Is a Shootout Brewing in Nevada?

What do cows, tortoises, the housing bubble, government bloat, and crazed militias all have in common?

Desert Tortoise

The Desert Tortoise: “Manage me please!” [Wikimedia]

Apparently back in 1993, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decided that they needed to protect the desert tortoise. Fearing that Cliven Bundy’s herd of over a thousand cattle might strain the desert tortoise’s habitat, the BLM capped Bundy’s herd on the 158,666-acre Bunkerville rangeland at 150 head. (Really? The land can’t handle more than one cow per thousand acres?) As you might expect, Bundy was pissed. His family’s cattle had grazed unmolested on this “public” (i.e. government owned) land since the mid 1800’s, long before anybody considered assessing fees for, of all things, cattle grazing. What exactly was he supposed to do? Just get rid of virtually his entire herd, reducing it down to 150? In retaliation, Bundy stopped paying his grazing fees, effectively saying “fuck you” to the Federal Government.

You might think that somebody would have asked Bundy to pay up the delinquent fees he owed Uncle Sam before two decades had gone by. But apparently the BLM had a much richer teat to suck than those of Bundy’s cows: The Las Vegas housing bubble. According to an article on Huffington Post:

As the housing boom swept through southern Nevada in the 2000s, the tortoise budget swelled. But when the recession hit, the housing market contracted, and the bureau and its local government partners began struggling to meet the center’s $1 million annual budget.

The “center” they are talking about there is the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center. But that quote isn’t from an article on Cliven Bundy. Rather, it is from an article from last year on the BLM’s decision to start killing endangered tortoises. You see, when the teat of the Las Vegas housing bubble ran dry, the BLM decided that the desert tortoise wasn’t all that endangered after all. To save money, they decided to euthanize new arrivals at the center.

Why the fuck couldn’t they just let the damn things go? I guess the Bureau of Land Management thinks an unmanaged life is too much for the desert tortoise to bear.

Killing tortoises bought the BLM a little time, but they kept hemorrhaging money and eventually came knocking on Cliven Bundy’s door. And of course, when the federal government comes knocking in situations like this, they come heavily armed. Currently, a force of “200 federal agents” is actively rounding up Cliven Bundy’s cattle. I imagine that the force of “200 federal agents” that I’ve seen referenced in a number of articles consists mostly of “contract cowboys” and others who are engaged in the round-up, and that some lesser number of actual federal agents (the dudes with the rifles and tasers) are just standing around watching. There does seem to be an awful lot of heavy equipment, SUV’s, and helicopters involved in the operation. What do you suppose it’s costing? I’m wagering the full cost of the operation is in the millions — more than what Cliven Bundy owes in back grazing fees for sure. How is it that the BLM is so broke they are having to euthanize tortoises for survival, yet rich enough to afford cowmageddon at the Bundy ranch?

So, to recap …

The BLM, not content to allow critters to run around unmanaged, began managing the desert tortoise on the land Cliven Bundy’s cows graze on back in the early 1990’s. To protect the tortoise, they reduced Cliven Bundy’s grazing rights to one cow per thousand acres, and they build a tortoise paradise out the fees they imposed on Nevada’s lucrative housing market. But then the housing bubble burst, and the BLM said “fuck the tortoise” and started killing them instead. And finally, to teach Cliven Bundy a lesson, they launched a multimillion dollar operation to round up Bundy’s cattle so that all the tortoises that the BLM killed will have a pasture to folic in, should they decide to return from the dead.

The media coverage of this has been appallingly scant and severely tainted with either left or right-wing political bias.

Thus far, CNN’s reporting has left out pretty much the entire backstory, chosing to offer up the story free of any context whatsoever. Too bad there isn’t a chupacabra in this story somewhere, because maybe then CNN would be all over it.

On the far right are guys like Alex Jones, and well … you know … he can be a little paranoid. He is fun to listen to, because who doesn’t like to kick back to a good conspiracy theory every now and then? But at the end of the day, ya gotta take off the tinfoil hat. Anyway, the Alex Jones crew at are covering the story as the classic little guy against big government.

On the far left are the Daily Kos nuts who are covering it as the classic “right-wing extremist domestic terrorist lawbreaker” (their words, straight from the title of the article, no less).

I don’t know if Cliven Bundy is necessarily either an innocent victim or an extremist nut. A lot of groups seem to be descending on the Bundy ranch at the moment, and I’m guessing the vast majority of them are good people who want to help. There are definitely a few whackjobs in the mix, however:

Oh me.

“It’s a green light! I repeat: It is a go! … We’re going in there with force. Study up, nut up, and gear up.” I think they might have that “nut up” part covered.

Apparently some folks haven’t gotten the message yet that the government wins in these situations. Hopefully, somebody on one side or the other will tone things down a bit, because this shit could get real ugly.

The take-home message for me is that the Bureau of Land Management makes a lovely poster child for bloated government bureaucracy. Give any bureau or agency of the federal government a budget, and they’re going to find something to manage. And they will manage the absolute fucking shit out of it as long as there is a juicy money teat to suck. With myopic zeal, they will convince themselves that the recipient of their loving management could not exist “in the wild” without them. even if that recipient is a tortoise that has survived, flourished, and evolved in a free, unmanaged state, for millions of years. And when the day comes that the money teat runs dry and the funds have all been spent, they will destroy the thing that they manage, for it’s own good, so that it is not forced to endure an unmanaged life. And they will raze the land when they are done and move on, in search of a fresh teat to suck and a fresh victim to manage.



On April 15, a story on the Cliven Bundy saga appeared in the Washington Post that has a pretty detailed timeline of the events leading up to the April 2014 standoff. The timeline documents important events in the land dispute and desert tortoise conservation spanning from 1989 to present. Missing from the timeline is mention of BLM’s funding during the housing bubble and the decision by the BLM last year to begin euthanizing the tortoises. Can’t have everything, I suppose. 😛

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2 Responses to Is a Shootout Brewing in Nevada?

  1. Michael Corelone says:

    It looks like this government confrontation ended much better for Bundy than David Koresh.

    • Aye.

      Bundy might be a bit of a loon for all I know. What draws me to stories like this is how polarized people are in discussion forums when things like this hit the media. It’s like, people don’t bother looking into the back story or into the facts surrounding the story. All they care about is, is he a “good guy” or a “bad guy,” meaning is he a lefty or a righty. And then they immediately attack or support the guy accordingly. It’s like they’re watching a fucking football game and cheering for one side or the other.

      The guys in the Huffington Post threads are all wailing right now, that Bundy is “stealing” the people’s grass. “That’s my grass his cows are chewing!” Jesus Christ!

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