Federal government withdraws from Nevada ranch standoff

I caught wind of the Bundy ranch standoff in Nevada last week, and watched as the standoff between the Bureau of Land Management’s shock troops and an obstinate Mormon cowboy family escalated to ominous proportions.  At one point, a no-fly zone was declared over the disputed area.  The government had already set up “First Amendment zones,” little corrals of orange rubber fencing where you had to stand if you wanted to exercise your First Amendment rights without getting a bit of rough treatment.  I was going to ask if someone standing in a First Amendment zone, on a ladder tall enough to elevate him into the no-fly zone, was still allowed to take pictures of what the feds were up to.  Where does the First Amendment Zone end, and the No-Fly Zone begin?

But I never got the chance to ask, because the BLM and its snipers withdrew on Saturday.  There was a growing amount of sympathy for the Bundy family, but how many people really expected them to win?

Fox News reports:

The Bureau of Land Management announced Saturday that it has ended its mission to remove illegal cattle from a rural Nevada range after a tense week-long standoff with a rancher and militia supporters, citing a “serious concern” for the safety of employees and the public.

“Based on information about conditions on the ground, and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public,” the statement read.

Bureau officials had dismantled designated protest areas supporting rancher Cliven Bundy, who they say refuses to comply with the “same laws that 16,000 public land ranchers do every year.”

“After 20 years and multiple court orders to remove the trespass cattle, Mr. Bundy owes the American taxpayers in excess of $1 million. The BLM will continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially,” the statement said. “We ask that all parties in the area remain peaceful and law-abiding as the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service work to end the operation in an orderly manner.”

A group of about 1,000 supporting Bundy cheered and sang “The Star Spangled Banner” when BLM made its announcement.

This was starting to look pretty ugly, as many of the protesters were showing up armed; there was talk of another Ruby Ridge or Waco incident brewing.  Supporters of rancher Cliven Bundy pointed to his family’s century-long history of grazing on the disputed land, long before the Bureau of Land Management even existed.  Bundy himself argues the federal government does not have the authority to kick him off the disputed land or charge him grazing fees, an argument he hasn’t been able to sell in court despite years of effort.  The government was supposedly closing off the land to protect an endangered desert tortoise, but critics dispute that the cattle were truly a threat to the tortoises’ survival, or indeed whether the tortoise is truly “endangered” to begin with.  The more trenchant critics of the BLM say the whole thing was a land grab to benefit one of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) big donors, a theory that will sound plausible to anyone familiar with how Reid and his family do business.

So all the guns, helicopters, and armored vehicles go back to their bases, and the Bundy cattle saga rolls back into the courts.  What’s really striking about the whole incident is how it comes after months of watching our lawless government and aristocratic ruling class ignore and rewrite every rule that gets in their way.  Yes, court decisions must eventually be enforced, and the rule of law matters.  But enforcement seems highly… variable in modern America.

Cliven Bundy supposedly owes a million bucks in grazing fees?  Well, President Obama had absolutely no problem speaking before Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, and they owe two million in back taxes, which no one in the federal government seems terribly exercised about collecting.  The “rule of law” works very differently for people with the right political connections, doesn’t it?


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