We’ve been discussing this on Twitter for a while, but I was waiting to see how the story would end out in Nevada. (And before we get too far ahead of ourselves, I seriously doubt this is “over” in the long run.) Cattle rancher Cliven Bundy has been in a tense standoff federal agents and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for some time now, as many of our readers are already well aware. Today Bundy seemed to win something of a victory – at least for now – as the Feds departed.
A Nevada cattle rancher appears to have won his week-long battle with the federal government over a controversial cattle roundup that had led to the arrest of several protesters.
Cliven Bundy went head to head with the Bureau of Land Management over the removal of hundreds of his cattle from federal land, where the government said they were grazing illegally.
Bundy claims his herd of roughly 900 cattle have grazed on the land along the riverbed near Bunkerville, 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, since 1870 and threatened a “range war” against the BLM on the Bundy Ranch website after one of his sons was arrested while protesting the removal of the cattle.
“I have no contract with the United States government,” Bundy said. “I was paying grazing fees for management and that’s what BLM was supposed to be, land managers and they were managing my ranch out of business, so I refused to pay.”
The federal government had countered that Bundy “owes the American people in excess of $1 million ” in unpaid grazing fees and “refuses to abide by the law of land, despite many opportunities over the last 20 years to do so.”
The main reason I say, “for now” is that I somehow doubt that the BLM is simply going to go away for good after getting this kind of a media black eye. But for the moment, the risk of additional confrontation and potentially escalating violence has led them to get out of Dodge before this turned into another Ruby Ridge type scenario. (Do these guys actually learn things from history? That would be refreshing.) But at any rate, round one goes to Bundy and the many people who flocked to the area to support him.
In terms of media coverage, I’ll leave you with an interesting comparison between conservative and liberal coverage of the event. First, from the Left.
Armed Right-Wing Militia Members Descend On Nevada To Help Rancher Defy Court Order
“We provide armed response,” according to a Montana militia member named Jim Lordy. Lordy traveled to Nevada in order to support a local rancher for believes that he should not have to follow federal court orders. When he arrived there, he told a local reporter that “[w]e need guns to protect ourselves from the tyrannical government.”
And from the Right.
Victory for Cliven Bundy, Nevada rancher who challenged feds
Citing safety concerns, federal agents are withdrawing from the Nevada cattle ranch where they had engaged in a week-long showdown with Cliven Bundy, a 67-year-old rancher who claimed the federal government had no right to tax and regulate property his family has owned since 1880.
You get the gist. This is actually a complicated situation, as much as Bundy is clearly the sympathetic favorite here. The behavior of the federal agents has been nothing short of appalling, with armed intruders, the removal of Bundy’s cattle and various military might deployed to the land where these cattle have grazed for generations. But at the same time, the government has more than a feeble leg to stand on in terms of unpaid grazing fees. (An issue which could have been handled better on Bundy’s end.) But this rancher is once again raising awareness of vital questions of federal vs state vs private property rights.
In another era, Bundy would likely have been quietly run out of business and – literally – lost the farm. Now, thanks to his own efforts in reaching out and the participation of media watchers around the nation, along with volunteers who showed up to help, he and his family may actually get a fair hearing and a chance to keep what they have worked so long and so hard for. But, as I said above, this one will be developing for some time to come if I’m right.