by Shari Dovale
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visited Bunkerville, Nevada over the weekend and spoke with reporters of his support for the national monuments.
In April, President Trump signed an executive order directing the Secretary to review all monuments since 1996 that included more than 100,000 acres. Zinke visited the Gold Butte and Basin and Range National Monuments as part of his review.
Zinke told reporters that he is an advocate for monuments. “I am an advocate for public access,” he said. Zinke also said that he is in favor of the traditional uses, specifically citing ‘ranching’ as a part of the culture of these monuments.
Additionally, Zinke discussed his interpretation of the Antiquities Act, including the fact that monuments must be on Federal property, not state or private property.
His review has focused on 27 monuments out of over 200 in the country.
As part of his process, he spoke of talking to all parties involved, from the Governor, the Congressional Representatives and local officials, to the tribes and advocates for the monuments.
However, he did not talk to some of the people that this monument is directly affecting. He did not talk to Carol Bundy. Carol is the wife of rancher Cliven Bundy, who is currently incarcerated pending trial for what is referred to as the “Bunkerville Standoff” of April 2014.
Mrs. Bundy spoke with the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Sunday and said she was disappointed Zinke didn’t meet with her on his way to Gold Butte despite her efforts to reach him through emails, certified letters and phone calls to staff.
“We have not received one phone call back,” she said, sitting in the living room of the Bundy ranch house Sunday. “We feel like we’re forgotten. Yet my husband and four of our sons, a total of 19 men, sit in prison under the guise of charges of the Department of Interior, which Mr. Zinke is in control over, and they have committed no crime.
Zinke was asked by the Las Vegas Review-Journal if the Interior Department plans to round up Bundy’s stray cattle from the Gold Butte monument, Zinke said: “I’m not going to address that issue.”
He did address the law enforcement side of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and how he would like to change the image of his department.
“We should be the happy department,” he said. “When you see a BLM truck you should think land manager and not law enforcement, which we work with through our local sheriffs.”
Zinke then went on to clarify more of his thoughts. “There’s a lot of public land out there, that things are going on that they shouldn’t,” he said. “I am also sensitive to our people being out there in remote areas where you have lawless people that are willing to engage law enforcement.” Continuing, Zinke said, “So we have to make sure that our law enforcement officers can defend themselves, protect themselves.”
Politics can be a tricky thing for many people, but the former Congressman has learned these lessons well. He did not publicly address the Bundy trials, therefore he publicly did not take sides. However, like the recent statements by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he made his views quite clear.