State officials argue that the federal agency is herding rural Westerners off the land by tightening restrictions, many of them driven by the Endangered Species Act, as well as lax management.
At last year’s Western Governors’ Association meeting, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, linked wildfires to federal land management of the forests. “There’s a real high degree of frustration when it comes to management of our federal forest lands,” he said.
Many states added to the union during the 1800s were largely federally owned, but the government was actively trying to give land to homesteaders and settlers. By the early 1900s, when Western states were still new to the union, the focus began to shift to conservation of public lands.
In 1976, Congress touched off the first Sagebrush Rebellion by approving the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which declared that federal land within state borders would remain under federal control until further notice.
Advocates on both sides have been arguing over the legalities ever since. Advocates of federal land insist that the issue is settled, but critics call for Congress to treat Western states the same as other states.
“You don’t change these solemn compacts of statehood as the Supreme Court unanimously said in 2009 by a unilateral policy from Congress,” Mr. Ivory said at the debate.
On Friday, about two dozen members and supporters of the Bundy family filed with the Clark County sheriff criminal complaints against federal agents. Accusations included assault and threats with a deadly weapon, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Mr. Bundy, 68, lost significant public support two weeks ago when he wondered aloud whether black Americans were “better off as slaves” than on public assistance and said black social misery today was “because they never learned how to pick cotton.” He did not accompany his son Ammon Bundy and others in filing the complaints.
“We expect the sheriff to investigate the crimes,” said Ammon Bundy, who was hit with a stun gun during an April 9 clash with BLM agents at the ranch in Bunkerville, Nev., according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.