Sometimes American government brings the Founders’ concerns to mind in a pretty uncomfortable fashion. The FBI’s siege, attack, burning and killing at Waco, Texas was on of those cases. Another is the recent and fortunately, less bloody EPA raid in Chicken, Alaska. And now, we have a new one going on in Nevada.
The Bundy ranch has been raising cattle there for a long time, relying on grazing rentals of neighboring public land to pasture the cattle, a common arrangement in the Western U.S. But we know that time passes and things change, particularly when government is involved. And the environmental movement has been one of those changes. Bundy’s contract grazing area seems to have been selected as a permanent paradise for a little critter called the ‘Desert Tortoise.’
These guys are found in the open desert all over the Southwest. We recall finding one that had somehow, wandered into our backyard in Los Angeles. The yard was fenced; how he entered remains mysterious. He stayed with us for some years, nibbling but not harming the plants and enjoying the lettuce we put out for him. (Or her; it can be hard to tell.) Then one day, he or she was gone, leaving no trace. About the size of a shoebox, the critters are pretty good diggers but there was no evidence of that. Mysterious. And the government, in its wisdom, has decided to set aside big acreage in Nevada for their protection, including the former Bundy grazing acreage.
Bundy, whose ranch evidently becomes history without the grazing, objected. He did not remove his cattle from their accustomed range. So the Federal Bureau of Land Management sent in about 200 armed cops, with snipers and for all we know, Abrams tanks and Helicopter gun ships and an aircraft carrier task force to grab and truck off Bundy’s inoffensive but unwelcome, cattle. Which naturally, wipes out the Bundy enterprise.
We can argue the relative merits of the Government and Bundy positions. An indication of the Government position is the little (and no, we’re not kidding here) “First Amendment Area” the government fenced off and set up; any exercise of First Amendment rights, the government said, must be confined to the designated area.
That brought a reaction from the Nevada Governor’s office; he issued a statement to the effect that the Feds can’t confine the Bill of Rights to a “designated area.” He didn’t comment on the Feds’ rustling the Bundy cattle.
Somehow, all of this seems wrong, un-American, to us. It does not accord with our view of the way the American government is intended to operate. It does accord with our view of the way the government too often operates today, with tortoises acquiring rights over long standing human ones. And when the price of beef is setting new records, too. There’s not much to eat on a tortoise …