A heated land dispute between the federal government and a Nevada cattle rancher subsided over the weekend, but longtime lawmaker and former presidential hopeful Ron Paul says tensions might soon worsen once again.
An armed standoff between Cliven Bundy and the United States Bureau of Land Management ended on Saturday with the federal agency agreeing to release around 400 head of cattle it had seized from the Clark County, Nevada rancher. The bureau said Bundy owed roughly $1 million to the government because for the last two decades he failed to pay a fee for letting his cattle graze on federal land, but the rancher insisted that he owed the agency nothing. Supporters soon took up arms and flocked to the Bunch ranch to stand by in support as feds began to seize nearly 1,000 head of cattle, but over the weekend the BLM aborted their attempt to confiscate the animals in order avoid any violent showdown that might have emerged.
Paul — the former Republican congressman for Texas and a three-time contender for the office of US president — said on Monday that things aren’t necessarily over on the Bundy ranch, even though the feds have for now relinquished their war with the rancher.
“They may come back with a lot more force like they did at Waco with the Davidians,” Paul told Fox News host Neil Cavuto on Friday, adding that he wished for a non-violent resolution.
Only days earlier, the rancher’s wife told the Huffington Post that the mobilization of heavily armed federal agents around her land was all too similar to the 1993 raid on the Branch Davidians’ Waco, Texas compound that ended with the deaths of 87 civilians.
"If you saw the artillery and their presence -- the intimidation they are trying to put on us -- it could turn into that," Carol Bundy said she feared.
Speaking to Paul, Cavuto claimed that the potential for violence to erupt at the Bundy ranch on par with what occurred 20 years ago in Texas was on a “very slight trigger,” to which the former congressman responded, “That’s the great fear….especially if the financial crisis gets much worse which I anticipate.”
According to Paul, the entire incident in Clark County could have emerged differently if the government reconsidered the way it claimed land rights. Bundy said that the disputed property had been in his family for nearly 150 years, but the BLM insisted that his animals were trespassing on federal land since he stopped paying the government a grazing fee back in the early 1990s.
"I don't believe I owe one penny to the United States government," Bundy told Nevada’s Desert News last week. "I don't have a contract with the United States government."
On Friday, Paul told Cavuto that the Bundy family “had virtual ownership of that land because they had been using it,” yet the law is “not clean enough.”
“I think land should be in the states and I think the states should sell it to the people,” he continued, adding that “it’s worked out quite well in big states.”
“You need the government out of it and I think that’s the important point, if you don’t look at that you can expect more of these problems, especially when our economy gets into more trouble,” the former congressman said.
In the meantime, tensions have lessened to a degree in Clark County, where hundreds of seized cattle were handed back to the Bundy family on Saturday, as RT reported earlier. Nevertheless, BLM spokesman Craig Leff told the AP that his agency will work to resolve the matter "administratively and judicially.” Neither the BLM nor the US Department of Justice responded on Monday to requests for comment made by the newswire, but Cliven Bundy himself said he was going to have to inspect his returned cattle to assess their post-confiscation condition.
"It's going to take a lot to revive the calves that were nearly dead when they were returned to the Bundy Ranch because they had been separated from their mothers during the roundup, and a few most likely won't make it," Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore (R-Las Vegas) told the AP. "It's time for Nevada to stand up to the federal government and demand the return of the BLM lands to the people of Nevada."
For his part, Bundy said at a news conference on Monday that "Every sheriff across the United States of America, take away the guns from the United States bureaucrats," according to the AP.
"Understand it is because of each and every one of you standing here and each and every one of our Americans watching us and protecting us with our firearms why this did not turn into Waco massacre or a Ruby Ridge," added Fiore.