Excerpts from Court Documents for the 2012 Cliven Bundy Court Case

Today, a Judge ordered that Cliven Bundy be held pending trial. In the request to hold Bundy, the prosecutor, Charles Groder, wrote:

Bundy is lawless and violent. He does not recognize federal courts – claiming they are illegitimate – does not recognize federal law, refuses to obey federal court orders, has already used force and violence against federal law enforcement officers while they were enforcing federal court orders, nearly causing catastrophic loss of life or injury to others. He has pledged to do so again in the future to keep federal law enforcement officers from enforcing the law against him.

The document also details one experience that BLM agents had with Bundy’s family—details that read more like Deliverance than reality.

On June 5, 2015, three civilians working on behalf of the BLM traveled to the Gold Butte region for an overnight assignment involving site surveys, which included surveying cattle troughs and other cattle-related sites. At the final site a truck came up the road at around 6:30 p.m. and parked behind the civilians’ truck, blocking them in. One female employee approached the truck and observed a man who appeared to be 50-65 and who was subsequently identified by her as Cliven Bundy, and a younger man (18-25), subsequently identified by her as Arden Bundy, in the truck. Bundy said to her in a joking manner that they had been chasing these BLM employees all day. He asked why they were there and she said they were there to camp. Bundy said they were welcome to stay and that he was there to fix a leaky pipe and then feed the cattle.

At approximately 9:00 pm that night, the employees heard a vehicle coming up the road and stop approximately 500 meters from their camp. Three gunshots or popping noises were fired in fairly rapid succession. The vehicle then drove away. At approximately 10:00 pm, a vehicle came to the same spot and again three gunshots were fired in rapid succession, which one employee understood is sometimes meant to signal danger. The employees also heard several male voices but could not make out what was being said. They could see headlights in the direction of their camp. After a few minutes, the vehicle drove away. The employees immediately packed up their camp and left Gold Butte, returning to Las Vegas after 1:30 in the morning.

No surprise that the Judge denied Cliven Bundy’s request for release pending trial.

I’ve followed the Bundy case for years. Reading through the criminal documents reminded me of the hundreds of pages of exhibits and sworn statement (now accessible at Burningbird Docs) filed in the Government’s 2012 case against Bundy. I thought I’d pick out some of the interesting bits to share.

One of the exhibits contains a map outlining the range that Bundy’s cattle roamed. Looking at it, I’m surprised they haven’t shown up in Las Vegas. They have shown up in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area (NRA), at one point forcing a closure

Trespass and stray cattle have damaged or destroyed natural and cultural resources within Lake Mead NRA. In addition, trespass and stray cattle present a serious threat to public safety by roaming on public roads, causing traffic accidents, and threatening people in the Park. In the past, parts of the Park were closed because of attacks of trespass or stray cattle on people in the park. Because responding to trespass and stray cattle requires the NPS to re-direct staff and resources from other needed functions in the Park, the cattle have a significant adverse affect on Park operations. Because Cliven Bundy is the only person to have cattle within Lake Mead, I believe that damage to natural and cultural resources, the threats to public safety, and the affect on Park operations can be attributed to Mr. Bundy’s cattle.

The prosecutor’s document noted that Bundy may call himself a rancher, but is anything but.

While Bundy claims he is a cattle rancher, his ranching operation – to the extent it can be called that – is unconventional if not bizarre. Rather than manage and control his cattle, he lets them run wild on the public lands with little, if any, human interaction until such time when he traps them and hauls them off to be sold or slaughtered for his own consumption. He does not vaccinate or treat his cattle for disease; does not employ cowboys to control and herd them; does not manage or control breeding; has no knowledge of where all the cattle are located at any given time; rarely brands them before he captures them; and has to bait them into traps in order to gather them.

In the 2012 court case documents,  there are many photos of trespassing cows, including several of dead and dying cows. A Parks ranger investigation report wrote about finding a group of dead cows, the state of which contradicts the claims of a loving caretaker that Bundy and his minions have claimed to the press.

On July 09, 2008 I received a telephone call from my supervisor, U.S. Ranger Lisa Wilson. She informed me she had been advised there was a bunch of dead horses off of Gold Butte Rd., near a powerline road, on the opposite side of Gold Butte Rd. from some farms, uphill from an abandoned trailer.

I investigated and found myself on public lands, up a wash directly across the road from the Bundy Ranch, at GPS coordinates N36 42′ 55.6″ and W114 13′ 53.9″. I observed at least eleven dead cattle, including one calf and one horse. The animals were in an advanced state of decomposition; however, of the cattle, only the calf had its ears intact. Two of the cattle had colored nylon rope still around their necks.

Bundy did put in some minimal caretaking, but always on government land, which leads one to wonder whether he was caring for the cows, or making modifications that he thought would allow him some claim to the land.

He would build corrals of rusty metal and bring in tankers of water, setting them up on in protected areas. He’d leave garbage about, and also fence the areas in with barbed wire, and post No Trespassing signs. When we hear about the damage the marauders inflicted on Malheur, and compare that to the damage Bundy did to the Lake Meade area, we’re seeing a trend—a gross disrespect for anything publicly owned. A disrespect to we, the people. The occupation of Malheur was less a protest against government overreach, and more an homage to Daddy Bundy, and his megalomania. And the idiots who called themselves “militia” followed blindly along, still unaware of how badly they’ve been duped.

