Many Americans have been watching with great consternation the ongoing struggle between the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Marshals against Cliven Bundy and his family. There are no signs of either side relinquishing its position. Many onlookers have been informed that this dispute is over protecting the desert tortoise. But it is nothing of the sort. In fact, the reality of the dispute goes far underneath what is being talked about. The more appropriate source of the dispute is ground water as well as surface water – this is a war over water.
Cliven Bundy and his family claim that they can trace their family ownership back to around the 1870s on their current property in Clark County. This is well before any federal offices such as the EPA, BLM, or water management were created. This corresponds with the Homestead rights that were established during the Lincoln administration in 1862 to entice people to settle the western frontier and expand the U.S. agricultural enterprises. This 19th-century policy was meant to encourage and support settlement by families like the Bundys. Now, over 150 years later, what seemed to be borderless country surrounding small-town Bunkerville in Nevada is an inhospitable petri dish for the experiments of growing federal regulations.
The Bundy Ranch “VO” is now the last large cattle ranch standing in Clark County. According to an anonymous source who has lived in Nevada for thirty-five years, the other major ranches in Clark County have been driven out of existence for one reason or another by the BLM and the Feds. It is claimed that the BLM are masquerading as conservationists, using their federal power to wield the final blow to reclaim the settlement rights they once honored to settlers like the Bundys.
Follow the Money
The real wealth is in the water to support the plush green golf courses, and surrounding housing developments, gleaming swimming pools, and other demands by hotels and households in Las Vegas, Arizona, and Southern California.
The same anonymous source claims that there has been a pattern of behavior: land in Clark County has been targeted as property that the BLM can use; the BLM makes an offer to buy the property from the owner (prices vary, but it can be a very low market price); the BLM purchases the land; the property is then stripped of the water rights; and the land is resold without the right to water resources. But what good is a farm or ranch without water?