The federal agency that backed down over the weekend in a tense standoff with a Nevada rancher is being accused of leaving a trail of wreckage behind.
Fox News toured the damage — allegedly caused by the Bureau of Land Management — which included holes in water tanks and destroyed water lines and fences. According to family friends, the bureau’s hired “cowboys” also killed two prize bulls.
“They had total control of this land for one week, and look at the destruction they did in one week,” said Corey Houston, friend of rancher Cliven Bundy and his family. “So why would you trust somebody like that? And how does that show that they’re a better steward?”
Granted these are accusations coming from the Bundy family and their friends, but the BLM isn’t denying them. In fact, they appeared to confirm their paramilitary troops were responsible during a press conference. Which could (and should) mean big trouble for whoever authorized and perpetrated the vandalism, because it doesn’t look like they were legally authorized to do anything except round up cattle… an effort which ended in ignominious defeat for the feds, who had to release the cattle after spending huge amounts of taxpayer money to grab them. The Fox report mentions a detail I hadn’t heard before: one of the reasons the BLM gave up on impounding Bundy’s cattle is that nobody else in Nevada was willing to buy them. “The sale yards are very nervous about taking what in the past has been basically stolen cattle from the federal government,” according to the state agriculture commissioner.
This difficulty in selling off the livestock, coupled with the presence of protesters at the government pens, compelled the BLM to set the cattle free. Well, except for the bulls they shot. Those are still dead:
On a Friday night conference call, BLM officials told reporters that “illegal structures” on Bundy’s ranch — water tanks, water lines and corrals — had to be removed to “restore” the land to its natural state and prevent the rancher from restarting his illegal cattle operation.
However, the court order used to justify the operation appears only to give the agency the authority to “seize and impound” Bundy’s cattle.
“Nowhere in the court order that I saw does it say that they can destroy infrastructure, destroy corrals, tanks … desert environment, shoot cattle,” Houston said.
Bundy’s friends say the BLM wranglers told them the bulls were shot because they were dangerous and could gore their horses. One bull was shot five times.
But Houston said the pen holding the bull wasn’t even bent. “It’s not like the bull was smashing this pen and trying tackle people or anything,” he said. “The pen is sitting here. It hasn’t moved. No damage whatsoever. Where was the danger with that bull?”
Plus he said BLM vehicles appear to have crushed a tortoise burrow near the damaged water tank. “How’s that conservation?” he asked.
I hope somebody got a photo of a BLM truck crushing that habitat. What a marvelous symbol of power-drunk federal lunacy that would be. We had to crush the tortoise burrow in order to save it. Of course, the federal government is no stranger to killing the supposedly endangered desert tortoises that were used as the pretext for their action against the Nevada rancher.
Since this whole thing was supposed to be about “the rule of law,” I’m sure those warrants will be carefully examined, and federal officials will be severely disciplined if they overstepped the authority granted to them. If these accusations are untrue and the BLM’s troops didn’t cause all that damage – or if they did, and they’ve got legal papers to prove they were allowed to do it – a strong statement should be swiftly issued, along with supporting documentation.
Incidentally, contrary to a hoax that was going around the Internet yesterday, there has not yet been any announcement of a congressional investigation into the BLM’s actions in Nevada. But if their forces inflicted significant property damage in defiance of court orders, and the agency doesn’t take proper corrective action, maybe there will be. As everyone on both sides keeps saying, this story is far from over.
Update: I have added the word “equipment” to the title of the post, to clarify what was damaged.