April 16th: Seeking the Truth About Cliven Bundy
Most people who keep up with such things are aware of last week's standoff between rancher Cliven Bundy and the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It seems everyone has an opinion. Rather than weigh in with mine, I think it is more appropriate to define the issues.
BLM's position is that the federal government owns the land upon which Bundy has been grazing his cattle, and as the government's designated agent, BLM claims the right to do with the land as it sees fit-- including the right to remove Bundy and his cattle.
Bundy claims his family has been grazing cattle on this land for more than 100 years, and has the right to continue to do so, indefinitely, without paying any fees or obtaining any permits.
BLM has taken Bundy to court and, according to the government, Bundy did not prove his case. Bundy's response has been that he does not recognize the jurisdiction of the federal government over the land.
This has been dubbed a "State's Rights" issue by some of the alternative media. By "alternative media" I mean, of course, Infowars, Glenn Beck, Drudge Report, and others. There is no question in my mind that these media sources are fast becoming more mainstream than the so-called Mainstream Media. Increasingly these are the sources people (myself included) go to for the "real news."
I've listened to Alex Jones on the Infowars Nightly News tell me that Bundy owns grazing rights and water rights in this land, which are the same as owning mineral rights. I normally trust Jones and his news agency, but in this case I can't help wonder if we are really getting the truth.
I began my study of law with land and property rights, so this is something I understand quite well. I'm not going to pretend I've studied the specific history of Nevada and its public lands-- I have not. However I found an article written by Ken Cole and Ralph Maughan which provides quite a bit of background.
http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2014/04/ ... d-grazing/
The authors lay out a brief history of how and when the land was acquired from Mexico by the United States government, and the various Acts which have been passed through to the present day. It is also useful to read the comments below the article, as some of the commenters appear to be knowledgeable of the history.
My readers know I am an advocate of State's rights, and the people's rights to be free of the juridiction of the federal government. As much as I would personally like Bundy to be right, I have to ask for the evidence.
It is a standard throughout the united States that before courts will recognize rights in real property, a document giving evidence of those rights must be recorded with the County Registrar. If Bundy has grazing and water rights in the subject lands then his family, at some time in the past, acquired documentation of those rights. That documentation will have been recorded with the County. Bundy can simply go down to the Registrar's office, get a copy of the evidentiary instrument, and post it on the Internet for all of us to see. In fact, I hereby offer to post that document free of charge here on The Lawful Path, as a public service.
Sure, the document won't have Cliven Bundy's name on it, but there are ways to establish heirship. Probate records, affidavits of heirship and identity, are all standard tools for substantiating evidence of heirship, inheritance, and succession.
I suspect that if any such documentation existed, Bundy would have presented it already. That leaves other means of acquiring right or title.
Bundy does not claim to own the land, just the grazing and water rights. So he has not been paying property taxes. (I don't agree with the concept of property taxes, but if he had been paying taxes it would be evidence of a claim.)
How about adverse possession? In Nevada, as in other states, if a person possesses land continuously, openly, notoriously, and adversely for a period of years, that person may sue to "quiet title" away from the title owner. If the court agrees and grants a judgment, this person becomes the new owner. The term of years in Nevada is twenty; in other states it varies. Bundy, whose family has been using this land for more than one-hundred years, would certainly fall within the timeframe. Presumeably, Bundy has not done this, and would not want to do this since, if he takes title to the land, he will be required to pay property taxes on it. Could he win such a claim if he sued for it?
Let's take the case of two people, Adam and Bill, who own land jointly. Bill lives on the land continuously, and uses it every day for more than twenty years. Bill pays all the property taxes, even though Adam never visits, and won't pay his share. Finally Bill gets fed up, and sues for adverse possession. Will he win?
No, Bill cannot take Adam's share of the land through adverse possession, because Bill's use was not adverse. He owned an undivided share in the land and, therefore, had the right to use it. The fact that Adam did not visit it or pay the taxes is immaterial.
This is why in theory no person can sue the government for adverse possession, no matter how long that person may have used the land. As a member of the public, that person owns an interest in the land.
An issue I have not seen raised before may apply in this case: Bundy has not paid permit fees or applied for permits since 1993. He has used the land continuously, over the objections of the goverment for more than twenty years. There is at least a potential argument that his use has been adverse. Of course I doubt he could ever enforce such a claim.
In closing, I'll just say that I cheered along with the protesters when BLM backed down last Saturday. However I do not think for a minute that this is over. In the meantime, if Bundy has any real evidence of his rights in that land, he should produce it as soon as possible.
Past and present notices and rants from the Editor. Please feel free to discuss the topics posted, but please do NOT add new topics. Thanks.
1 post • Page 1 of 1