By Rady Ananda
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a problem. All but one rancher has sold his grazing rights and gotten out of the cattle business on a certain piece of real estate in Nevada. Senator Reid wants that land for a multi-billion dollar solar farm and factory.
But since the economic incentive didn’t work for the Cliven Bundy family, Reid and the Bureau of Land Management sent in armed contract cowboys this month to rustle 300 cattle with helicopters and guns, killing some in the process.
The Bundy family has been grazing their cattle on public lands in Clark County for six generations. They rely on grazing rights established in 1877, which Harry Reid, via the federal government, wants to quash so that a Chinese energy company can develop the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone.
Though the Dry Lake SEZ is 20 miles from the Bundy ranch, developers promise to restore nearby “disturbed land” and acquire private lands for conservation, as part of their environmental mitigation deal. In particular, Harry Reid and his son, Rory, have set aside public lands known as Gold Butte, where Bundy grazes.
Twenty years ago, the BLM summarily revoked Bundy’s grazing rights on Gold Butte, which Bundy has ignored. According to the BLM, Bundy owes at least $200,000 in grazing fees since 1993. Bundy maintains the BLM has no right to charge those fees. A federal court disagrees, siding with the BLM.
Infowars.com was all over the Nevada story from the beginning. As soon as they produced documents showing the Reid family connection to solar energy development in the area, the BLM suddenly backed down, although the senior statesman vowed, “This is not over.” Harry Reid will get his corporate deal, solar farms will be developed in six southwestern states, and public use of public lands will come to an end in the US.
That’s the plan anyway. Problem is armed citizens are willing to do whatever it takes to stop the corporate-federal land grab.
Hundreds of supporters showed up for days, even protesting the auction house that planned to sell the stolen cattle. After watching a half dozen videos on the stand-off, what struck me the most about the Ranch Riot video was how adamantly the protestors demanded the BLM leave. It’s easy to compare it to the second raid on Rawesome Foods in California when people stood by quietly as the police swarmed their food supply and destroyed it.
Hundreds of gallons of raw milk were dumped; other products, computers and cash were stolen; the owner was jailed, and Rawesome Foods went out of business. No one was sickened by Rawesome food; this was simply a federally-directed raid on behalf of corporate interests to shut down competition for Big Milk.
CAFO-style Big Meat will benefit by the closure of rangelands, and human diets will suffer. Free-range beef will be more expensive and harder to find. The Reid family will be enriched by the deals they can broker with solar energy firms, and this will all come at the expense of private ranchers and public access to public lands.
Alex Jones posted several videos about the situation as it unfolded over the first two weeks of this month. His interview of Cliven Bundy captures the issues involved:
The Bundy case brings to mind Tim DeChristopher, whose act of civil disobedience stopped the illegal auction of oil and gas leases on thousands of acres of public land. In a nation run by criminals, the man who stopped the crime was sentenced to two years in federal prison. No one at the BLM went to jail, or was even charged with a crime. No one lost their job for the illegal auction.
That’s similar to Bradley Manning, whose act of military disobedience exposed war crimes and landed him in prison, while the war criminals range free.
Mainstream media continues to deceive the public about the Nevada case, though it knows as well as the Bundys about range rights on public lands. In corporate media, the dispute centers on unpaid range fees, and Bundy’s use of lands the government has since restricted. But Harry Reid and the BLM didn’t really care about all this until this solar farm deal arose.
Alternative media disappointed by turning the range wars into a left-bashing opportunity, as if only the left cares about the environment – as if Agenda 21 was created by leftist environmentalists instead of corporatists. It’s bureaucratic rule-making designed to impoverish one set of actors for a more favored set, and has nothing to do with right or left ideology, though many still buy into the paradigm, and by so doing, serve the 1%.
The bashing that the left is taking over a corporate land grab in Nevada reveals how effectively the left-right paradigm still divides populists. Having your livelihood destroyed by federally-armed agents working for corporations has nothing to do with leftist thinking, even if environmentalism is the excuse.
No doubt, commercial grazers can cause serious changes to the landscape, which ought to be monitored and remediated as needed. Ranchers know this better than anyone else, and it’s in their best interest to mitigate grazing damage to maintain future herds.
Meanwhile, the debate over how public lands can be used needs to go public, out of bureaucratic backrooms and dusty courtrooms, and with full disclosure from legislators about their financial stake in the options before us.
You can follow the progress of the case at http://bundyranch.blogspot.com/
An earlier version of this article first appeared at Activist Post.