Cliven Bundy: After LaVoy Finicum's Funeral, Rancher Petitions Others To Disavow Grazing Contracts

On Friday, Cliven Bundy made an unannounced appearance at a funeral procession for Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, a militiaman who died during a traffic stop by Oregon State Police. At the memorial, the famous American cattle rancher, who is also the father of the arrested Oregon militia leader Ammon Bundy, called for other Utah ranchers to dishonor their grazing contracts with the federal government.

Bundy said willfully breaching their written agreements is what Finicum would have wanted had he still been alive, this according to a Salt Lake Tribune news report (SLTrib). Cliven Bundy did so in similar fashion 20 years ago, and the fallen protester did in kind during a 2014 impasse in southeastern Nevada between the Bureau of Land Management (or BLM) and Bundy.

"The bureaucrat has gotten so fat and so healthy that he is the one that prospers. He is the one who has life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The rest of us are feeding him."
Bundy spoke at length to the media and shared something of a history lesson about the plight ranchers have endured for decades as they struggle to make a living off the land and its limited resources. Bundy blames government greed and property map manipulation on the lingering tension between federal bureaucracies and cattlemen.A number of ranchers are under contract with the government for land rights, mainly limited to pasture grazing. Any other forms of agriculture, acquisition, alteration, or redevelopment are prohibited. In other words, ranchers only lease the property but are not stewards, according to permits.

Despite growing support from around the country, not everyone agrees with the advice Bundy is giving fellow ranchers. The argument against such counsel is due to a number of reasons, most of which are practical. Bundy's premise is that signing of permits looks benign on the surface. However, it gives the government "unlimited power."

On the contrary, some conservation groups disagree with Bundy's strategy of ignoring arrangements based on contractual agreements. They argue that breaches of contracts amount to ranchers losing rights to land. As a consequence, some face challenges in earning a living. Furthermore, the advice leads to standoffs and tension. On rare occasions, it leads to loss of life -- in this case, with the shooting death of a demonstrator.

Finicum died on January 26 as he and Bundy's sons traveled to a nearby rally. Grainy footage showed the moment police shot and killed the rancher after he allegedly reached for a firearm. Law enforcement said a 9mm semi-automatic was found on the scene. However, some critical of the traffic stop characterized the shooting as an assassination. The fatal police-involved shooting of LaVoy Finicum is under investigation.

According to the LA Times, only four members of the Oregon militia remain at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County; two of Bundy's sons were arrested along with nine others.

The Times writer posed a question about the death of a patriot: "What did LaVoy Finicum die for" in the fight for inherent rights and the government's land grab?

"The agrarian past is gone. The United States economy has not depended on farmers and ranchers for a very long time. Even LaVoy Finicum couldn't make ends meet as a rancher in the 21st century; his primary source of income, according to Oregon Public Radio, was the payment his family received for fostering children.

"In the end, Finicum didn't die for the sake of liberty or the Constitution, but for an outdated, narrow and self-interested notion of how the West was won."

It's unclear how long the occupation of the refuge will last; most see it as over and merely a symbolic takeover. However, Cliven Bundy's advice to his peers -- and its potential to inflame more violence -- remains worrisome.

[Photo by George Frey/Getty Images]