The rancher-federal agent standoff that has been threatening to boil over in Clark County, Nevada, this week has transformed almost overnight from a ludicrous overreach by a government bureaucracy hiding behind an endangered tortoise to the probable result of a multibillion-dollar solar power project traceable to none other than Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid.

As more BLM documents have come to light and connections to previous news reports made, a picture has emerged of efforts by Reid and his son, lawyer Rory Reid, to land a $5 billion Chinese solar power project that will build in Laughlin, Nevada, and in Clark County, where the County Commission sold public land for cents on the dollar to ENN Energy Group.

Rory Reid used to be the chairman of the Clark County Commission, and Sen. Reid’s former adviser is now chief of the Bureau of Land Management, which this week was confiscating rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle over alleged grazing fees on land his family has worked for more than a century. The thin excuse of protecting the desert tortoise, which has clearly survived just fine in the presence of ranching, is easily dismissed because the BLM was killing tortoises by the hundreds just last year due, it said, to lack of funding.

Given BLM efforts over the years to discourage other ranchers who used to live in the area, it appears that Cliven Bundy and his family stand in the way of what the BLM calls the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone, a stretch of BLM-controlled acres where energy developers could build but would pay into a government fund to “mitigate” the Gold Butte and other areas under BLM jurisdiction.

But some people have expressed concern that the standoff in Clark County is about still more, that Bundy may be the first test case for an overreaching, increasingly unconstitutional Administration that many believe has been prepping for civil war.

“Is the Bundy Ranch situation the first test of military against citizens ? BIG GOVERNMENT IS DANGEROUS!!!!!” tweeted singer Charlie Daniels.

The ranch was surrounded this week by at least 200 armed federal agents, with more being brought in from out of state. They came with trucks, helicopters and a variety of weapons.

After a confrontation Wednesday turned briefly violent, the feds have stepped up their measures to contain the Bundy family and their supporters by creating a no-fly zone to keep news choppers away and cutting off cell tower service to prevent communications by anything but radio.

Daniels is not alone in his concern that the federal government’s actions in Clark County are just a preview of what may come from a government that has armed bewildering array of agencies under the umbrella of Homeland Security. Even local law enforcement agencies have received caches of new weapons and even armored vehicles through the federal government’s largesse under the Obama Administration.

Whether there’s a larger plan at work in Nevada or not, the federal government is trying to get away with violating the constitution by taking Bundy’s property without compensation, and it seems prepared to do violence to assert its authority over and above individual rights.

If they get away with it, then Clark County will be another precedent in the slow creep of statism that is bit by bit stealing all of our liberties.