Ammon Bundy, the son of notorious Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and leader of the ongoing Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation near Burns, Oregon, has had enough of being pushed around by the feds. But as Mother Jones reported Monday, in 2010 Bundy had no qualms taking a $530,000 loan from that very same tyrannical government.
According to Bundy, the federal government is an illegitimate authority and has no right to tell ranchers, miners, or loggers in the west how to manage the land. In protest of this overreach, Bundy and a small group of armed, self-described militiamen took over a US Fish and Wildlife Service building on Saturday that had been closed for the holidays.
But when it came time to receive from the government rather than give, Bundy’s hand was ready. According to Mother Jones, the public record doesn’t show whether the loan was repaid or what it was used for, but paid or not, the loan to Bundy is estimated to have cost taxpayers $22,419.
In an interview with CNN, Bundy clarified his position, saying he is not antigovernment and his loan wasn’t hypocritical because it was “an effort in assisting the people in using their rights.” Bundy further outlined his philosophy on the role of government in some detail.
“There is a role for government and the federal government’s role is to protect the states from the outside world. And the state’s role is to protect the counties from the federal government and the county’s role is to protect the people from the state so the people can go about freely using their lands and resources and their rights. …So there’s a role, but all government’s role is to serve the people. Whenever those governments step out, then that’s when we step in.”
As US Uncut reports, there are even more federal assistance programs that Bundy and other ranchers benefit from than small business loans. Services like “animal damage control” involve federal agents hunting predators in the west who might prey on ranchers’ cattle. When the Atlantic reported on the program back in 1996, it was costing taxpayers about $22 million for western operations. Feds eradicated 163 black bears, 293 mountain lions, 1,928 bobcats, 8,973 foxes, and 85,571 coyotes nationwide on behalf of ranchers like Bundy.
Going back even further, Steve Russell writes at Indian Country Today Media Network that the land Bundy is squabbling with the government over was actually stolen from the Paiute Indians by the very government Bundy is protesting today. Land was set aside as the Malheur Indian Reservation in 1872 until the Paiute and Bannock Indians were removed. But Bundy’s much-vaunted Constitution explicitly declares that the federal government is in charge of relations with Indian nations.
A 2015 report by the Center for Biological Diversity, “Costs and Consequences: The Real Price of Livestock Grazing on America’s Public Lands,” paints an even fuller picture of the federal assistance ranchers like Bundy receive. According to the report, the federal grazing fee – given in units of AUM, or animal unit month – has been set at the legal minimum of $1.35/AUM since 2007. On private land, the cost of grazing cattle is, on average, $20.10. By using federal land, the Bundy family receives a 93 percent discount.
Bundy claims his standoff with the federal government is about reclaiming resources for the people. But very little about Bundy’s operation hasn’t been, at some level or another, subsidized or made possible by the federal government. He may do the cattle driving, but the government cleared the land of its native inhabitants, poached his cattle’s would-be predators, and charges a pittance to use federal land.
As of Wednesday, the Bundy standoff is in its fourth day. According to The Guardian, feds are planning to shut off power to the refuge where Bundy and his heavily armed militia are holed up. Bundy, who has threatened to respond with violence if authorities try to remove him and his men, said, “We’re ready and waiting if the power should be shut down.”
When the occupation began, Bundy claimed they had enough supplies to last in the encampment for years. But The Guardian reports that their food storage room “did not look like it could sustain a dozen men for more than a few weeks,” containing an assortment of fruit, a few dozen canned goods, three bags of potatoes, some flour, 20 boxes of macaroni and cheese, and a single bag of pretzels.
On his Facebook page Sunday, Bundy called on more patriots to join the militia at Malheur. Anyone thinking of going is encouraged to bring food and warm clothing.
[Photo by Rick Bowmer/AP]