‘Not over’? Feds coy over next move in Nevada rancher standoff
Tensions simmered Tuesday in the standoff between federal land managers and a Nevada rancher — but the feds are being coy about how far they’ll go to pursue Cliven Bundy as both sides regroup for their next move.
Federal land managers backed down in a weekend standoff with Bundy after hundreds of states’ rights protesters, including armed militia members, showed up to protest federal officials seizing his cattle. Some protesters had their guns drawn and pointed toward law enforcement, some of whom were also armed, on the scene — ultimately, no shots were fired and the Bureau of Land Management reported that officials left over safety concerns.
Nevada Sen. Harry Reid said afterward that the dispute is “not over.” But whether the feds will keep plugging away with a court challenge or go further is unclear.
One question is whether there will be any repercussions for armed protesters.
Asked repeatedly by FoxNews.com whether the standoff might lead to a criminal investigation into possible threats against federal officers, administration officials would not say.
A Justice Department spokesman said they had no comment on the matter.
Asked whether BLM planned to ask for such an investigation, a BLM spokesman said “the gather is over” and referred to prior statements put out over the weekend.
The “gather” refers to the round-up of 900 cattle, hundreds of which belonged to Bundy, on federally owned land in Nevada. Bundy has been at odds for years with the feds, who say he owes more than $1.1 million in unpaid grazing fees. BLM long ago revoked Bundy’s grazing rights on that land after citing concern for a federally protected tortoise. Bundy, though, claimed ancestral rights to the land his family settled in the 19th century and has refused to pay the fees or remove his animals.
The case drew intense media attention as federal and law enforcement officials openly clashed last week with Bundy and his family, at times using Tasers. The standoff came to a head on Saturday, when hundreds of Bundy supporters streamed in. Top lawmakers, even those critical of the federal government’s actions, voiced concern that the dispute could get out of hand.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., urged protesters to let BLM officials gather their equipment and leave the area. “The dispute is over, the BLM is leaving, but emotions and tensions are still near the boiling point, and we desperately need a peaceful conclusion to this conflict,” Heller said at the time. He also asked protesters to return home.
So are the feds willing to forgive and forget?
Already, Bundy supporters are citing the resolution to the weekend’s dispute as an important moment. Arizona state Rep. David Livingston, speaking with Reuters, called it a “major tipping point” for western lawmakers pushing state sovereignty issues.
But Heller’s Senate colleague, Senate Majority Leader Reid, D-Nev., told Reno-based KRNV: “It’s not over. We can’t have, in America, people that violate the law and just walk away from it. So it’s not over.”
At the least, BLM officials say they’ll continue their fight through the courts.
“After 20 years and multiple court orders to remove the trespass cattle, Mr. Bundy owes the American taxpayers in excess of $1 million. The BLM will continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially,” a statement from the bureau said.
After the agency released Bundy’s cattle and left the scene, nerves were still raw.
Bundy told Fox News that local sheriffs, wherever the BLM officials are, need to take away their guns and “disarm the federal bureaucrats.”
“They have no authority,” Bundy said Monday night.
Bundy’s daughter Bailey Logue told Fox News that the dispute is “about people standing up for what’s right.”
“It was rewarding to see our cattle free again and not being tortured and back where they are safe,” she said. Logue, too, faulted the local sheriff for not standing up to federal officials and keeping them out.
FoxNews.com’s Judson Berger and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
The battle of Brinksmanship continues…