The Nevada Ranch Standoff – Rancher Versus Federal Government

Rancher refuses to pay grazing fees on federal land, rallies armed militia and drives away federal agents (for now)

Picture: Cowboy (1887) by John C. H. Grabill, Library of Congress, Wikipedia (public domain)
Picture: Cowboy (1887) by John C. H. Grabill, Library of Congress, Wikipedia (public domain)

In the middle of April of this year, a Nevada rancher and his armed militia supporters went into a standoff with federal officials from the Bureau of Land Management over the removal of his cattle from federal land. For the moment, the agents of the BLM have retreated because they did not want to risk a violent confrontation with the armed anti-government militia.

The rancher in question had been using federal land for letting his cattle graze and had failed to pay the required grazing fees for twenty years. By the way, there are thousands of other ranchers who use federal lands and pay these fees.

He says that he does not recognize the authority of the federal government on the matter and believes it belongs to the state of Nevada. And if federal agents came to take his cattle again, he and his supporters would fight them with their guns.

Range War In #Nevada | Esquire #militias ow.ly/vP1nX

Rancher inspects cattle after showdown with feds | AP #Nevada ow.ly/vP0gM

It is not over yet:

Feds play waiting game at Nevada ranch | TheHill, April 15, 2014  http://ow.ly/vSxmt – Includes some interesting facts about the history of grazing rights on federal land.

Three Ways That #Nevada Rancher And His Right-Wing #Militia Supporters Could Wind Up Behind Bars | ThinkProgress ow.ly/vOZq8

Wilstein: Fox’s Hannity Stokes Tension Between Harry Reid and Cliven Bundy | Mediaite, April 16, 2014 – http://ow.ly/vTIkO

A conspiracy theory debunked:

Shortly after the standoff, a conspiracy theory made its way on the Internet. It claims that Senator Harry Reid and a Chinese company building a solar plant were behind the standoff between federal agents and the Nevada rancher.

snopes.com debunks that conspiracy theory here: http://ow.ly/vSxu0

Violent anti-tax protest and race: Who gets away with what?

In Nevada, the heavily-armed militiamen and the rancher in question are white. They managed, for the time being, to drive away federal agents by threatening violence. But violent agitation against taxes and fees does not always turn out that way. In another recent example, a black Chicago man did not like to pay a 22-cent Soda tax and decided to pull out a machine gun, threatening the clerk. The police arrested him.

Man Refuses to Pay 22-Cent Soda Tax, Pulls Out Machine Gun in Response | Mediaite –  http://ow.ly/vSyf7

Update (May 2, 2014): Militias set up illegal road ‘checkpoints’

A Democratic congressman from Nevada recently sent a letter to the Clark County sheriff, bringing his attention to the fact that

“the armed militia supporting rancher Cliven Bundy have set up checkpoints to verify the residency of anybody passing through [emphasis mine].”

So now there is a situation in Nevada reminiscent of tribal areas in Afghanistan. I am curious as to how long this challenge to the state monopoly on violence will last. After all, just because these men call themselves a militia and are heavily armed, they are neither the police, the military, or anything similar with the authority to randomly inspect other citizens.

My guess is that at some point, these men will either voluntarily remove those illegal checkpoints, or there will be a violent showdown with some federal law enforcement agency—which is what some of these militiamen probably long for anyway.