Endangered reptiles stage heavily armored takeover of cattleman’s property
April 1, 2016
Citing grievous damage to their homeland, a militia composed of endangered desert tortoises has commenced a hostile occupation of Cliven Bundy’s ranch in southeastern Nevada. The heavily armed reptiles have vowed to remain until the scofflaw rancher recognizes their right to exist — however long that takes.
“This compound has been a symbol of tyranny and unconstitutional oppression for far too long,” said desert tortoise Lester Agassiz, the occupation’s self-proclaimed leader, at a Friday press conference. “Mr. Bundy’s cows have eaten our forage, defecated in our springs, and generally run roughshod over our habitat, all while violating the laws of the United States. It’s time for us to stand with desert fauna everywhere against this agent of injustice.”
Agassiz spoke at a makeshift camp on the outskirts of Bundy Ranch, where around half the Southwest’s estimated 100,000 desert tortoises have amassed this week to protest illegal ranching. “This occupation is not some snap decision,” Agassiz said as he munched on some shrubs. “We’ve been planning it ever since the whole Bundy issue started. We just don’t move very quickly, what with the whole ‘being tortoises’ thing.”
“But as a wise man once said,” Agassiz added, “slow and steady wins the race.”
To understand the motivation of the Tortoise Rebellion, travel back to 1993, the year the Bureau of Land Management modified Cliven Bundy’s Bunkerville grazing allotment to protect the threatened reptiles. Bundy refused to withdraw his cattle or pay grazing fees, and a two-decade legal battle ensued. The tussle turned ugly in 2014, when a platoon of Bundy’s armed supporters faced off against the BLM after the federal government tried to remove some 900 cows. The BLM ultimately caved.
That was merely the saga’s beginning. In January 2016, a band of latter-day sagebrush rebels led by Ammon Bundy, Cliven’s son, occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon to protest perceived governmental overreach. To many Bundyites, the very notion of federal land ownership is an abomination. “It says in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17, that the federal government has no right to own any of these lands,” one militia member toldHigh Country News. “If we don’t abide by the Constitution, which limits what the federal government can do, then we have no rule of law, we have no country,” he said.
Speaking outside Bundy Ranch, however, Agassiz strongly refuted those legal interpretations. “It’s like these people have never actually read the Enclave Clause or the Property Clause,” Agassiz complained, reaching into his shell to pull out a well-worn copy of the constitution. “And forget about the Endangered Species Act. I have a brain literally the size of a sunflower seed and I understand this stuff.”