EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

April 20, 2014

Column: Neither rancher nor feds are blameless in land dispute

(Continued)

Similarly, as the lawyer-manned Power Line blog site tells us, the federal government in the 19th century said, hey, we’d like some ranching in Nevada and guess what: We’ll let your cattle graze for free on federal land. Bundy’s forebears arrived in the 1870s and all went well. Then, much later, something else came along, the Bureau of Land Management, which eventually got cozy with radical environmentalists as it started implementing rules that gave cows less grazing space and fees that cost scads of ranchers their ranches. Bundy, wanting to keep his, has said no to the fees since 1993.

The bureau, which aims to protect the desert tortoise even as it encourages Nevada solar-power projects that endanger the desert tortoise, recently decided it wasn’t going to stand for this. It sent rangers out to round up Bundy’s cattle along with armed officers to surround the ranch. It restricted protesters to a narrow free-speech zone. Ex-Judge Andrew Napolitano, a positive force for rule of law, has pointed out on TV that the government reaction was “draconian, authoritarian” and that parts of it were illegal. There is at least this to be said. The government stopped short of a tragic travesty that could have resembled the 1993 horror in Waco, Texas, when four federal agents and 82 men, women and children belonging to a religious cult were killed. The bureau let the cattle go. It retreated for the time being.

The message to the nation of all of this? Namely that the federal government is here, there and everywhere, is always expanding its reach, intrudes much, much too much, limits opportunity even as it preaches opportunity and itself is ever more lax about heeding the law. When President Barack Obama shrugs his shoulders at constitutional restrictions, what example exactly is he setting? I suggest that in the midterm 2014 elections, we have a voting booth uprising favoring candidates who believe in adherence to law and governmental limits.

Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune.

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