Open Letter: Cliven Bundy’s chronic trespass grazing must end and how to do it

A letter from Richard Spotts, retired Bureau of Land Management employee
RE:  Cliven Bundy’s chronic trespass grazing must end and how to do it
Dear Secretary Haaland and other DOI officials:

Cliven Bundy’s more than a quarter century of blatant and destructive trespass livestock grazing on federal lands must come to an end.  Enough is enough.  Since about 1995, this illegal grazing has continued up to the present in the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Gold Butte National Monument, the National Park Service’s (NPS) Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) designated critical habitat for the threatened Mojave desert tortoises in southern Nevada.  This prolonged grazing and the associated ongoing construction of unauthorized “range improvements” violates the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, National Historic Preservation Act, Endangered Species Act, and many other laws and associated regulations.  It also violates at least two previous federal court orders.  

Although it took several years, the federal government solved a similar chronic trespass grazing situation in Arizona when it got Mr. Klump put in jail for contempt and placed a lien on his property.  But the Department of the Interior (DOI) agencies and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have failed to try these proven solutions with Mr. Bundy.  This failure contributed to the dangerous Bunkerville standoff that nearly caused a gun battle with militia members.  This successful standoff by the militia then emboldened them to conduct the Malheur Refuge occupation and later the January 6th insurrection in the U.S. Capitol.  Another potentially dangerous standoff may now be brewing in southern Oregon over Klamath river water.  
When will the DOI and DOJ demonstrate to Mr. Bundy and his militia supporters that there is tangible accountability for their lawless actions and threats of violence?  Will the Biden administration ineptly keep kicking this can down the road, as was done during the eight Obama administration years?  
Before I retired, I worked for BLM from 2002 to 2017, and I nearly lost my BLM job trying to get BLM to do its job.  Among many other things, I filed a whistleblower complaint on the Bundy situation.  It was poorly handled and I was never allowed to see the final investigation report or the DOI response.  If my complaint had been properly handled, it might have defused the situation before the Bunkerville standoff.  I’ve learned that the sloth, cowardice, and incompetence of DOI and DOJ officials have enabled this situation to persist.  Indeed, these federal officials share culpability with Mr. Bundy and his militia followers because they have been incapable or unwilling to do their basic jobs over many years.  This pattern of appeasement must stop.  Please contact me for detailed information on what has failed in the past and what is likely to work going forward.  I am 69 and, if it is not asking too much, I would like to see this situation resolved before I die of old age.  
Thank you very much for your consideration.
Richard Spotts
Saint George Utah 84790


  1. Maggie Frazier Avatar
    Maggie Frazier

    I agree – the whole “militia” routine during the Bundy mess should have been dealt with. Someone who has had free access to public lands for how long? If its been possible to correct this kind of mess in the past – why has it been so difficult to charge Bundy & remove his access to a National Monument & critical habitat? What makes this family so untouchable? After the Malheur standoff & the family members being let off with no consequence? What goes on here?

  2. Mark Bailey Avatar

    I remember reading about the Bundy disgrace in the 90’s in a national newspaper and thinking how bizarre the news can get in the West. Now all this time has passed and the reprobate’s cows are still out illegally in the desert. Beyond surreal. It is an embarrassment to the law, to all law abiding citizens, and to those who fight ineffectually against cows and their many trespasses.

  3. Makuye Avatar

    It IS time this enabling and laissez-faire withdrawal of community governance is addressed.

    Those are harsh words for Interior and Justice staff, and some investigative action does need to be done to corroborate.
    Sloth, cowardice,and incompetence will be accompanied by deception, which includes lies,attempts to place responsibility elsewhere, and perhaps denial of sufficient probability of removal outcome.

    Crafting a letter to DoI appears to be the first step.

    Having no personal contact with organizations local to the Gold Butte NM, Lake Mead NRA (and NRAs are constructs created to allow quite destructive use of public lands), or FWS management of designated Critical Habitat, what’s necessary is to engage whatever environmental organizations involve themselves with litigation in Southern Nevada, along with the larger orgs like Center for biological Diversity, Western Law, and Earthjustice.
    To put several in contact with Mr Spotts ASAP is necessary to demonstrate larger scale public backing of Mr. Spotts’ call to remedial action.

