Most of you probably remember the saga of Cliven Bundy from last year. The Nevada Rancher was in a legal battle with the federal government and the state of Nevada over grazing fees and property rights which turned into a standoff between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and a literal army of Bundy’s supporters. Cliven’s cattle had been rustled out from under him and parts of his land blocked off. After some tense moments in the confrontation the BLM blinked first, packed their things and left. They vowed at the time that Bundy hadn’t heard the last of them, but as NPR reports, Bundy is still there and nothing noticeable has changed.
Bundy owes more than $1 million in delinquent cattle grazing fees and penalties, but the BLM has stayed quiet in the year since the showdown, and Bundy’s supporters marked the anniversary by throwing a party.
For Robert Crooks, founder of the Mountain Minutemen, it was part reunion and part victory celebration.
“What you’re seeing here are the people that were here in the beginning, and will be here in the end,” Crooks said. “We’re gonna stand our ground.”
The event was billed as a “Liberty Celebration,” with a barbecue featuring Bundy-raised beef, patriotic music, cowboy poetry, off-roading and shooting. Crooks proudly carried his semi-automatic handgun on his hip. He spent a good deal of the past year camped out in his RV near the driveway that leads to Bundy’s ranch house.
According to the NPR update above, the BLM has pretty given up on patrolling a huge section of the southeastern corner of the state where Bundy lives. The court action seems to have stalled as well. But that doesn’t mean that nothing at all has changed. The showdown at the Bundy ranch caught the attention of many state lawmakers and they’ve begun working on new legislation which would return control of the land to the state and its residents rather than Uncle Sam.
Nevada’s bill, sponsored by Republican state Assemblywoman Michelle Fiore, has some momentum behind it. Speaking on a show she hosts on a Las Vegas conservative news talk station, Fiore said the effort was about getting “our land back in the hands of the people, where it belongs.”
Like other sections of the mountain west, the federal government controls more than three quarters of Nevada’s land. This has set up conditions where Washington has been charging taxes and fees on residents completely outside of state control since before Nevada was even a state, and little has changed to this day. The residents are obviously are getting fed up with it and have begun pushing back.
One wonders how much this current battle reflects on the President’s widely discussed plans to block off even more lands as monuments or protected wilderness areas without the cooperation of the states. In nearby Colorado, that battle has been going on for some time and resulted in more than a little backlash. We seem to be living in a renewed era of states rights battles where people seek to reassert local control rather than leaving everything under the thumb of Washington. It’s a rather refreshing change.