After a beautiful week, winter returned on Sunday. Last week the mercury soared to 77 degrees here, and this week it dropped below 20 degrees. On Monday I fired up the wood stove to keep from freezing in the house and wouldn’t you know — we started lambing this week!

My cousin Charlie White from Michigan came for coffee Tuesday morning and brought his son Chris along to meet me. Chris White is the Maintenance Manager at the Poet bio-refinery in South Dakota and lives in Cara, Mich. We had a fun visit and went through a lot of family history. Charlie’s Grandpa Ben White and my Grandpa Clem White were brothers. Charlie and Chris were interested in the story about John Livingston having his hired man shoot my Grandpa Clem down in the Slim Buttes back in the 1920s. Bill Johnson’s grandparents, John and Nina Johnson, saved Clem’s life after seeing him fall from the saddle after he passed out from blood loss. We have a rather colorful family history, which is just what we should expect from a bunch of Scots-Irish!

Were you glued to the TV this week watching the BLM assault on Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy like I was? An estimated 200 armed officers of the BLM were deployed to Bundy’s property near Bunkerville, 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, charging the rancher has been in violation of a law that aims to protect an endangered desert tortoise. The BLM also says Bundy owes more than $1 million in grazing fees to the federal government, a charge that has been disputed as local government says the total is $300,000.

A lot of people criticize Clive Bundy because he hasn’t paid his grazing fees for 20 years. The public also wonders why so many ranchers support Mr. Bundy even though they paid their fees and Clive did not. What most people don’t know is that on every rancher’s grazing permit it says the following: “You are authorized to make grazing use of the lands, under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management and covered by this grazing permit, upon your acceptance of the terms and conditions of this grazing permit and payment of grazing fees when due.”

The mandatory terms and conditions go on to list the allotment, the number and kind of livestock to be grazed, when the permit begins and ends, the number of active or suspended AUMs (animal units per month), etc. The terms and conditions also list specific requirements such as where salt or mineral supplements can be located, maximum allowable use of forage levels (40 percent0 of annual growth), etc., and include a lot more stringent policies that must be adhered to.  

Every rancher must sign this contract agreeing to abide by the terms and conditions before they can make payment. In the early ‘90s, the BLM drastically cut almost every rancher’s permit because of the desert tortoise, although most ranchers know that cows and the desert tortoise have co-existed for a 100-plus years. As an example, one rancher had his permit cut by 90 percent. For folks who are not ranchers that would equate to getting your paycheck cut 90 percent. In 1976 there were approximately 52 ranching permittees in that area of Nevada. Presently, there are three. Most of these people lost their livelihoods because of the actions of the BLM. Clive Bundy was one of the people who received extremely unfair and unreasonable terms and conditions. Mr. Bundy was required to sign this contract before he was allowed to pay. Had Bundy signed on the dotted line he would have, in essence, signed his very livelihood away.

The BLM gathered over 400 head of Bundy’s cattle before turning them loose when thousands of people supporting Bundy showed up to protest, and all of the Nevada or Utah sales barns refused to take the cattle to sell. During the roundup, at least 26 bum calves were separated from their mothers and 139 cattle are missing and presumed dead, including a mama cow that was killed on the interstate while looking for her calf. One of Bundy’s sons was tased, another son was arrested for taking pictures of the government agents outside the “First Amendment” area BLM had set up, and Bundy’s elderly sister was smashed to the ground by a BLM agent. What country are we living in?

The federal government shouldn’t be allowed to own any land within a state’s boundaries unless it is granted permission by the legislature of that state, and so far, no state has given that permission to the federal government. Check out Article 1, Sec. 8 of the United States Constitution, and I’m sure you’ll agree with the states.

Tuesday was the last day to file your federal income tax, and Americans for Tax Reform had an article that I found interesting. Since taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama has formally proposed a total of 442 tax increases, according to an Americans for Tax Reform analysis of Obama administration budgets for fiscal years 2010 through 2015. The 442 total proposed tax increases do not include the 20 tax increases Obama signed into law as part of Obamacare.

On that happy note, here is an important tax reminder: Have you paid your taxes? Twelve  million illegal aliens are depending on you!

There is a large German speaking population in the Dakotas. One day, a local rancher driving down a country road noticed a man using his hand to drink water from the rancher’s stock pond. The rancher rolled down the window and shouted: “Sehr angenehm! Trink das Wasser nicht. Die kuehe haben darein geschissen.” Which means: “Glad to meet you! Don’t drink the water. The cows have pooped in it.”

The man shouted back: “I’m from the IRS, and I’m down here to audit your taxes. I can’t understand you. Please speak in English.”

The rancher replied: “Use both hands.”

Betty Olson is a rancher and legislator from Harding County.

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