Feds flex their muscles

  Federal attorneys fired a warning shot March 8 at county governments in the West trying to assert control of public lands. Justice Department lawyers sued rural Nye County, Nev., where local officials have harassed federal land managers. In one instance, Nye County commissioners threatened Bureau of Land Management staff trying to enforce grazing regulations. In another, Nye Commissioner Richard Carver bulldozed a road into the Toiyabe National Forest, forcing a Forest Service employee out of the way. The commissioner then filed a criminal complaint against two Forest Service employees who tried to halt his bulldozer. In the lawsuit filed in Las Vegas, attorneys asked the U.S. District Court to invalidate Nye County's resolutions claiming that the state of Nevada owns national forests and other lands, and for an injunction barring county officials from interfering in federal actions. Commissioner Carver told the press he welcomed the lawsuit. "This will bring it to a head," he said. "This is what we've been waiting for." Forty other rural Western counties, beginning with Catron County, N.M., have passed ordinances claiming supremacy over federal lands; 26 are considering them, according to the Justice Department.