Over the past few days, you’ve probably heard a lot about Cliven Bundy.
His son is presently occupying a federal building with other armed individuals in Oregon. But Bundy first made national news in 2014 during a standoff with federal authorities at his ranch in Nevada.
Bundy’s clash with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) dates back to the ’90s, when he stopped paying required fees for his cattle to graze on federal lands. In 1998, a court ordered him to remove his cattle from federal lands, but he has continued to let his cattle graze.
In 2013, the U.S. District Court of Nevada gave federal authorities power to remove the animals from government property if Bundy didn’t move them. The BLM did just that in April 2014, and that’s when the armed standoff with the rancher and his militant supporters began.
The BLM relented about a month later, giving Bundy back his cattle. That ended the standoff, but nothing has been resolved.
As of today, the BLM tells us that Bundy still has not paid the more than $1 million in fees and fines he’s racked up and that his cattle continue to graze on federal lands.
“The Bureau of Land Management remains resolute in addressing issues involved in efforts to gather Mr. Bundy’s cattle and we are pursuing the matter through the legal system,” Thomas Gorey, a spokesman for the BLM said in a statement. “The Department of Justice has the lead on any investigation of federal crimes that may have been committed. Our primary goal remains to resolve this matter safely and according to the rule of the law.”
We asked Gorey what he meant when he said the BLM was pursuing the matter through the legal system. The U.S. District Court’s 2013 order has already given the U.S. government all the power it needs to enforce an injunction, and the court has also rejected appeals from Bundy because he failed to pay court filing fees. And there’s no appeal pending before another court. The civil case, in other words, is settled.
Gorey said that he had nothing to add to the statement.
The Justice Department could still bring criminal charges against Bundy and others for impeding federal authorities from removing the cattle, but Natalie Collins, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Las Vegas, said she could not confirm nor deny that a criminal investigation is underway.
NPR’s Kirk Siegler tells Morning Edition that the last time he visited Bundy’s ranch, he noticed that the BLM had “completely pulled off.”
Bundy told him that was a clear sign that his side had won.
“That’s what is concerning to a lot of retired federal land managers I’ve talked to who think the BLM’s reluctance to go after Bundy has bolstered this land takeover movement and even helped legitimize it, which might help explain the latest drama right now in Oregon,” Kirk reports.
Bundy did not respond to multiple phone calls on Monday and Tuesday.