It seems like forever ago that Cliven Bundy and his sons were in the headlines, first for a standoff at their ranch against Bureau of Land Management agents and later for getting involved in a militia takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge. Three years later, the case stemming from the first incident has ended in a mistrial, because the government prosecutors failed to turn in crucial documents and evidentiary support. The Bundy family is celebrating the decision as a minor victory.
Next, it’s up to U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro to decide whether the case ends in mistrial or a full-on mistrial with prejudice, which would preclude any further trials. That’s because in addition to not turning in all the required documents, some of the evidence presented suggests that the prosecution may have mishandled the case and that the government might have provoked the Bundy family. The judge referred to FBI records that suggested the Bundys were unlikely to get violent. Nevertheless, the FBI put snipers in place, and records show the Bureau of Land Management may have harassed the Bundy family.
However, that doesn’t mean the Bundy family is entirely innocent. As public lands campaigner Taylor McKinnon, who works with the Center for Biologic Diversity, explained to The Oregonian, “Any federal stumbling in this prosecution still doesn’t relieve the fact the Bundys have been breaking the law by grazing their cattle unlawfully on public land, and their cows are still out there every day endangering protected species.” There’s no evidence presented yet that suggests a desert tortoise — one of the protected species in question — has been injured by a cow. Never the less, the concern remains that it could happen.
The question of how to use the vast lands in the West isn’t a question limited to Oregon. The Bundy Ranch standoff and later Oregon takeover called attention to the tensions between ranchers and the government in 2014. This year, Trump’s decision to drastically reduce the size of Bears Ears and other Utah national monuments returned public interest to the subject. Are federal lands in the west best used for conservation, or by state residents thing to make a living? That is a reckoning the country will have to come to, but the Bundy case might not be the precedent-setting catalyst many anticipated.
(Via Oregon Live)