What The Nevada Bundy Mistrial Means For Public Lands

Dec 21, 2017

The federal government case against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy came to a screeching halt Wednesday. The federal judge trying the case declared a mistrial.

The jury was dismissed in the trial of Cliven Bundy, his sons Ryan and Ammon and Montana militia leader Ryan Payne after their 2014 standoff with BLM agents in Nevada. Judge Gloria Navarro faulted federal prosecutors for not turning over evidence to defense attorneys, including records about how law enforcement agents conducted themselves during the standoff.

“I think it sets back a lot of work – that however slow – is sort of bringing people together to try to reduce the rhetoric and solve some problems on the ground,” says John Freemuth with the Andrus Center for Public Policy.

He says the mistrial jeopardizes years of collaborative work in the region between ranchers, public land managers and environmental groups. But Freemuth says it also illustrates how important personalities are in these high stress confrontations between the people who manage the land and the ranchers who depend on it for their livelihoods.

“You had a bad relationship between at least one BLM law enforcement ranger and that sheriff, and the director of BLM was brand new when that happened. In terms of analyzing – not the legal part but the socioeconomic part – this was an accident waiting to happen it looks like.”

The four men were charged with 15 felony counts including assault, obstruction and extortion. The Nevada mistrial follows a whistleblower memo from a BLM investigator released last week which alleges bias and misconduct among federal staff before the 2014 confrontation.

Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

Copyright 2017 Boise State Public Radio