Rancher: States, not feds, should manage range lands in West

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Nevada rancher who had his charges dismissed in a 2014 armed standoff with government agents insisted Jan. 9 that it’s up to the states, not the federal officials, how to manage vast expanses of rangeland in the U.S. West.

Some watching Cliven Bundy’s case think his message will find more traction under President Donald Trump, who has moved to open public lands to industry, than it did under former President Barack Obama.

But the states’ rights figure who has become an icon in conservative and anti-government circles said public land belongs to states, no matter who is in the White House.

“I don’t recognize the federal government to have authority, jurisdiction, no matter who the president is,” he said.

Ian Bartrum, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas, law professor who has been writing about the Bundy case and federal land policy, said he sees a blend of beliefs between Trump supporters and Bundy backers.

“It certainly seems like this is a good moment for the Bundys to find a receptive ear in the White House, federal agencies and, perhaps, Congress,” Bartrum said.

John Lamb, a farmer turned blogger from Bozeman, Montana, who attended trials for those charged in the standoff case, said he believes states’ rights are prevailing.

“The government has been heavy-handed taking away our rights,” Lamb said. “It isn’t just about grazing or farming. It’s about government overreach and people being locked up on federal charges. I think Trump sees that.” 

Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro in Las Vegas dismissed all federal charges this week against Bundy, his sons Ryan and Ammon Bundy, and Montana militia leader Ryan Payne, citing federal prosecutors’ misconduct with evidence.