The opinions stated in this column are solely those of the author and not of The Davis Clipper.
I mention to my friends that I’m vacationing in Nevada, and immediately the state is linked by one term. It’s not casinos or blackjack...it’s not celebrity chefs or swimming pools...it’s not nightclub shows or neon lights.
It’s all about Cliven Bundy’s cows.
Unless you have been comatose for the past few weeks, national attention has centered near Las Vegas on a Mormon rancher, his cattle, and the rancher’s fight with the Bureau of Land Management (as the rednecks say, “that blasted federal guvment”).
I’ll be honest. I’m a city boy and know very little about the habitat of cows. I’m not an environmentalist so I am not going to rhapsodize about the virtues of the desert tortoise, a species the cattle may or may not squash. Neither am I going to romanticize the Western cowboy as the lone protector of American freedom. (The Marlboro Man wore a hat and rode a horse too!)
So my analysis of the controversy with Cliven Bundy and his Tea Party protectors and apologists is not tied to liberal or conservative talk radio promoters. In fact, I’m not happy with the silliness of either the conservative or the liberal sound bites: with Tea party supporters calling Bundy "a patriot" or liberal Sen. Harry Reid saying Bundy’s supporters are “domestic terrorists.”
Let’s be honest. Since 1993 Bundy has refused to pay grazing fees on federal land as thousands of other ranchers do. Since 1998, Bundy has been in violation of numerous court orders to either pay or take his cattle off of the land.
Bundy’s defense is that he doesn’t believe the land belongs to the federal government. That’s like saying the Grand Canyon belongs to Delaware; you can say it all you want, but it doesn’t mean it’s true. The rancher didn’t just have this day in court and lost; he’s had many days in court and has consistently lost. All the judges have ruled - and historians agree - that Nevada disclaimed all rights to its unappropriated public lands when it became a state 150 years ago.
If that’s the case, all of us own the land that Bundy is using. He owes over $1 million to us. He is like the guy who purchases a television from R.C. Willey and then refused to pay when the credit card bill comes due.
One can argue about the job performance of the Bureau of Land Management. One can even argue that individual states could better manage the land. (Although I’m not sure I’d trust Becky Lockhart to manage Zion National Park.) But it’s difficult to argue that Cliven Bundy is an old-time patriot instead of a guy welching on his payment.
But unlike rancher Bundy, I’ll give you this promise: considering all the challenges we face in this country, this is the last column in 2014 that focuses on cows.
Thank you. We can now move on to more important things.