Was Cliven Bundy just a lazy rancher?

U. S. Attorney in court says Bundy was not a man of principled views:
“He was too lazy to bring his cattle in during the winter.”

Cliven Bundy has always described his failure to pay grazing fees, or limit how many or where he grazes his cattle, to his powerful anti-federal government feelings.  On February 16 he was brought before the judge to see about his bail. He didn’t get bail. The judge agreed he was a flight risk. Judge Janice Stewart said in court,  “If he’s released and he goes back to his ranch, that’s likely the last the court will ever see of him.” She said her decision was based on his record of ignoring court orders and the presumption of his violence.

The U.S. attorney in court released a memo arguing that he disrespected the law and hard work too. The government argued that Bundy’s actual occupation could only “loosely be called ranching.” Quoting the government’s document as reproduced in Courthouse News, the government said in a broadside:

“Raised in the wild, Bundy’s cattle are left to fend for themselves year-round, fighting off predators and scrounging for the meager amounts of food and water available in the difficult and arid terrain that comprises the public lands in that area of the country,”. . . “Bereft of human interaction, his cattle that manage to survive are wild, mean and ornery.

“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.

“At the time of the events giving rise to the charges, Bundy’s cattle numbered over 1,000 head, straying as far as 50 miles from his ranch and into the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, getting stuck in mud, wandering onto golf courses, straying onto the freeway (causing accidents on occasion) – foraging aimlessly and wildly, roaming in small groups over hundreds of thousands of acres of federal lands that exist for the use of the general public for many other types of commercial and recreational uses such as camping, hunting, and hiking.”

“Untethering himself from the law, Bundy claims he can do with his cattle as he pleases, including not incurring the expenses to manage or control them and not paying for the forage they consume at the expense of federal taxpayers.”

“For the record, I agree with everything in the government’s memo,” [Judge] Stewart said





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  1. Linda Horn Avatar
    Linda Horn

    Bundy should be charged with animal neglect and/or abuse (unfortunately, most judges don’t see neglect as abuse), but laws “protecting” livestock are so vague they’re practically non-existent. Livestock welfare falls under “commonly accepted agricultural practices” (or similar language)in every state, and that phrase is never defined. When I’ve asked ranchers what they consider neglect/abuse, all I get is: “We know it when we see it.”

  2. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    He’s an older man now – cattle ranching is a lot of physical work. Couldn’t he get anybody to help him out? Those sons of his?

    1. Patricia Avatar

      Like he cares…really – don’t you get it? This guy is rich, entitled, white, and cruel. But it is the Bureau of Land Management that is selling out our public lands to empty ancient aquifers, pollute, poison and destroy our indigenous wildlife with WILDLIFE SERVICES ( by the millions in the most cruel ways – trapping, aerial shooting, killing killing killing) so that cattle can be readied for slaughterhouses for free on our public lands. The Bureau should be ended as should Wildlife “services” and we should reclaim our wild lands and let them recuperate.

  3. Nancy Avatar

    I seem to recall raising melons was his main source of income, not cattle.

    “Bundy’s cattle numbered over 1,000 head, straying as far as 50 miles from his ranch and into the Lake Mead National Recreation Area”

    Letting them stray, neglecting them, in IMHO, was his way of saying “I can do what I want, where I want and there’s nothing the federal government can do about it”

  4. Theo Chu Avatar
    Theo Chu

    Seems like a constructive opportunity for Cliven’s itchy trigger finger buddies to work off some of their frustration, those that remain free anyway.

  5. Salle Avatar


    The government’s statement mimics the opinion I have held of him for many years, long before 2014 for certain. He does this as an act of defiance knowing that nothing would be done about it. Sometimes the label used for deception can go uncorrected for a long time… think about all those Congress critters who have received millions of taxpayer $$ by calling themselves farmers when they aren’t but it gets them “free money” as long as they protect themselves by being the legislators who write and approve the laws that make this possible. It’s still going on today.

    What a mess.

  6. Yvette Avatar

    Can he be charged with felony animal abuse? It is now a top tier felony and leaving his cattle to fend for themselves is neglect, if not abuse. Maybe the law differs for agriculture animals, but letting those poor cows roam with no animal husbandry at all is abuse/neglect to me. I wonder how the law would view it?

