Westerners Worry About Bundy's Defiant Stand Against Feds

Jan 11, 2018
Originally published on January 11, 2018 8:11 am
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Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy remains defiant after federal charges were dismissed against him for his role in the armed standoff over cattle grazing back in 2014. Bundy says he will continue to let his cows roam on U.S. public lands without paying a dime to the federal government. NPR's Kirk Siegler reports some Westerners are nervous about what comes next.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: After the charges were dismissed, the Bundy family took to social media, saying they want to kick the Federal Bureau of Land Management out of Nevada. And yesterday, the 71-year-old Cliven Bundy called a press conference, clutched a black megaphone and again claimed that the U.S. government has no jurisdiction to own or manage federal land. It's a theory widely debunked by decades of court rulings.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

CLIVEN BUNDY: Don't let them think they're going to tell us what to do in Clark County on our land.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Woo-hoo.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Amen.

SIEGLER: Bundy then blasted the local sheriff, Joe Lombardo, who he said isn't protecting him from a so-called federal army. Bundy became a national symbol for those who believe the federal government is overreaching. Armed militia from around the country came to his defense in the Nevada desert in 2014, forcing federal agents who had come to impound his cows to stand down. Asked what Cliven will do if the government returns, some of his supporters in this small crowd tried to answer for him.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Whatever it takes.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: No, listen...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: He'll go back again.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Yeah, I guess it would be whatever it takes.

JJ MACNAB: I was watching for a call to arms. I didn't quite see it.

SIEGLER: For domestic extremism experts like JJ MacNab, this was classic Bundy.

MACNAB: These are the same rhetoric he was using in 2014. He never explicitly says anything. He doesn't say we're going to point guns at the federal agents. He says, we're going to do whatever it takes, you know, and let them use their imagination on what that phrase means.

SIEGLER: After all, Bundy largely stayed away from the standoff itself. His militia supporters were the ones pointing guns at the armed federal agents. The charges against Bundy only involved the standoff. This case had nothing to do with cattle grazing. But University of Nevada law professor Ian Bartrum says some ranchers in the West may see what happened to Bundy as a signal.

IAN BARTRUM: They still, under the law, have to pay their grazing permits if they want to graze cattle on federal land. But - you know, not speaking legally - I'm sure it does embolden them to say - well, they can't enforce their policy. Why should I pay attention to it?

SIEGLER: There are still two court orders that Bundy remove his cows. He owes an estimated million dollars in fees and fines. Neither the Justice Department or the BLM is saying what their next move will be.

Kirk Siegler, NPR News.

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