By VERNON ROBISON
Moapa Valley Progress
Bunkerville resident Cliven Bundy has a plan for much of the public land in northeastern Clark County. And he wants to share it with all the neighboring residents of the area, as well as get their input.
The world-renown rancher, known for taking a firm position against federal government agencies in a 2014 standoff over grazing rights, will be presenting a comprehensive draft land use plan to the Moapa Valley Town Advisory Board (MVTAB) on Wednesday, December 12 in the Overton Community Center. The meeting starts at 7:00 pm.
“This is being presented in draft form because I would really like to have the input of the people of northeastern Clark County added to it,” Bundy said last week in an interview with the Progress. “That is why I’m bringing it to the local town boards. I’d like to have a lot of people turn out and make comments on it.”
After the document has been discussed at the town board level in both Moapa Valley and Bunkerville, Bundy hopes to present it to the Board of County Commissioners for further action.
Bundy’s plan stresses the rights of the people of northeast Clark County to have access to the public land that surrounds them. It would allow the public to have “100 percent access” to what the document calls “Bundy Ranch,” a huge area of public land including portions of the Mormon Mesa, the Virgin River valley, the lower Moapa Valley, Virgin Mountains, and the vast area commonly known as Gold Butte.
The plan opens these lands to the public for multiple uses including picnics, camping, RVs, hunting, fishing, off-road vehicles, hiking, bicycling and generally enjoying the scenery. Prominent in the plan is the requirement that all roads in the area remain open to the public.
Bundy’s document also proposes that the people of northeast Clark County work together on plans for improvements to facilitate these uses on the land. These include the development of new camping areas, expansion of trail systems, establishment of private enterprise travel centers to accommodate remote off-road travel, and even privately-run ferry systems to move ATVs across Lake Mead from the Overton side and back.
The document also plans for preserving ancient petroglyph and other native American sites, as well as cultural sites involving pioneer communities and mining heritage.
Bundy’s draft also suggest techniques for managing water, wildlife and other natural resources in the area.
In an attempt to preserve traditional agricultural uses on currently held private lands, the plan suggests that large tracts of land, adjacent to existing communities, be set aside for future development. Specifically mentioned is a 4500 acre block of land directly south of Bunkerville, and another 9600 acres on the east bench of the Moapa Valley.
Bundy proposes that these lands could be used to save the remaining green areas in the two river valleys for agricultural use. Existing owners of the remaining agricultural lands could trade those green belt lands, acre for acre, for developable lands in these two designated tracts of public land, Bundy said.
“These are the areas that could be the center of future growth in the communities,” Bundy said. “All the while, we could be saving the green areas and the beauty and strength of agriculture in our valleys.”
But underlying the entire plan is the deeper issue of jurisdiction and authority to make these decisions. Federal agencies have already adopted much of the public lands in northeastern Clark County as federal lands. Detailed planning for these lands has been placed under the charge of the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service. As such, they have long been subject to complex federal planning processes and land use designations. In recent decades, those actions have usually resulted in greater restrictions, Bundy said..
“The federal government is good at drawing maps and making lines and boundaries out there,” Bundy said. “They draw lines for studying areas that might be wilderness, and pretty soon it becomes wilderness…all because someone first listed it on a map.”
“Little by little, the feds have established themselves out there, and put borders around themselves,” Bundy added. “Eventually those borders are generally accepted and become the law of the land. In the end, we have seen that their plans and maps have planned We the People right off of the land.”
But Bundy disputes whether the federal government has any real jurisdiction to make such plans in the first place. According to Bundy, the Constitution gives the federal government no power over lands that have been disposed in the admission of a state, Bundy said. He points out that, in 1866, when the Congress added Clark County lands into the existing state of Nevada, that act should have marked the end of federal control over those lands.
And what about the federal designations, the plans and maps that have already been done for that land by federal agencies? Bundy argues that they are all invalid. Designations made by the federal government on Clark County lands; such as National Monuments, Wilderness, ACECs and even National Park lands; simply don’t exist because the federal government has overreached its Constitutional authority in creating them to begin with, Bundy says.
“It is not their land to begin with,” Bundy said. “It belongs to we the people of Clark County, and it is us who should be managing and planning on it.”
Bundy insists that folks getting behind Bundy’s plan is a way to empower the people of northeastern Clark County to take a stand. “It is not defiant act and it is not lawlessness,” he said. “It is simply claiming back what is rightfully ours. It is just taking a stand for what is right.”
Next week’s meeting will be the third time that this item has come before the MVTAB. Each previous time, the item was held off to allow the public to become better informed on Bundy’s plan.
During that time, Bundy has published his entire plan in the Progress (Nov. 11, 2018 edition) so that residents could read it and familiarize themselves with it’s details. This time, MVTAB members hope that the issue will bring a solid turn out to the meeting.
Either way, Bundy anticipates moving forward with his plan. “Look, my rights are secure, I am going to go on ranching out there,” Bundy said. “But what about your rights. What about the rights of the people who live in these communities? You are being locked off of the land. So it might be to your advantage to join in with this plan and be a part of it.”