A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by cattle rancher Cliven Bundy seeking to have the 59 million acres of federal land within Nevada’s borders declared state property, calling the legal argument “simply delusional.”
Nevada Circuit Court Judge Jim Crockett ruled that the federal-versus-state lands issue had been decided in three previous cases involving Mr. Bundy, who has feuded with the federal government over his grazing allotment for 20 years.
“It is simply delusional to maintain that all public land within the boundaries of Nevada belongs to the state of Nevada,” said Judge Crockett in the April 1 ruling, which was made public Tuesday.
Mr. Bundy filed the lawsuit in January 2018, shortly after a federal judge in Las Vegas dropped all charges against him and three co-defendants—including his sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy—stemming from the 2014 armed standoff with the Bureau of Land Management over grazing fees.
“It is painfully obvious that the claims asserted by Bundy in the instant matter rest upon a fundamentally flawed notion advanced by Bundy since 1998 regarding ownership of federal public lands in Nevada,” said the judge in his ruling posted on Oregonlive.com.
“For two decades, Bundy has made the same claims that federal public lands within Nevada belong not to the United States, but instead to the State of Nevada,” the decision said. “Three federal court decisions — Bundy I, Bundy II, and Bundy III — have now considered and rejected Bundy’s repeated arguments.”
Bundy attorney Larry Klayman, who said his client would appeal the decision, argued that the latest lawsuit is different than the three previous cases—filed in 1998, 2012 and 2016—because those were decided before the Obama administration’s December 2016 Gold Butte National Monument designation.
The monument declared by President Barack Obama in the final weeks of his administration set aside 300,000 acres of land in Clark County. Nearly 85 percent of Nevada, or 58 million acres, is federally owned, the largest percentage of any state.
“It’s a whole new set of issues once Obama nationalized that land,” said Mr. Klayman, founder of the conservative group Judicial Watch. “We have a right to challenge that anew.”
Mr. Klayman also chided the judge for his “delusional” swipe at Mr. Bundy, calling it “grandstanding” and “contrary to the code of judicial conduct.”
The Center for Biological Diversity filed in November to dismiss the case, accusing the rancher of “racking up over a million dollars in fees and fines and trashing critical wildlife habitat” with his ranching operation near Bunkerville.
“The judge was being kind to call these claims delusional,” said center executive director Kierán Suckling. “Bundy’s ridiculous legal theories have wasted the court’s time and taxpayer money. Hopefully this unequivocal ruling will encourage Bundy to finally pay his grazing fees and bring this nonsense to a close. I’m not holding my breath, though.”
Mr. Klayman said he would be back at the Las Vegas courthouse for an April 16 hearing before the judge, adding, “I’ll be treating him with respect and I hope he treats Cliven with respect.”
The federal government owns 28 percent of land within U.S. borders and about half of the land in the Western states.