The guns could have turned it into something worse. The exposure is what saved the day.
However, I'm not sure I understand this. He's using land he doesn't own in order to make money but refuses to pay anything? While others do pay? I see no reason why I should be on this guy's side.
From what i've read there may be a fairly reasonable reason you might support them.
The grazing fee's and seizing of land was done on the premise of protecting the desert tortoise... and to do this the BLM has been selling off that land to home develoeprs. Which is actually a hell of a lot more dangerous and disruptive to their habitat then some cattle... since it's permanently shrinking it.
They did this to fund a conservation center where they keep a bunch of the turtles that used to be pets. Except now they can't fund THAT anymore because nobody is buying the turtles natural habitat so they're killing off a lot of them before releasing them back into the wild.
Basically the BLM fucked up what the cattle ranchers had going to sell some land to home developers, and actually make things worse for an endangered species, more or less so they could have jobs for 20-30 years.
That said, I doubt many of the people who rushed to his support support him for that reason.
Oh and as for why he stopped paying the fee's basically it was because he couldn't. The BLM wanted him to cut down his heard by 90% and wouldn't grant him grazing rights for the rest. Essentially what was really going on was that the Government didn't like the fact that ranchers had inhertiable fee rights that were cheap. So by citing enviromentalism as a reason they changed the laws to run the ranchers out of buisness and sell the land to developers.