Range Wars, Statism, and the Constitution

When I first heard that the federal government was going after a rancher’s cattle in Nevada, my first reaction was to wonder why it was such a big deal.  But the controversy with Cliven Bundy, a rancher in the middle of nowhere in the Nevada desert, should be important to every freedom-loving American.

The major media reports, of course, tended to focus on the fact that Bundy hasn’t paid “grazing fees” to the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to the tune of anywhere from $300,000 to over $1 million, depending on who you ask…but as tends to happen with the mainstream media these days, they leave out some important details.

The land where Cliven Bundy grazes his cattle is, supposedly, “public land.” This is, of course, assuming that such a thing as “public land” exists anymore – these days, “public land” really means “government land.” Bundy and his family have been ranching there for over 100 years, for far longer than the BLM has even existed. Since their livelihoods depend on it, the Bundys have taken care of the land, ensuring there was water for their cattle, as well as for other animals. And grazing their cattle there provided other benefits, as well. The cattle’s grazing cleared out the underbrush, helping to keep the area safe from wildfires.

first-amendment-areaBut as tends to happen, the creeping incrementalism of the heavy hand of government couldn’t leave these southern Nevada ranchers alone. The BLM came in to “manage” the land, and because they alleged the area’s ranchers were over-grazing, they instituted fees that ranchers had to pay in order to use this “public” land. Over time, the BLM”s restrictions made it impossible to raise cattle in that area. They finally just declared the land to be off limits to ranchers, ostensibly to reserve the area as a refuge for the endangered desert tortoise. By the time the feds came out in force to round up the Bundy’s “trespassing” cows, the rest of the ranchers had been forced out; the Bundy ranch was the only one left.

The government’s initial response to the Bundy cattle’s “trespassing” was somewhat perplexing. Dozens of heavily armed BLM agents showed up and established a huge command center. Freelance cowboys were hired. Snipers were deployed. There were even rumors of an Apache attack helicopter. The show of force was ridiculously overwhelming for an operation to round up some cattle.

There are many aspects to this debate. As I mentioned, one thing that continues to come up is the fact that Cliven Bundy has not paid BLM fees for years. The thing that tends to go unmentioned, however, is that Bundy has faithfully fulfilled his obligations to the State of Nevada. His agreement with the state government for use of the land predates the BLM.

There are also legitimate questions as to the federal government’s authority to own the land in Nevada – and in any other state, for that matter. Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution gives the federal government the authority to purchase land from state governments, but only for specific purposes, and only with the consent of the state’s legislature.

Wilderness management and turtle protection are not among the approved reasons for which the federal government is constitutionally allowed to own state land.

WHO OWNS THE WEST

In many ways, this is reminiscent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s actions in Wyoming. The EPA, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Justice got together one day and just decided that a huge chunk of Wyoming, including an entire town, would no longer belong to the state of Wyoming, and instead would be part of the adjoining Indian reservation. There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution, federal statutes, or jurisprudence giving these federal agencies the authority to unilaterally take this action.

When people heard about what the feds were doing to the Bundys and their ranch, it caused quite a stir. A lot of Americans have been on edge lately, as the federal government has continually taken more and more liberties, taking actions that defy the Constitution and oppress the American people. The BLM was stealing a private citizen’s livelihood, violating the First Amendment by establishing a “free speech zone,” closing down “public” land and threatening arrest for anyone who stepped foot on it, and using heavy-handed tactics against protesters.

As thousands of freedom-loving Americans began traveling to the Nevada desert to protest this federal overreach, it soon became clear that the feds didn’t have it in them to win this battle. Overcoming the protesters would have required a massive show of force – the kind that very well could have sparked a much larger rebellion, if not, eventually, another American civil war…and, unfortunately, just the kind of confrontation that some of the protesters – and some of the higher-ups in Washington may have been after.

And then something unexpected happened. While the protest was gaining steam, many people across America were asking why the BLM had shown up in the middle of the Nevada desert with such a massive show of force. Why were they armed with automatic weapons? Why were they deploying snipers? Why were they being so heavy-handed with those who were protesting their actions? The Bundy’s use of the land had been in contention for over a decade, so why now, were they suddenly making this massive power play? And why were they doing all of this to protect the desert tortoise, when the BLM was euthanizing desert tortoises because they had more on their hands than they could deal with? Were they keeping the tortoise endangered on purpose?

Those questions were answered soon enough. It seems that the federal government had plans for that land that extended far beyond protecting any endangered species. There were plans for a land deal, with links back to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to have Chinese companies move in to deploy “green energy” projects on that land. As it turns out, the head of the BLM was a former senior adviser to Harry Reid.

Suddenly, the massive show of force makes sense. And with the Democrats’ obsession with expanding anti-gun laws, I’m sure that an armed conflict between government agents and protesters would have been a welcome development for Reid, as well.

Green energy has long been synonymous with government corruption in the eyes of those Americans who have been paying attention. More than once, President Obama has given massive government loans, or loan guarantees, to green energy companies run by campaign donors, only to see those companies fail, and the taxpayers on the hook for the bill.

Shockingly, within hours of the evidence of this corrupt land deal being published by InfoWars, and going viral thanks to The Drudge Report, the BLM has backed down, leaving little doubt as to the government’s true motives. It is still unclear just what will become of the cattle that the feds already illegally rounded up, but for now, it appears that the Bundy family will not have their livelihood taken from them by a rogue federal government.

The-People-vs-BLM

This shows just how powerful freedom-loving Americans can be when we stand together and refuse to back down. It also shows the importance of the new media, which will report the truth on the stories that the traditional mainstream media either ignores or spins to exonerate an oppressive government.

But those patriotic Americans who have been following this story with some trepidation, anticipating, and perhaps even looking forward to the onset of violence should be wary.  Only after our very last nonviolent option is exhausted should armed conflict be considered viable.  We are not there yet, and while it behooves us to be prepared, we must let cooler heads prevail, lest we make a bad situation worse.

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