Kena Lytle Gloeckner
There have been a lot of people criticizing Cliven Bundy because he did not pay his grazing fees for 20 years. The public is also probably wondering why so many other cowboys are supporting Mr. Bundy even though they paid their fees and Cliven did not.
What people probably do not realize is that on every rancher’s grazing permit it says the following:
“You are authorized to make grazing use of the lands, under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management and covered by this grazing permit, upon your acceptance of the terms and conditions of this grazing permit and payment of grazing fees when due.”
The “mandatory” terms and conditions go on to list the allotment, the number and kind of livestock to be grazed, when the permit begins and ends, the number of active or suspended AUMs (animal units per month), etc. The terms and conditions also list specific requirements such as where salt or mineral supplements can be located, maximum allowable use of forage levels (40% of annual growth), etc., and include a lot more stringent policies that must be adhered to. Every rancher must sign this “contract” agreeing to abide by the TERMS AND CONDITIONS before he or she can make payment.
In the early 90s, the BLM went on a frenzy and drastically cut almost every rancher’s permit because of the desert tortoise issue, even though all of us ranchers knew that cow and desert tortoise had co-existed for a hundred+ years. As an example, a family friend had his permit cut by 90%. For those of you who are non ranchers, that would be equated to getting your paycheck cut by 90%. In 1976 there were approximately 52 ranching permittees in this area of Nevada. Presently, there are 3. Most of these people lost their livelihoods because of the actions of the BLM. Cliven Bundy was one of these people who received extremely unfair and unreasonable TERMS AND CONDITIONS. Keep in mind that Mr. Bundy was required to sign this contract before he was allowed to pay. Had Cliven signed on the dotted line, he would have, in essence, signed his very livelihood away.
[NOTE: After grazing permits were cut, the BLM decided to euthanize tortoises that they were ‘protecting’ from the cattle. The following picture is from the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center in Las Vegas. Note the lack of forage in the ‘protected’ tortoise enclosures.]
And so Mr. Bundy took a stand, not only for himself, but for all of us. He refused to be destroyed by a tyrannical federal entity and to have his American liberties and freedoms taken away. Also keep in mind that all ranchers financially paid dearly for the forage rights those permits allow – not rights to the land, but rights to use the forage that grows on that land.
Many of these AUMS are water based, meaning that the rancher also has a vested right (state owned, not federal) to the waters that adjoin the lands and allow the livestock to drink. These water rights were also purchased at a great price. If a rancher cannot show beneficial use of the water (he must have the appropriate number of livestock that drinks and uses that water), then he loses that water right. Usually water rights and forage rights go hand in hand. Contrary to what the BLM is telling you, they NEVER compensate a rancher for the AUMs they take away. Most times, they tell ranchers that their AUMS are “suspended,” but not removed. Unfortunately, my family has thousands of “suspended” AUMs that will probably never be returned.
And so, even though these ranchers throughout the course of a hundred years invested thousands (and perhaps millions) of dollars and sacrificed along the way to obtain these rights through purchase from others, at a whim the government can take everything away with the stroke of a pen. This is the very thing that Cliven Bundy single-handedly took a stand against.
Thank you, Cliven, from a rancher who considers you a hero.
Kena Lytle Gloeckner