides to auction the land and water rights along the Virgin River or on Gold Butte overlooking the Bundy Ranch, I personally believe that investors close to the Reids will be first to know, and first in line to bid and purchase way under market value.
During 2013, Cliven Bundy unsuccessfully represented himself as a pro-se defendant in United States of America v. Bundy in the court of Federal Judge Lloyd D. George. Judge George ruled that Bundy owed the government hundreds of thousands in unpaid grazing fees. On August 9, 2013, Cliven Bundy acting as his own attorney appealed Judge George’s order to the Ninth Circuit Court. The Ninth Circuit dismissed Bundy’s appeal on January 30, 2014. Since then, Bundy has refused to abide by Judge George’s order claiming the federal government has no jurisdiction over Clark County land. (Lloyd George, a graduate of Brigham Young University, is a respected leader in the Southern Nevada Mormon community. The Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse in Las Vegas, is named in his honor.)
No Fly Zones
When the armed feds arrived on their land, the Bundy family sent out an SOS through social media. Over a thousand ranchers and supporters arrived to support the family along with a number of militia members. Most arrived more than a day after armed BLM agents closed public roads and confronted the Bundy family, tazing several family members, all caught on cell phone cameras and uploaded to the Internet.
As the standoff and media coverage escalated, on Friday, April 11, the FAA suddenly established FAA NOTAM 4/1687 TFR Mesquite, Nevada, an unprecedented TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction). TFRs are most often used to prohibit civilian aircraft from flying near places where the President or Vice President are visiting. However, this TFR was specifically designed to prohibit all civilian flights including news helicopters from flying over a ranch during a cattle seizure. (Steve Miller is an ATP rated instructor pilot and former flight school owner.)
First Amendment Areas
Then, also lacking precedent was the establishment of “First Amendment Areas” intended to corral media and protesters far from view of the cattle roundup. Cliven Bundy’s 37-year-old son David was arrested for taking photos outside one of these areas. The presence of First Amendment Areas insulted members of the press, and they responded by converging on the Bundy Ranch in droves, many taking the Bundy’s side in the dispute..
On April 12, knowing the feds were outnumbered ten to one by Bundy supporters – many carrying weapons, and seeing reporters from around the world on site covering the breaking story, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie asked the BLM to stand down.
After the federal agents retreated in a cloud of dust caused by spinning the wheels of their official vehicles, Bundy ordered his sons to open a temporary corral set up by the BLM, and release his cattle. Severely dehydrated in 90 degree heat, the cows headed directly to the Virgin River to drink while the Bundy family and hundreds of supporters celebrated by wading in the muddy water near the hydrating cattle.
After the BLM (temporarily) abandoned their effort, many thought the danger was over. However, Senator Reid appeared on national TV that evening and issued the warning “It’s not over!”
During the next week, the international media stood vigil at the entrance to the Bundy Ranch waiting for Reid’s threatened next move. Hundreds of armed militia members camped on the river’s edge nearby. During the lull, the media turned their interest to all things Bundy. That’s when the world got to know the Bundys, a church going pioneer family with fourteen grown children who are decedents of the first Mormon settlers in Nevada. The Bundys and their ancestors have operated the same ranch in the Bunkerville area for over 150 years – vividly contrasting the KKK, Timothy McVeigh, Ruby Ridge, Terry Nichols, or Branch Davidian comparisons made by pundits on MSNBC.
Inspired by the attention, the family patriarch Cliven Bundy unwisely used his fifteen minutes of fame to express several personal opinions that totally distracted from the crisis at hand.
Mr. Bundy’s ill-timed and distracting remarks included demanding local sheriffs seize guns from all federal agents, and his wondering out load if some “Negroes” who live in North Las Vegas would be “better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things? Or are they better off under government subsidy?” (Full transcript of his remarks.)
