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The last of the Americans

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By Robert T. Smith
Sunday, April 20, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Triggered by apparent willful ignorance of the unique situation in many Western states, many people would like to portray Cliven Bundy, in his stand against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), as a person seeking to enrich himself by not paying grazing fees. As so ineloquently phrased by some ignorant of the totality of the situation, Bundy is a whackjob.

As in its early days as part of our country, much of the West was a barren, undeveloped area. It was the federal government that decided to establish organizations, like the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation, to entice homesteading and development of these areas. Their missions were to entice and aid those who would come to these desolate areas.

Some clear examples are the water projects, like Hoover Dam, just outside of Las Vegas — water being critical to homesteading and the economic development of many arid areas of the West.

It was apparently in response to these efforts that the Bundy family showed up in the late 1800s, in the inhospitable Great Basin Desert of Nevada, to eke out a living ranching along the Virgin River. The Bundy family represents the rugged individualism of what is Americanism.

A small grazing fee helps pay for the projects and assistance to ranchers. This is the fee the Bundys stopped paying when the rate was steadily increased and the BLM turned from assisting ranchers and, instead, used the money to force ranchers out of these areas. It seems rational not to pay a fee to those trying to force you from your family's historic home and livelihood.

The federal government's approach, apparently driven by its eco-activist benefactors, changed over time. Bundy's presence and ranching activities did not.

Another part of this saga is that the federal government owns about 80 percent of the land in Nevada, as well as huge portions of other Western states.

Regardless of the many facets of this story — states' rights, the survival of desert tortoises and Harry Reid's alleged intention to enrich his family by driving ranchers out so that the area can be used by his Chinese benefactor for solar power development — one issue is that BLM personnel have acted as thugs. One need only watch the online videos of hundreds of heavily armed BLM enforcers, slamming unarmed older women onto the ground and tasering unarmed protesters, to be a bit revolted by their behavior.

Federal snipers with guns trained on their fellow citizens and the idiocy of a “roped off First Amendment free speech area” are signs of a tyrannical government — not a free society.

The Bundy-versus-the-BLM story is complicated and apparently too much for people ignorant of its weighty issues to comprehend. All of this federal effort over a handful of cows in the vastness of the Nevada desert. Why? Is Cliven Bundy a whackjob — or is he the last of the Americans?

Robert T. Smith, an environmental scientist, lives in Manor. Michelle Malkin is off today.

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