But to return to the documents, Bundy defended himself in the civil case. You can see his peculiar interpretation of the law in documents labeled 9, 30-32,  and 34. The government also deposed him, and he admitted he would do “whatever it takes” to prevent the government from removing the cattle.

Q. Now, let’s go back to the question. Let’s assume the federal authorities have the authorization to present themselves on land, whether you call it your ranch or the former Bunkerville Allotment, or for that matter the new trespass lands, and they’ve got the authorization in hand to remove cattle that belongs to you and they literally, physically, take the steps necessary to accomplish that right there and you’re standing by. Are you going to undertake any effort to physically stop that?

A. Yes.

Q. What efforts would that be?

A. Whatever it takes.

Q. Okay. Would that include — when you say “whatever it takes,” would that include the soliciting, the assistance of neighbors, friends, family, supporters of yours to do whatever it takes in the scenario I just described?

A. Yes.

The government captured hundreds of photos of damage and cows. The documents labeled 20 through 26 contain most of the photos, as well as the sworn statements.

The documents also detail the costs. There’s been some discussion among the media that the government hasn’t provided a detailed cost accounting for the million dollars frequently quoted. Even a casual look through the civil case documents shows us that a million dollars doesn’t even begin to cover the damages—that’s just for grazing fees and fines.

One document lists damages in one area at over $47,000. Another detailed the costs to track where the cattle were located at $91,000. (And this was only one of several investigations over the years.) Another document had a bill submitted to Bundy for unauthorized grazing and fines of close to $300,000. Yet another provided a table of costs totaling over $30,000. The one million dollars of fees and fines talked about with Bundy doesn’t even begin to approach how much this man has cost the government. And yet he wants the tax payers to pay for his lawyer, too.

The ongoing conservation work at Malheur was interrupted because of the Bundy invasion. There were  interruptions in important restoration work in the Lake Meade area, too, because of his cattle.

The implementation of this $1,000,000 restoration project in FY 2013/2014 was dependent on the removal of all unauthorized livestock from the Virgin River ACEC and adjoining areas within the Gold Butte ACECs. Smaller restoration pilot projects have shown that even when an area has been fenced to keep the cattle out of a site, the cattle still get in and destroy the restoration work. For this reason, the BLM and other outside partners are not able to invest this kind of money on a restoration project that has a high probability of being damaged or destroyed by cattle. Because of the continuing presence of trespass cattle on the public lands, this funding was reallocated to lower priority restoration areas that do not benefit the endangered SWFL, and where unauthorized livestock grazing is not an impediment to restoration activities. Those lower priority project sites will not be eligible for the Walton foundation matching funds since none of those areas are within SWFL habitat and therefore do not directly benefit the endangered SWFL.

The cows, themselves, were dangerous.  The civil case documents detail a truck/cow collision, and Bundy was sued when another  driver hit one of his cows, and was seriously hurt. Bundy tried to push the blame for that one on to the state. Due to lack of care, the cows have turned feral. Contrary to the fluffy images of cows from dairy companies, feral cows are large, can be aggressive, and have wicked horns. The cows threatened people, to the point where national park areas had to be closed to the public, for their own safety.

In all of the sworn statements by government employees attached to the civil care, we see evidence of the Bundy family’s intimidation tactics. Employees were warned, repeatedly, never to confront Bundy.  In one instance in the 2012 court documents:

While we were finishing gathering our equipment, a truck approached us from the east (we were coming from the west), stopped and parked facing our vehicle on the narrow backcountry road, leaving no room for either vehicle to get by.

An older white male stepped out of the vehicle and began to express his displeasure about the construction of the fence. Although we were on federal land and there were no private lands nearby, he referred to the Gold Butte area as his ranch and complained that the fence would interfere with feeding his cows.

He asked for our names, told us to contact the sheriff before coming to his “property” and indicated he might file a lawsuit against us. We attempted to explain, without success, that he should contact the BLM Los Vegas Field Office and that we were simply field personnel.

He abruptly ended the conversation after approximately 5 minutes then turned and headed back to the back of his pickup truck. He returned with a square box in hand that resembled salt licks we had seen at other areas in Gold Butte. He stepped over the fence and walked through the closed area where he was soon behind a small knoll and out of sight. At this point another vehicle pulled up behind us and was also waiting to get by, but neither of us could pass due to the vehicle in front of us.

For over twenty years Bundy and his family and his bully boys have destroyed critical habitat, degraded land, damaged cultural sites, and harassed and intimidated federal employees. His cows have been in car collisions, have threatened people, and have forced the government to shut down recreational areas that were supposed to be open for all. The charges against Bundy and his sons don’t even begin to cover the extent of the harm they have wrought.

I was surprised Bundy made the trip to Portland. True, it was obvious that he wasn’t happy about his sons stealing his fame, and the temptation to get in from the camera must have been great, but his own native caution should have outweighed all. This is a man who likes to lead from behind—to trigger others to do his dirty work for him when he can, preferring to leave his own particular brand of intimidation for smaller, unarmed groups. But he did travel to Portland, and he was busted. Frankly, I hope he rots in jail for the rest of his life.

In the meantime, there are over 900 cattle on government land, still causing damage, still suffering from lack of care. The BLM is hesitant to send people back into potential danger, so right now, there’s no oversight in the Gold Butte area. When the BLM does move, it will cost the government over $100,000 to remove all the cattle. I suspect, though, that the next time someone tries to stop this effort, the very capable FBI agents who handled the Malheur take-over will be nearby.

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