You are here

welfare ranching

Extraction, Extremism, Insurrection: Impacts on Government Employees

On the Firing Line: Bullies in Stetsons

By Jeffrey St. Clair and James Ridgeway - CounterPunch, January 15, 2016

Image, right: Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. USFS.

Scanning the Sunday New York Times during the summer of 1990, President George Herbert Walker Bush read how an Idaho rancher had threatened to slit the throat of Forest Service ranger Don Oman, who had decided to reduce the number of cattle grazing on several allotments in the Twin Falls District of the Sawtooth National Forest. Bush ordered a Justice Department investigation. A White House aide called Oman and said the president wanted the ranger to know he wouldn’t tolerate harassment of federal workers.

Five years later times had changed drastically. At the half-way mark of Bill Clinton’s term in office, threats against federal employees working in the rural west had become commonplace. Many Forest Service and BLM workers had to travel in pairs, maintaining constant radio contact with ranger offices. Their families routinely received death threats aimed not just at the workers, but also at their children.

In the face of these rising tensions, President Clinton reacted in a markedly different way than his predecessor. His administration placed a gag order on Forest Service employees talking about their harassment, ordered line officers on the public range to quit complaining and retreated from legal confrontation with violent anti-government vigilantes.

After the Oklahoma City bombings, the situation across the whole of the West became more tense. “There’s more people now kind of watching their backs,” said Doug Zimmer, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officer. “You pull into a rest stop driving from Spokane to Seattle and you park away from the other vehicles. That kind of thing.”

At public meeting in December 2004, one man told Zimmer he was going back to his truck to get a gun. Another threatened to rope him to his pickup and drag him through town. The situation got so bad that the Washington state Department of Ecology removed state logos from many of its trucks and cars.

In the mountains outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, a rancher by the name of Cliveden Bundy decided to excavate a gravel quarry on public lands. When BLM rangers came out to the site to halt the unauthorized mining, Bundy threatened to “blow [their] fucking heads off.” Bundy wasn’t arrested. Indeed, he continued to mine gravel and threaten BLM officials.

“The BLM and Forest Service managers pushed the Department of Justice to act, but the Clinton administration was loath to respond in an aggressive manner,” said Jeff DeBonis, a former Forest Service worker who founded Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

“The most they were willing to do was to belatedly file civil suits,” said Andy Stahl of the Association of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics. “The problems seemed to lie with top-level managers in the Forest Service and in the office of general counsel of the Department of Agriculture, some of whom were sympathetic with the claims of many of these ranchers and county leaders.”

Well, If You Ask Me: By the time I get to Oregon

By Dano T Bob - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, January 10, 2016

So, I guess I gotta weigh in on this whole Oregon wildlife preserve/bird sanctuary/stolen native land takeover thing. Jeez, what a spectacle! I guess that is what the “wanna be militia” wanted, though, right? I’m just not sure why we are obliging to give it to them, but it is a bit too late to stop that.

My first thought upon hearing about it was to ignore it, not give them my media attention. No, I don’t think they should be ignored period, at the risk that they turn out to be dangerous and harmful to the land and people, etc. But, media-wise, I wish that we collectively didn’t believe the hype, which I don’t personally.

A couple of good reads have summed up a lot of my thoughts on this. The irony of bourgeois white men talking about this collectivized land as “stolen” from them, while ignoring it was stolen from indigenous peoples, as Earth First so correctly points out. Yeah, the Paiute are probably first in line if anyone has dibs to this land first stolen from them by the government and then set aside and reserved for the public, and for endangered birds.

Oh, and poor ole Ammon Bundy! Sure, government oppression is real and fucked up, but getting a $53,000 dollar Small Business Administration loan, and refusing to pay public grazing fees for your cattle at below market rate prices, is not exactly my idea of “oppression” at all, more like class warfare from those with money, privilege and resources refusing to pay for the collective good of our society to use public land to make more money for themselves, at our expense. And yes, you read that right, Oregon ranchers are getting a 93 percent discount from the going market rate, according to, to use OUR public land for their own benefit and cattle grazing.

I will say, though, that Jacobin did have a very thoughtful article on the real problem with those calling for state violence or crackdown on these “occupiers.”

I quote, “But what we must not do is call for the police to move in with the tear gas and rubber bullets of Ferguson and Baltimore, or the live rounds of MOVE or Wounded Knee, because equal injustice is not justice done.

