Protestors in Nevada brought a new meaning to the phrase “until the cows come home” this week.
Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard about the standoff between the federal government and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, the mainstream media has been eerily silent during the last week.
The conflict, which came to a (somewhat peaceful) end Sunday with the local Sheriff acting as an arbiter between the feds, Bundy, and several protesters who came in to support the rancher.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which owns 84 percent of land in Nevada, established the lands around the Bundy ranch as the habitat of the endangered Desert Tortoise in 1993, and instituted a tax in an effort to dissuade local ranchers from allowing their livestock to graze on the federal land.
Bundy, who claims that his family has been ranching the land for over a century and thus falls under Homesteading laws, refused to pay the tax, which many sources estimate to be $1.1 million. As a result of the fines and trespassing cattle, the BLM began rounding up, and in some cases slaughtering, Bundy’s cattle.
“My forefathers have been up and down the Virgin Valley ever since 1877.” Bundy said in an interview with local CBS affiliate KLAS. “All these rights I claim have been created through pre-emptive rights and beneficial use of the forage and water. I have been here longer. My rights are before the BLM even existed.”
Somewhere between 100 and 300 protesters, many of whom were armed, traveled to the ranch last week to stand up for Bundy’s decision to keep ranching the land and not pay the fine.
For the next several days the protesters, Bundy, and his family were embroiled in a standoff with heavily armed federal agents. The government agents even went so far as to establish “First Amendment areas” some distance from the ranch, in order to attempt to keep protesters from getting too close. The zones were promptly mocked by the internet:
The standoff has been called an eyeopening glimpse into how the federal government views its ‘subjects.’
“This is a lot bigger deal than just my cows,” Bundy told FoxNews.com. “It’s a statement for freedom and liberty and the Constitution.”
Here’s the good news: not only was the conflict ended with a small victory against an overreaching state, it was reached without a single fatality or fired shot. Federal agents left the premises Sunday, and returned Bundy’s livestock. All violence was perpetrated by government agents and was in the form of shoving, tazing, and dogs. This is an encouraging reminder that putting a name and a face to the fight against government encroachment is a winning tactic.
Furthermore, it has served to expose some of the nasty dealings perpetrated by Nevada Senator and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The BLM is currently headed by a former senior policy advisor to Majority Leader Reid, Neil Kornze. This connection has brought many to speculate that the move by the BLM is a political strategy.
Known to many as “Dirty Harry,” this wouldn’t be the first time the lifelong politician has used the auspices of environmentalism and the power of his office to enact or enforce unreasonable bureaucracy. Reid previously worked to change the borders of the Desert Tortoise’s habitat to benefit a corporation owned by one of his top donors.
Another fun bit of irony? The feds have reportedly spent upwards of $3 million to remove Bundy’s cattle from the land in question. About three times as much as they claim he owes them.
Bundy remarked that there were previously hundreds of ranchers in the area, and now it is just down to him, due to pressure from the BLM and the federal government over the last few decades.
MSNBC also showed whose pants their hand is in when the host of “All In,” Chris Hayes, criticized “the right wing media” (read, Fox News) for favorably covering the showdown at Bundy Ranch.
Reid has said that the conflict is ‘not over’ but that doesn’t put a damper on my enthusiasm over this weekend’s outcome. In a staring contest between the federal government and a relatively small group of determined people, the people won, and no blood was shed. The laughable institution of “Free Speech Areas” was rightfully mocked, and the government was forced to acknowledge its own hypocrisy. Millions of people were shown first hand what happens when a citizen defies his government, and were left with a bad taste in their mouths.