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Nevada Residents: ‘Public Land Belongs to the People, Not DC’

Patrick Henningsen
21st Century Wire

CARSON CITY, NV – Today the Nevada state legislature will be hearing a bill which could potentially transform land use across the southwest.

Nevadan’s Resource Rights Bill AB408 would effectively open the door for residents to develop land resources in traditionally key sectors in the state including farming, ranching, mining and recreation. Presently, the US Federal Department of Interior and its subsidiaries claim ‘managerial control’ and ownership over nearly 90% of Nevada’s public lands.

The bill  was introduced two weeks ago, and according to sources in the state assembly, it has received more correspondence and public interest than any other bill in recent years.

1-Bundy-Bill-AB408
AB408 supporters arrive in Carson City last night in preparation for today’s state assembly hearing.

If Tuesday’s committee hearing is successful, the bill could go for a vote in as early as two weeks. If passed, the new law would prohibit the Federal Government from owning or regulating certain public lands and provide residents with clear ‘beneficial use’ rights on those public lands.

One of the driving forces behind the bill is Nevada State Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, who highlighted this issue as an important one for the people of the state following last year’s federal descent on the Bundy Ranch located near Bunkerville, Nevada, when a small army of armed federal agents from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) locked-down public access around the ranch before seizing, and shooting cattle belonging to rancher Cliven Bundy. The BLM claimed they were enforcing an EPA court order which designated Bundy Ranch as an environmental mitigation area for the ‘protected’ Desert Tortoise.

The hostilities culminated in an armed stand-off between federal agents and Bundy supporters on April 12, 2014.


WAR ZONE: Washington dispatched a BLM paramilitary force to Bunkerville last year to enforce an EPA court order.

The Bundy Ranch stand-off turned the national spotlight on a long-running rift between residents and the BLM over the question of who actually owns Nevada’s vast public lands – a hotly contested issue that stretches right back to 1864 when Nevada became the 36th state admitted into the union.

Public land rights expert, Charles Horne, explains the legal argument from the state’s perspective, “It really comes down to the simplest two questions: if the federal government owns the land then why must they purchase it with the consent of the state legislature, and if states don’t own the land then how can they sell it?”

“The western states have been targeted and commandeered by the federal government, while the rest of country is allowed to own and have control over their own lands. This bill goes a long way to readdress that issue, and it’s also the first bill of its type that actually passes Constitutional muster,” says Horne.

Some critics of the bill believe that it might create a new layer of bureaucracy. One of the bill’s supporters, Nevada rancher Ryan Bundy, believes that citizens and government will have to work together to ensure its success. He explains, “We do not want to trade in one master (federal government) for another master (state government). As with property rights, these new resource and land rights would be filed at the county level. In a way, this new bill incentivizes the county to view its land resource producers as valuable assets to be protected and nurtured. This also means that our county commissioners, sheriffs, and county population as a whole, might be motivated to protect the interests of local farmers, instead of having their destiny determined by federal agents and officials in Washington DC.”

One of the bill’s campaigners, Ammon Bundy explains the scope of the problem, “It was explained to me that the BLM is imposing fines and forced recourse upon private property owners for building pools in their own backyards. The BLM claims that the soil that is being removed from private property belongs to them, and that the home owners must get permission from and pay them to remove it. Just to be clear this is the dirt on private property. The feds say they own the minerals, including dirt as a mineral. If we are not purchasing the soil when we buy private property then what are were paying for with our hard earned money? If not the land, then what?”

BLM pamphlet claiming they own the ‘soil-minerals’: 
http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/mt/blm_programs/mining.Par.72349.File.dat/minerals.pdf

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The bill’s supporters have also focused on the issue of access to land. Ryan Bundy explains, “Over the last few decades, federal agencies have been gradually and systematically restricting access to public land, and not just for farmers and ranchers. Federal closures and restrictions have negatively impacted all Nevada residents who camp, hunt, hike and use recreational vehicles. This bill will rightfully preserve the public’s access to that land.”

“Back when the BLM came into existence here, there were only two agents to manage 53 ranchers in Clark County and southern Nevada. Today there are probably around 200 BLM agents – and only one rancher left. That really says it all.”

The state assembly’s committee hearing is scheduled for Tuesday March 31, 2015 at 1:30 PM in Room 3138 of the Legislative Building, 401 S. Carson St., Carson City, Nevada.

See what Nevadans are saying about Bill AB408 here: https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/Opinions/78th2015/A/

READ MORE BUNDY RANCH NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Bundy Ranch Files

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