A recent showdown that pitted a Nevada cattle farmer and his supporters on one side, vs. agents of the U.S. government on the other, is showing just how deeply some mistrust their government. The situation began when Nevada cattle rancher Clive Bundy decided to stop paying federally ordered fees to graze his cattle on federal lands in 1993.
The government has taken Bundy to court several times in the meantime, winning each round. But multiple attempts to force him to pay the grazing fees have come to naught. In early April, after 20 years of failed attempts to convince Bundy to pay, officials from the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service went to Bundy’s ranch and began rounding up his cattle.
Word of what was happening on Bundy’s ranch quickly spread on the Internet, causing hundreds of supporters to flood in and take Bundy’s side. They camped out at his ranch, some of them armed, and promised to assist him deter any government takeover of additional members of his cattle herd. The situation came to a head in mid-April during several physical confrontations – one of which involved a man being Tasered, and another of which occurring when federal agents threw an elderly lady to the ground.
Eventually, however, federal authorities decided that, due to Bundy’s armed supporters, and the potential for violence, it would be better to retreat from direct physical confrontation and pursue the matter administratively.
The retreat of federal authorities from direct conflict with Bundy and his supporters is being seen as a defeat for the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the Federal government as a whole. Many are surprised that government would back down after such a direct confrontation with an armed group. Others point out that the potential for violence was high, and that the presence of women and children at the site made armed conflict untenable.