Bundy’s unsolicited comments totally distracted the media from more important subjects such as whether the No Fly Zone was intended to block news coverage of the actions of the federal agents? Or was a massive land grab by politically connected real estate developers in the works?
One way or the other, establishing a No Fly Zone, and dispatching hundreds of federal agents with M16s and helicopters to rustle up a few hundred “trespassing” cattle took overwhelming political clout, the kind of clout only a U.S. Senate Majority Leader could muster!
It also cost taxpayers millions of dollars more than Bundy owes in grazing fees.
But, Bundy’s misplaced opinions about the plight of some North Las Vegas “Negroes” and his subsequent inarticulate apology took center stage and allowed those who opposed him to rally behind Reid who responded by calling Bundy a “hateful racist,” and calling Bundy’s supporters “domestic terrorists.” Reid’s unqualified and hypocritical (see his statement below) “hateful racist” remark, and calling ordinary people “terrorists” carelessly fanned the flames in an already explosive situation, but not everyone agrees with Reid’s racist description of Bundy. Here are two qualified opposing views: Youtube.com; Canada Free Press.
Cliven Bundy’s poorly thought out remarks remind me of when Ross Perot withdrew his candidacy during the 1992 presidential election claiming he received threats by the Bush campaign to sabotage his daughter’s wedding. It had nothing to do with Perot’s campaign, and totally distracted the media from his message. He also lost his base over it, and was never heard from again.
Bundy had the option to stay on subject and not be goaded into responding to questions about his personal views on subjects unrelated to the cattle seizure. Now he, like Perot, has lost much of his base, is being called names by Reid and his followers, and the real story of the BLM siege at Bunkerville may never be told.
Based on the distraction, I now envision master planned communities coming years sooner on land that was formerly grazed on by Bundy’s cattle. In the meantime, I hope the Bundy’s are paid for the infrastructure damaged by federal agents, and for the six cows agents killed and buried. Had he kept his opinions on unrelated subjects to himself, Bundy’s cattle might have been allowed to continue grazing on prime BLM real estate for some time – that’s if he paid his past due fees. Now I expect a BLM auction of that beautiful real estate and water rights within the next several years with help from Senator Reid, his former advisor Neil Kornze, and Reid’s lawyer sons Rory and Leif.
There’s so much more to this story. It’s clearly not about cows! It’s about cheap BLM land with water rights, and about greedy developers. It’s well known that Reid’s sons represent Chinese investors. After all this aggravation, it’s hoped that only American citizens are successful in buying the cheap Bunkerville land if and when it’s auctioned.
That said, guns should never have been brandished against citizens or government officials over real estate. If developers want to buy the now BLM land and water rights along the Virgin River or on Gold Butte bad enough, they should not use their stooges in D.C. to try to take it at gunpoint. If and when the BLM decides to auction it off, I hope they will get fair market value for the taxpayers, not discount it to favored bidders as the BLM is well known to do.
On March 26, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said, “No drop of human blood is worth spilling over any cow, in my opinion.” And conversely, no drop of human blood is worth spilling over someone’s desire to buy beautiful BLM real estate at discount prices, either!
Cliven Bundy’s careless remarks should never have become the main topic of this story any more than Senator Reid’s careless “Light skinned with no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one” remark about Barack Obama that was underplayed during the 2008 Presidential campaign, or then-Delaware Senator Joseph Biden’s careless (Obama is the) “first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy” remark in 2007 that was never criticized by the same media commentators who are now attacking Bundy for making equally careless racial remarks. (All three apologized after learning they offended people.)
A Senate Majority Leader and a Vice President were never called “hateful racist” for their remarks! Why is a similar remark from a nobody rancher now making headlines? Maybe to distract from the real story – the BLM being used as a pawn in a land and water rights grab to benefit politically connected developers.
For the time being, the real story of the BLM siege at Bunkerville is lost in a haze of inciteful rhetoric. It’s time to get back on point before the BLM returns to complete their ominous orders.