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A one-man Sagebrush Rebellion

A Nevada rancher refuses to pay more than $25,000 in fines to the BLM.


A southern Nevada rancher has begun a one-man Sagebrush Rebellion against the federal government. Since March 1993, Cliven Bundy has refused to pay grazing fees to the Bureau of Land Management, and now owes over $25,000 in fees and fines.

The BLM has ordered the rancher to remove hundreds of his cows from an 80,000-acre allotment in the Mojave Desert and is preparing to charge him with trespassing. Bundy insists that the BLM has no authority, that the Endangered Species Act protecting the Mojave’s threatened desert tortoise is illegal, and that the federal government is trespassing on what should be state or private land. “I will do whatever it takes,” Bundy says. “If I don't show resistance they’ll come and do whatever they darn well please.”

Cliven Bundy speaks at a forum hosted by the American Academy for Constitutional Education in Mesa, Arizona, in 2014.

Bundy’s stand has made him a hero to a Nevada group, the County Alliance to Restore the Economy and Environment, which seeks local control over public lands. Meanwhile, Bundy has offered to pay his grazing fees to the local county government. BLM spokesperson Michelle Barrett, says that ploy is really aimed at the media. “We’re not interested in an O.K. Corral shootout,” she says, “which is how he’s trying to portray this thing.”

Note: This story has been updated to add a contemporary photo of rancher Cliven Bundy.