BLM: Treat people with respect

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If you were to park your car on federal public land and a federal agent came along and destroyed it with a sledgehammer, you would be able to file a felony criminal charge with the local sheriff against that agent or whoever instructed him to carry out the act.

So Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy should call up Sheriff Doug Gillespie, show him his destroyed 12,000-gallon water tank and demand an arrest warrant be issued.

Yes, some of Bundy’s cows and calves died in the federal court-ordered roundup of his cattle “trespassing” on federal public land, but we can agree that was not intentional. Yes, two of Bundy’s prize bulls were shot to death, but it could be argued they posed a danger to those carrying out the roundup and the lives of people are more important than cattle.

But the water tank — torn apart by Bureau of Land Management agents — was undeniably Bundy’s private property as a part of his water rights, granted by the state of Nevada. The fact it lies within federally controlled land makes not one jot of difference.

According to a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal opinion in the case against Ruby Valley rancher Cliff Gardner, the sheriff has every right to enforce Nevada criminal laws on federally controlled land: “The state of Nevada, then, is not being unconstitutionally deprived of the ability to govern the land within its borders. The state may exercise its civil and criminal jurisdiction over federal lands within its borders as long as it exercises its power in a manner that does not conflict with federal law.”

There is no federal law we are aware of giving BLM agents the right to destroy private property with impunity.

The facts regarding Mr. Bundy’s refusal to pay grazing fees do not stack up well for the rancher. Most everyone can agree on that point. But the more pressing question — a question we fear will get buried by Mr. Bundy’s race statements and his sovereign nation defense — remains how the BLM carried out this operation. It was a fiasco and a farce from the beginning made especially dangerous to residents of our area by the BLM using military-like force on the ground and in the air

The operation was rightly scrubbed (after Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval criticized the BLM) on April 12 as public safety concerns mounted. A review of the BLM’s tactics must take place before it makes the same mistakes elsewhere. Since when does the BLM have a SWAT-like branch?

As Investor’s Business Daily editorialists recently pointed out, BLM is not the only federal agency with a private army.

This past summer Environmental Protection Agency agents invaded a gold mine in Alaska in search of violations of the Clean Water Act. They wore body armor and carried assault weapons.

Other federal agencies so armed include the Library of Congress, the Federal Reserve Board, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Park Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Yes, even NOAA, whose job it is to forecast the weather — apparently to fend off — what? — militant climate change deniers?

The BLM turned a simple law enforcement operation into an invasion and thus escalated the situation perilously close to wanton bloodshed.

Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller is calling for congressional hearings into why the BLM acted as it did. We agree. It is time for our government agents to stand down and treat people like fellow citizens  — TM

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