    An old article, but at least the FBI now has animal abuse as a felony. Bundy needs to be charged with every single crime he has broken. Every one of them.

  7. Mal Adapted Avatar
    Mal Adapted

    Cliven Bundy may very well be a lazy rancher, but he’s not just a lazy rancher. According to JJ MacNab, a regular contributor on forbes.com, Bundy, his family and many of his supporters belong to the Sovereign Citizens movement:

    a loosely-knit group that subscribes to a complex system of bizarre legal theories. They believe that the current U.S. Government is an illegitimate sham, and, in the most extreme situations, they are willing to resort to violence when the courts and government agents don’t agree with their schemes.

    While many pundits have assumed that greed drives Bundy’s stand, he has spent decades absorbing “patriot” legal theories, piecing together quotes, codes, and court case citations that appear to lead him to the conclusion he desires, while carefully ignoring those that don’t. To Bundy and his supporters, the fight isn’t just about money; it’s about a deep-seated belief that they are right, and the rest of the nation is just too brainwashed or stupid to understand.

    Lately [the article is from early 2014 – Mal], Bundy’s leadership has taken on a religious tone. He claims that he has had a revelation from God that his supporters are to disarm the BLM and National Park Service, and to tear down the toll booth at Lake Mead.

    IMO, it was a mistake to let Cliven Bundy get away with his grazing violations for so long, as it can only have emboldened other sociopaths listening only to the voices in their heads. I’m relying on the rule of law to defend my rights against these dangerous crazies. I just hope the law always has more guns than they do.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Mal Adapted,

      Perhaps the order of events was that Bundy tore up his grazing lease.Then as events proceeded he searched for some kind of political philosophy that would justify what he had done out of anger and perhaps laziness.

      1. Mal Adapted Avatar
        Mal Adapted


        Yes, that’s certainly the claim by the prosecution in Cliven Bundy’s case. Knowing the history of Bundy’s political “thought” could tell us which came first, the Sovereign Citizen ideology or the fit of pique that inspired him to tear up his grazing lease.

        I found a 2014 article in the Washington Post, The long fight between the Bundys and the federal government, from 1989 to today:

        March 1993: The Washington Post publishes a story about the federal government’s efforts to protect the desert tortoise in Nevada. Near Las Vegas, the Bureau of Land Management designated hundreds of thousands of acres of federal land for strict conservation efforts. “Among the conservation measures required,” according to the Post’s coverage, “are the elimination of livestock grazing and strict limits on off-road vehicle use in the protected tortoise habitat. Two weeks ago, the managers of the plan completed the task of purchasing grazing privileges from cattle ranchers who formerly used BLM land.”

        Many people were not impressed by the new conservation plan. “Cliven Bundy, whose family homesteaded his ranch in 1877 and who accuses the government of a ‘land grab,’ are digging in for a fight and say they will not willingly sell their grazing privileges to create another preserve.” People who use the desert to prospect for minerals and to race motorcycles and jeeps also feel shortchanged. “‘It was shoved down our throat,’ said Mark Trinko, who represents off-road vehicle users on the committee that oversees the plan.”

        Bundy has repeatedly been fined for grazing his cattle on the protected land, fines he has not paid since 1993. The Bureau of Land Management, which oversees about 800 grazing areas in Nevada, responded by revoking his permit. Bundy has not applied for a new one.

        So, it seems Bundy objected first to internalizing the cost of protecting the tortoise, which he had previously been allowed to externalize. Or perhaps he was merely reacting, from visceral territorial instinct, to the reminder that what he thought of as his land really wasn’t. In either case, he seems to have arrived at his philosophy subsequent to 1993.

        You raise a larger question, too. What I read about the Sovereign Citizens movement makes its proponents, like Cliven Bundy, sound mainly like run-of-the-mill sociopathic bigots. To what extent are all radical political philosophies merely post-hoc justifications for their adherents to indulge their prejudices, fantasies and/or naked greed at the expense of the public good?