  4. Toni Mitchell Avatar
    Toni Mitchell

    Finally,there are those who wish to stop the lawless behavior of the Bundy’s and their co-conspirators! The book: American Zion, Cliven Bundy, God & Public Lands in the West by Betsy Quammen is an excellently researched history of the rise of the Bundy belief system and their insurgency against agents of the US Govt. and all who hold dear the beauties of the West and those who defend them!

  5. Makuye Avatar

    In order to place pressure on DoI, DoJ, , extensive support will include Nevada residents contacting their US Senators and Representatives.
    Contact info :
    For Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen

    representatives in relevant districts:
    District 4 Steven Horsford
    District 3 Susie Lee
    District 1 Dina Titus

    Office locations and phones can be found on the sites.
    I have omitted District 2 as not relevant to the public lands or agencies where the Bundy violations have occurred.

  6. Makuye Avatar

    Sierra Club’s Nevada presence, called Toyabe, after a mountain flower in the Asteracia/Daisy family.
    No direct contact with the Southern Nevada Sierra Club seems available, so here’s the Sierra Club director for the state:

  7. Lou Avatar

    I don’t think you can count on residents of many western states to support this, so appealing to their representatives in Congress will not work. It will have to be a situation that does not involve trials, since those held in rural parts of those states will acquit. So if putting him in jail for contempt and putting on a lien can work without local support, please do it. Allowing this to go on for years makes a mockery of the law.

  8. Makuye Avatar

    Friends of Nevada Wilderness might be responsive to the Bundy assault on public lands and Critical Habitat for Endangered and Threatened Species. Here is their Southern Nevada Programs Director (she will not receive your email until next Monday, but your input will be Valuable!)

  9. nota poot Avatar
    nota poot

    Ammon started working his PRN and did a speaking tour through NV and UT that entailed the usual tears and tyranny over Bundy Ranch. It’s my belief he is ginning up his posse for Bundy Ranch v.2. Cliven has already said he expects the Feds to come after him again due to the election.

  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    Ammon has decided to make his career as an agitator because that is the skill he has learned best.
    He’s now in Idaho running for governor (kind of), but his goals seem to me to be to stir things up wherever he can if it will get his name, face, video in the news in order to build some kind of following. Yes, he wants a Bundy Ranch v.2., but he also seems to be moving beyond public lands to do it. He is like the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, etc.

  11. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    Great letter. They were coddled much too much then. I hope the state of Idaho isn’t silly enough to vote him into office, but you never know.

    They don’t have the best track record as far as governors go. 🙁

  12. Ann Seccombe Avatar
    Ann Seccombe

    The Bundy cabal has been in power for a long time. They now have the support of much of the population in a number of western states – Utah,Nevada,Idaho,Wyoming,Montana,to name a few.
    Christopher Ketcham’s book – ‘This Land: How Cowboys, Capitalism, and Corruption Are Ruining the American West’
    offers a well-researched rundown on this situation.

  13. Real US Patriot Avatar
    Real US Patriot

    The underlying question is- what lies did welfare rancher Cliven Bundy promote such that the white separatist militias would flock to his defense?

    Bundy had over a decade to state his case in the courts- and lost, lost… LOST! He now owes We the People over $1,000,000 in grazing fees and court fines. PAY UP SQUATTER!

    No one wants an overbearing, undisciplined government- we ARE seeing that with how the BLM is carrying our rampant assaults on wild horses across the West. But this isn’t about the BLM, not in Bundy’s case.

    There are a myriad of false narratives, myths & outright lies re Bundy- from ‘these are actually his family’s property as settlers’ to ‘the damn gov’mint needs a teachin’ etc etc.

    The fact is that Bundy HAD been paying the extremely LOW grazing fee until he decided he didn’t like to be told what he could do on OUR PUBLIC LANDS! Not ‘his’ property- the public lands of the American people.

    He needs to be arrested; he needs liens to be placed on the entirety of his property and assets. If it breaks him, that was his choice. If his anti-government wacko son wants to take up arms, do so. We will not have remorse nor pity when he and the rest are laid to rest.

    We are a nation of laws; he had his MANY DAYS in court. And lost. Time to pay the piper- one way or another. Just another fake martyr for those who embrace anarchy & fake sovereignty- and that goes for all the politicians / sheriffs who came to his defense.


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