Bundy has been fighting BLM for more than 20 years. The rancher hasn’t paid the BLM’s grazing fees since 1993, and a federal judge first ordered him to remove his cattle from the land in 1998. In July, another judge said the BLM could remove his cattle if it was still on public land by the end of August. Bundy says he owes the government more than $300,000 in unpaid fees, but the government says he owes $1 million, plus the cost of the recent round-up. Either way, Bundy tells the Las Vegas Sun that he won’t pay.
The Bundy family has owned its ranch since the 1870s. The ranch is only about 160 acres, which isn’t enough space to sustain the hundreds of cattle that Bundy owns. He insists the disputed land around his ranch belongs to the state of Nevada, rather than the federal government, and he says the feds have no authority in the area. He told the Sun the government is trying to sabotage his plans to someday turn the ranch over to his son.
Bundy doesn’t recognize the federal government. Speaking to conservative radio host Dana Loesch last week, he said he believes in a “sovereign state of Nevada” and abides by all state laws, but, “I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing.” (As The Atlantic notes, the Nevada Constitution says a citizen’s first allegiance is to the federal government.)
The federal government owns more than 81 percent of all land in Nevada. BLM, alone, oversees 68 percent of the state, according to a 2010 report by the Congressional Research Service. Federal ownership of land is heavily concentrated in western states, with the government owning 47 percent of all combined land in the 11 western-most states, and only 4 percent in the rest of the country.
The Federal Aviation Administration established a no-fly zone over Bundy Ranch. The FAA placed flight restrictions around the ranch Friday, citing “hazards” in the area. The monthlong restriction bans aircraft from flying below 3,000 feet within three nautical miles of the area. The new restrictions came shortly after the Bundys posted aerial photos of the BLM’s worksite in the area.
The Bundys have received more than $2,000 in donations. In addition to more than 1,000 protesters and armed militiamen joining the cause in Nevada, the Bundys set up a PayPal account for donations. In a blog post Friday, they said money was coming in from across the United States and from other countries as well.