Nevada Governor Slams Feds in 'New Ruby Ridge' Battle
Wednesday, April 9, 2014 07:14 PM
By: Cathy Burke
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval on Tuesday blasted the Bureau of Land Management for its "offensive" conduct in a bitter dispute with a farmer whose cattle graze on federal land — including the bureau’s designation of a "First Amendment area" where people can protest.
In a scalding statement, Sandoval jumped squarely into the middle of a 20-year-old feud between farmer Cliven Bundy and the BLM — focusing his wrath specifically on a penned-in area that the federal agency considers the only place where people can speak freely.
"Most disturbing to me is the BLM's establishment of a 'First Amendment area' that tramples upon Nevadans' fundamental rights under the U.S. Constitution," Sandoval said.
"To that end, I have advised the BLM that such conduct is offensive to me and countless others and that the 'First Amendment area' should be dismantled immediately.
"No cow justifies the atmosphere of intimidation which currently exists nor the limitation of constitutional rights that are sacred to all Nevadans. The BLM needs to reconsider its approach to this matter and act accordingly," Sandoval said.
The scolding comes in the wake of an eruption over the weekend of the long-simmering feud, in which Bundy's cattle were rounded up and his son arrested, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported.
The BLM and the National Park Service have closed off access to almost 600,000 acres of federal land to conduct a roundup of cattle that graze there — but Bundy has argued that his family owns rights to the land, which it has been working since the 1880s, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The BLM counters that it canceled Bundy's federal grazing permit 20 years ago after the rancher refused to accept new land-use rules and stopped paying his fees, the Review Journal noted — and two federal court orders issued within the past year authorized authorities to impound the "trespass cattle."
The roundup began Saturday.
The Bundys' battle has riled westerners who see it as the federal government stepping on state rights. Protestors traveled from all over the west for a rally to support the ranchers at the weekend.
Cliven Bundy likened the situation to the fatal 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge, Idaho and the 1993 raid on David Koresh's Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, which ended with 82 deaths, according to KSNV, the NBC affiliate in Las Vegas.
"The BLM and the [National Park Service] have made repeated attempts to resolve this matter administratively and judicially," a Nevada BLM statement read, according to the Review Journal. "The agencies are now implementing two federal district court orders to remove the cattle. The BLM and NPS are working closely with local, state and federal officials to ensure that removal occurs in a safe and orderly manner."
On Sunday, Bundy's son Davey, 37, said he was also rounded up, and said armed federal agents arrested him, the newspaper reported.
"They got on their loudspeaker and said that everyone needed to leave," Bundy told a news conference Monday, the newspaper reported. "I stood there and continued to express my First Amendment right to protest, and they approached me and said that if I didn't leave, they'd arrest me."
Bundy was cited on misdemeanor charges of "refusing to disperse" and resisting arrest, the newspaper reported.
Cliven Bundy was irate.
"What’s happening is they had stole cattle from me, and now they have taken their prisoner," he told the newspaper about his son’s arrest. "Davey is a political prisoner. That's what you want to call him — he’s a political prisoner."
Despite the stalemate, the Bundy family has vowed to carry on the war.
"My ancestors created the rights to that land one hundred and some odd years ago," Bundy’s daughter Bailey Logue told the LA Times. "And we’re not giving them up."