It happened on a ranch in Nevada but has since reached across the country. Is it a battle between the federal government and a simple rancher? Maybe it's the case of a long time senator who is pocketing foreign money? Could it be another Obama overreach for the conservative crowd to get fired up? The answer, if you couldn't tell, is none of the above.
Cliven Bundy's family has been "ranching" since the late 1870s and apparently Cliven believes this entitles him to be above the law. After nearly 20 years of dodging paying grazing fees to use public land, the federal government and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decided enough was enough when it came to Cliven Bundy. The BLM issued multiple warnings to Bundy, who has reportedly piled up nearly $1 million in unpaid fees, and finally made plans to move forward with action against him.
In August of 2013, the BLM sent a court order to Bundy informing him that he had 45 days to remove his cattle from federal land. As the 45 days drew closer, in October of 2013, a federal district judge court told Bundy not to “physically interfere with any seizure or impoundment operation.” The BLM continued to give Bundy time, but on March 27, 2014 322,000 acres of public land were closed off as the plan to collect Bundy's cattle was put into place. In response, Cliven Bundy filed a noted titled “Range War Emergency Notice and Demand for Protection" with the country sheriff, noting that he will have an army of supporters there to protect him. Bundy had much support, including County Commissioner Tom Collins. The first week of April saw a livestock auction set up to sell Bundy's cattle to the highest bidders after Bundy refused to pay the mandatory fines and grazing fees.
On April 5, federal officials finally moved in and rounded up hundreds of Bundy's cows. According to the Review Journal, the round-up was set to last nearly a month and cost $1 million. The $1 million round-up cost would be added to the $1 million in back fees owed by Bundy. Bundy, on the other hand, claims he "only" owes about $300,000 in back fines but insists that he doesn't need to pay the fines because he doesn't recognize the power of the federal government. Over the next few days, there was a stand off between federal officials and the hundreds of armed Bundy supporters. There were a few reported injuries, included Bundy's son who was allegedly tasered. On April 12, federal officials backed off and released a statement.
"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 Bundy family declared victory, but Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and others have stated that this issue is far from over. The right-wing media and multiple Tea Party groups quickly jumped to the defense of Bundy and have pushed the familiar narrative of "evil big government" jumping down the throats of American civilians. Some on the right have even attempted to push the theory that Sen. Reid and his son are attempting to take over the land so they can continue their negotiations with a Chinese solar company. Those claims, however, have been proven false.
At the end of the day the story goes like this. Cliven Bundy, whether he likes them or not, stopped paying the mandatory fines and taxes since 1993. Reports show that Bundy did pay those fines when they became law in 1986 when Republican Ronald Reagan issued it via an executive order. Bundy also didn't seem to mind paying them through the George H.W Bush's time in office, but suddenly stopped when Democrat Bill Clinton took office. Whether the number is what the federal government says it is at $1 million or it's closer to the $300,000 that Bundy claims, Cliven Bundy has proven to be one thing, a freeloading moocher who thinks he is above the law.