By Richard McCarty and Printus LeBlanc
The Bundy family was the group at the center of a tense standoff in Nevada in 2014. The nation was glued to TV sets as federal agents squared off against the family and their allies. A recent ruling by a federal judge, based on the shocking report released by Bureau of Land Management whistleblower Larry Wooten, has thrust the Bundy family back into the headlines.
Much of the problem for Bundy began with the listing of the desert tortoise as an endangered species in 1989 and the federal government’s subsequent efforts to protect it by restricting cattle grazing near Bundy’s ranch. But the evidence showing that cattle are detrimental to the desert tortoise is weak, as even the federal government has admitted.
In 1994, [the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] acknowledged in its Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan that the “extremely controversial” question of whether cattle harmed tortoise populations was not settled.
In 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a report that the evidence for the harm done by cattle was “not overwhelming.” William Boarman, the biologist who wrote the report, said he was not aware of subsequent studies showing a strong link.
Cattle may even be beneficial to the tortoise. As hard as it might be to believe, the desert tortoise was abundant decades ago when the cattle population was much higher, and the range was overgrazed. But as Bureau of Land Management (BLM) restrictions on cattle grazing grew stricter, the desert tortoise population declined.
The evidence that cattle are detrimental to the desert tortoise was so weak that two judges ruled in favor of Bundy’s neighbors who sued to stop the BLM’s efforts to drive their cattle off the range. But the BLM under the Clinton Administration would not be deterred; the agency tightened regulations on the ranchers and ultimately succeeded in removing their cattle from the range. Incredibly, while the federal government continues to try to remove the relatively few remaining cattle from Clark County, it continues to protect the common raven—which is not at all endangered—even though it regularly devours young tortoises.
Although many have tried to portray Bundy as a villain or a deadbeat, he seems more like a regular guy who’s standing up for his family and the only way of life he’s ever known. Bundy is a 71-year-old, God-fearing grandfather. For most of his life, he has lived in a modest two-bedroom home that he helped his father build. He pays his taxes, and he had no history of violence.
The federal government would finally stand down and end the contentious situation. However, the feds would not forget what happened.
Bundy was arrested in Portland, Oregon on February 10, 2016 as he was attempting to visit another protest site. Bundy would be charged with a litany of charges including conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, assault on a federal officer by use of a deadly weapon and aiding and abetting, and interfering with commerce by extortion and aiding, just to name a few. Everything seemed to be wrapped up until a whistleblower came forward.
BLM Special Agent Larry Wooten conducted an investigation into the handling of the 2014 Nevada standoff by the BLM. Wooten’s 18-page report is a damning indictment of the federal government. Wooten’s report lists dozens of violations of procedures, acts of bias, and blatant Brady Act violations, failing to turn over exculpatory evidence. Wooten stated the operation conducted against the Bundy family was, “the most intrusive, oppressive, large scale and militaristic trespass cattle impound possible.” The operation was conducted like a military mission despite the FBI’s threat assessment team declaring the Bundy family non-violent.
The conduct of the BLM and U.S. Attorney was so dishonest, U.S. District Court Judge Gloria Navarro, an Obama appointee, declared a mistrial. The judge stating, “the failure is prejudicial,” to ensuring a fair trial. Navarro set a retrial for late February, but it is uncertain if the feds will attempt to pursue the case further.
Americans for Limited Government Rick Manning stated, “the judge threw out the case because the prosecution engaged in multiple examples of prosecutorial misconduct. The extraordinary links the federal government went through to destroy the lives of the Bundy family is a cautionary tale about an out of control avaricious federal government. The charges against the Bundy’s need to be dropped. Once more, every legal action should be taken against the federal government employees who abused their power in this case to ensure that others will think twice before destroying citizens lives in a witch-hunt.”
This is an all to familiar pattern of federal government misconduct. It seems not one week goes by without a story about federal prosecutors not turning over Brady material. Attorney General Jeff Sessions must hold officials accountable. He inherited a corrupt DOJ that apparently has never heard of the Constitution. Prosecutors involved in malicious prosecutions, like this one, must be made to pay the lawyer fees of the defense and should be disbarred.
Richard McCarty is the Director of Research for Americans for Limited Government Foundation. Printus LeBlanc is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government. Reproduced with permission. Original can be seen here.