« Return to this article

Know the West

'As long as people are breaking the law ...'


Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, Nevada's ugly tug-of war.

"As long as people are breaking the law and getting away with it ... it's going to be tough."  - Jim Nelson

Jim Nelson, supervisor of the Toiyabe and Humboldt national forests in Nevada, has led the agency in cracking down on illegal grazing - particularly on Wayne Hage, in 1992.

"My employees are getting beat up pretty regularly. It's pretty subtle rudeness for the most part, not threats to life. But with the bombings it got a large step worse. It's scary. We know the spots where we have significant trouble. Then we get bombs in Carson City, which hasn't been one of the trouble spots. We haven't thought of the front range as a big problem.

"Mostly, it's secondhand threats. 'Don't show up in this town and if you do, keep your back to the wall. Don't bring a green rig out here.' That kind of thing. Some families don't go to church.

"County officials have contributed to it by saying, 'If we don't like laws, we'll just break them.'

"We haven't done a good job of involving people upfront. Officials use regulations as a cop-out. But the problem we've got is people are using it as an excuse to break the law.

"As long as people are breaking the law and getting away with it - until those kinds of folks are dealt with - it's going to be tough. A lot of people out there want to work with us, but they're intimidated. When you have bullies in small communities and no one stands up to them, they continue to have their way. You have to stand up to bullies or they will take over.

"I told the Elko County commissioners, 'The days are gone when you'll come in here and pound on the district ranger's table and he'll piss in his pants and you'll get your way.' "