I complete agree, and hope that more rational minds and more radical attitudes come to favor this view. The rest of the article is gold and I want to quote it at length.

Capital Blight - Bull$#@+!

By x344543 - May 1, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Now the Bureau of Land Management is part of the U.S.,
And they manage the Earth much better than anyone else I guess,
They know about the forest and the mountains high above,
And they know what each damn tree is worth 'cause trees are what they love.

Now they lease our land for cattle 'cause they love the wildlife so,
And keeping all the trees cut down helps the grass population grow,
But our land is reaping fortunes so the U.S. can survive,
Each acre stomped by cattle earns a dollar thirty five.

Hey BLM you ain't the friend of the eagle and the bear,
But the corporations love you 'cause they get the lion's share,
Could it be you're jealous of the world you're tearing down?,
'Cause if you was one tenth of a eagle, You'd be see better than you see now.

--Lyrics Excerpted from The Ballad of the BLM, by Darryl Cherney, from the album, I Had to Be Born This Century, 1986

By now many people have heard news from the western US state of Nevada about rancher Cliven Bundy's standoff with the United States Government--specifically the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)--ostensibly over grazing rights and land use fees. Between April 5 and 12, 2014 federally contracted wranglers had impounded approximately 400 head of cattle from federal land near Bundy's ranch in the southern part of the state, about 80 miles north of Las Vegas. However, on April 13, they ceased doing so, and the BLM released all of the cattle they had coralled.

The US government declares that they had been removing Bundy’s cattle and impounding them in a corral in nearby Mesquite, NV, because the rancher has kept his more than 900 head of cattle on a piece of 600,000-acre federal land for the past two decades and has refused to pay taxes since 1993, when the federal government increased the grazing fees in order to save critical habitat for the endangered Mojave Desert tortoise.

Bundy, a self-described "self-made" rancher, disputes the government's claims. He insists that his Mormon family has owned the land in question since the 1800s--before the creation of the Department of the Interior and before the government tried to save endangered species, which he says should make him immune from having to pay these federal taxes. He is also a staunch advocate of "states' rights", and as such, he challenges the US federal government's ability to charge grazing fees at all. Failing that, he claims that his faith also gives him special privileges to do as he pleases.

Bundy may claim that the BLM's sudden reversal was due to his claims having merit, but it's much more likely that the BLM backed down because the rancher received support from several hundred armed right wing "militia" and tea party zealots from various states including Utah, Virginia, Texas, Montana, Idaho and Wisconsin, all of whom were more than willing to come to the supposedly embattled rancher's aid, and the local government officials backed down hoping to prevent a violent stand off.

As a result, Bundy became an overnight sensation and a capitalist media darling, at least for the far right

Environmentalists have--with much justification--reacted disdainfully to this turn of events, opining that the results will be further degradation to the embattled desert environment (certainly due to Bundy's continued grazing activities, not to mention the further abuses that the BLM's capitulation will no doubt enable from others of like mind).

Meanwhile, crypto fascist ideologues, fake "libertarians", and other assorted right wing talking heads are spinning this as a "victory" against the "guv'mint", "communism", and "heathen environmentalists". No siree-bob, these "law abiding Americuns" aren't gonna be bullied by agencies being controlled by a secret cabal of "granola eating, Prius driving, commie loving, latte sipping, liberal elitist unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs."

Predictably, the Capitalist Media has been spinning this squabble as a case of an (overzealous, perhaps) land owner and an equally overzealous and over reaching government agency. It certainly hasn't helped matters that the television "news" outlets have shown images of one of the Bundy supporters being tazed by law enforcement agents, though, of course, this is an image taken out of context. The capitalist state has been, in general, far more violent towards peaceful unarmed demonstrators on the left.

Unfortunately, even some self-described anarchists who should know better have expressed sympathy for Bundy, "because"--they argue--"he's anti-government, taking direct action against the state, and fighting against (sic!) enclosures", and what's more, "he's no different that indigenous people being told they cannot engage in subsistence grazing on wilderness lands by privileged, white environmentalists"!

In truth, this series of events goes far deeper than a mere land dispute or a battle between those who support individual property rights versus those who desire a bureaucratic state and "burdensome" environmental regulations.


So many inaccuracies, untruths, and utter falsehoods have been uttered in the wake of this incident, it's difficult to tell who is producing more manure: Bundy's cows or Bundy's supporters, the naive and gullible "radicals" who actually believe Bundy is a closeted fellow traveler, and the all-too-compliant capitalist media.

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.