  8. Marc Bedner Avatar

    We can hope that someday felony animal abuse will be taken seriously. In the meantime, we’ll have to settle for the charges in the Federal indictment issued today:

    The indictment charges that Cliven Bundy was the leader, organizer, and chief beneficiary of the conspiracy, and possessed ultimate authority over the conspiratorial operations and received the economic benefits of the extortion. The remaining defendants are charged as leaders and organizers who conspired with Bundy to achieve his criminal objectives.

    The maximum penalties for the charges are stated below.

    Conspiracy to Commit an Offense Against the U.S. – 5 years, $250,000 fine

    Conspiracy to Impede and Injure a Federal Law Enforcement Officer – 6 years, $250,000 fine

    Assault on a Federal Law Enforcement Officer – 20 years, $250,000 fine

    Threatening a Federal Law Enforcement Officer – 10 years, $250,000 fine

    Use and Carry of a Firearm in Relation to a Crime of Violence – 5 years minimum and consecutive

    Obstruction of the Due Administration of Justice – 10 years, $250,000 fine

    Interference with Interstate Commerce by Extortion – 20 years, $250,000 fine

    Interstate Travel in Aid of Extortion – 20 years, $250,000 fine

  9. Linda Horn Avatar
    Linda Horn

    Unfortunately, even 1,000 counts of misdemeanor animal neglect would be seen as distraction. I’m involved in equine rescue, so one of my causes is putting teeth in livestock law. Anyway, if form held, it would be pled down to a few counts and, at the most, he’d get a relatively short time in jail, a fine and probation. That said, I’m grateful to see so many substantial charges and fines. I’m sure his followers will cry that a corrupt system is trying to make an example of him. I guess deterrence as a valid component of the law depends on whose ox is gored.

  10. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    Shawna Cox sues for 666 billion. The only thing more humorous than her claims are the comments following the article.

  11. skyrim Avatar

    Have not yet seen this posted here.
    The wheels of justice sometimes turn slowly but it’s good to know they’re still grinding away….

    1. skyrim Avatar

      Marc has it covered above….

  12. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    In this 2012 blog, Cliven Bundy asks for help rounding up his cows and driving them to “Abilene”. He asks them to bring horses and to be ready to camp in the desert.
    Everything about his ranching operation seems very strange.

    1. don smith Avatar
      don smith

      Bundy is not a rancher nor does he live on a ranch. When driving by place April 2014, along the Virgin River, I saw posted: Melons for Sale.

    1. skyrim Avatar

      Good link Nancy. Thank you.

  13. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    Hee! I got a kick out of the title of this article, thought we could all use a chuckle:


    1. Marc Bedner Avatar

      I always thought of Obama as a slacker. Maybe we’re finally getting change now that Loretta Lynch is Attorney General. The prosecution is coming up with more charges against the Bundy Gang.

  14. Eric T. Avatar
    Eric T.

    Rhetorical question as far as I’m concerned.

  15. skyrim Avatar

    This just gets better and better for the Bundy clan:
    Also learned that Cliven Jr. is in the slammer in Vegas on some kind of drug related charge.
    Now lets get those stinkin’ damn cows (or what’s left of them) off that desert landscape and out of that fragile river bottom.

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      I hope they do it humanely – I expect there will be some huffing and puffing about how they had to shoot them all (those ‘ornery’ cattle, ‘bereft’ of human contact – they are not pets, ffs), just like the last time there was a showdown. People haven’t forgotten it has taken 20 or more years to do this, and people want to know why.

      1. skyrim Avatar

        Whatever organized efforts take place regarding these cattle will be preferable to the “care—LESS” attitude that has been going on these many years. I saw an image of one of these critters a few days ago and it was just a sad sack of skin and bones.

        1. Ida Lupines Avatar
          Ida Lupines

          All animals raised for human ‘uses’ are bereft. It was ridiculous to read these descriptions for the Bundy cattle. There was yet another case of animal cruelty at a dairy recently. It is inherent in the business.

  16. Nancy Avatar

    The Bundy ranch has put up pics on their BlogSpot regarding how well their cattle are doing (seems some followers? are concerned)

    Hope they were smart enough to notice, NONE of these pics are of the hundreds of Bundy cattle that have been running loose on public lands, for years, with little care or attention.



Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan