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Ex-BLM official: Agency must speak out to explain Bundy Ranch situation

by Jon Ralston 04/19/2014

The Bureau of Land Management, which has been noticeably silent since backing off the Bundy Ranch roundup, needs to publicly explain what happened or uninformed and incendiary voices will dominate the discussion, a former, high-ranking agency staffer said.

"After watching the news cycle during the last 48 hours it's time for you and others to start putting some pressure on DOI(Department of Interior) /BLM to explain themselves," said Mike Ford, who worked for the BLM for 25 years in five states, including Nevada. "Their absence of any comments is allowing folks like (Assemblywoman) Michele Fiore to define the issue and the terms. The longer they say or do nothing the worse things get.  Where is anyone from the federal government, including DOJ, and why are they not saying anything? I suspect the media, on all sides, continues to be very frustrated."

He's right, of course. My "Ralston Reports" producer repeatedly has tried to get the BLM to comment. And I am surprised that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in between calling Bundy and his enablers "domestic terrorists," has not urged his ex-aide, Neil Kornze, to explain what really happened near Bunkerville. Reid has said he talked to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell -- why didn't he tell her to say something, anything?

Instead, we have people such as Fiore spouting nonsense about finding who sold the state land to the feds and Reid's colleague, GOP Sen. Dean Heller, calling the militia men "patriots" and going on about "200 armed men" from the BLM.

Ford, who previously has said Bundy must be arrested, also was appalled at the interview Fiore gave Friday evening to "All in With Chris Hayes" from a Bundy Ranch barbecue and in which she repeatedly ignored Hayes' questions, invoked illegal immigrants and said in such situations as the BLM created just northeast of Las Vegas, "Don't expect the American people not to fire back."

"I watched the Fiore interview on Chris Hayes and she is now making it all about the money and the fact 'BLM sent armed guards to collect a bill' from a good God-fearing American citizen," said Ford. "She is so far off base that it is unbelievable although I suspect the postion is gaining sympathy among the uninformed since there is no rebuttal. Then, Senator Reid's comments have not been helpful and now this thing is taking on an entirely different life and renewed energy and the message is being defined by the inmates."

Ford said too much of the discussion has been about how much Bundy owes the federal government.

"This was never about the money and BLM has been stupid to let that dominate the discussion," Ford said. "It was about Bundy's unauthorized use (commonly known as trespass) and the fact he has not had an authorized/legal permit or authorization (from anyone) to use the land he is grazing on for over 20 years.  Removing the cows and stopping cattle trespass is the issue, not the back fees and penalties, which I doubt BLM will ever collect.  His cows are running wild and free on land he does not own, control, or have any valid right to use. We are not living in the 1800s with Open Range.  In fact, his cows are freely running up and down the Virgin River, they stray onto private land and golf courses in Mesquite, and they roam freely on over 300,000 acres of private and public land, including that managed by the BLM and the (National Park Service).  Who else in America gets to take that kind of advantage, from anyone, and hold themselves out to be a patriot and hero?"

Exactly.

I'd guess the BLM and other federal agencies are worried about taking the next step in the cattle roundup and fear inflaming an already tense situation at the ranch. (Some of the militia are still there.) But by saying nothing, they are allowing anyone, including ignorant and opportunistic politicians, to fill in the gaps.

Hey, Mr. Kornze, are you listening? Secretary Jewell?