Previous legislative efforts to create a national conservation area in Nevada have failed, and conservative critics have accused him of a ‘federal land grab’
Nevada senator Harry Reid and the wife of jailed rancher Cliven Bundy traded insults this week as the Democratic politician announced he would be pushing to protect the land near the family’s property now that Bundy and his sons are behind bars.
“I’ve tried to protect Gold Butte for a long time,” Reid said on Thursday, referring to the region northeast of Las Vegas where Bundy led an infamous standoff with the government in 2014 after years of refusing to pay federal cattle grazing fees.
“And the reason we haven’t been able to do anything to this point is ... the Bundy boys and his pals,” Reid continued. “Because of the fact that the Bundys are in jail, I’m going to reach out to the White House. … We’ll see if President Obama will protect this area. He has the authority, as any president does, to stop this sort of destruction and stop it now.”
Reid’s previous legislative efforts to create a 350,000-acre national conservation area at Gold Butte have failed, and conservative critics throughout the west have accused him of attempting to steal land from families who have long ranched in the area.
In the 1990s, Bundy, now 69, stopped paying grazing taxes to the federal government, arguing it had no authority restricting land uses. The conflict culminated in a tense armed standoff and Bundy’s recent arrest. He and four of his sons are facing serious charges, with federal prosecutors alleging that they led a coordinated assault against government employees.
Two of the sons, Ammon and Ryan, are also facing charges for leading an occupation of federal buildings in eastern Oregon in another high-profile standoff in protest of government policies. Dozens of the Bundys’ supporters are also in jail.
Carol responded to Reid in her video, saying: “What you’re doing to my family and to the state of Nevada is absolutely horrible, and I for one am very angry today.”
She continued: “I am angry at Harry Reid for thinking that because my men are in jail, it’s OK to come now and take ... the land that my family has farmed and ranched on for generations.”
The Bundy matriarch further challenged the senator to visit the family: “I would like to invite you to come to our ranch. I would like you to come look me square in the eye and tell me that my family and I are domestic terrorists. I would love you to come to my ranch and show me where my family has done any abuse of any kind to this land that we love.”
Reid, the Democratic Senate leader, has previously called Bundy supporters “domestic terrorists."
In a phone interview Friday, Bailey Logue, Cliven’s 24-year-old daughter, who runs the family’s Facebook page, said she was not surprised by Reid’s announcement. “He’s an evil, evil man,” she said.
Still, she said, “I couldn’t believe that he actually put it out there like that. ... It made me angry.”
Logue said her mother’s invitation for Reid to visit was sincere. If she had a chance to speak to him, Logue said she would appeal to Reid’s religious faith, given that they are both Mormons. “He has a father. He has sons. What would he think if we came out with something like this against his family and his loved ones?” she said.
Obama’s designations of national monuments have sparked significant backlash from ranchers and other westerners who say conservation is destroying families’ livelihoods. Supporters and environmentalists say the land protections are critical steps in preserving habitats and species and that unregulated cattle-grazing can cause significant damage.
Reid’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Watch the video, as posted online, below.