Bundy Ranch, the Federal Government, and the Nevada Water Tipping Point
By Monica Morrill
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.
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