LAS VEGAS – A year after a judge dismissed charges against rancher Cliven Bundy, two of his sons and another man, an appeal is coming.
Federal prosecutors announcing this week they are challenging a decision by a U.S. District Court judge to declare a mistrial and dismiss the case against the four men related to the armed standoff near Bunkerville, Nevada back in 2014.
The vast valley surrounding the Virgin River sprawls for miles in every direction. Recent rains have left the range lush with vegetation.
“The rain has really made it stable, we can see a good spring coming, that means fat cows,” said rancher Cliven Bundy.
The Bundy ranch sits right in the middle of the valley.
“That’s what I try to produce, is a calf like that.”
Cliven Bundy is the family’s patriarch and head of the cattle operation.
“What we got here is our cattle that are in here, or what we call ‘weener calves’ that have come off our cows,” Bundy said.
It’s been nearly five years since the cows at this ranch were at the center of what would become an armed standoff between Bundy and his supporters — who do not recognize federal jurisdiction over the hundreds of thousands of acres of land where his cattle graze — and federal agents who were sent to round up the livestock.
Bundy had stopped paying grazing fees in 1993, more than two decades earlier.
“What I said is, ‘I don’t need your services anymore, I don’t need your management anymore, and I’m not going to pay you fees anymore.'”
The Bureau of Land Management abandoned the round-up amid rising tensions.
Things once again came to a head in 2016 when Bundy flew to Oregon in support his sons Ryan and Ammon.
They were part of the takeover of a wildlife refuge.
Bundy was arrested when he landed in Portland on charges stemming from the 2014 standoff. After Bundy spent 700 days in jail, U.S. District Court Judge Gloria Navarro declared a mistrial citing “flagrant prosecutorial misconduct” and dropped the charges.
“They never convicted me for nothin’, they dropped the charges, and now the environmental community don’t want to accept that,” Cliven Bundy said.
The federal government is appealing Judge Navarro’s ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court pf Appeals in San Francisco. Bundy says he’s not surprised.
“They’re trying to force me into the picture here and get me to respond, far as I’m concerned, it’s not my problem, it’s the judge’s problem,” he said.
Other than the pending appeal, Bundy says he hasn’t heard from the federal government — even as he continues grazing his cattle on federal public and national monument land — over which he contends the U.S. government has no jurisdiction.
Reporter Patrick Walker: “Has anything changed about what you do out here, how you work since before you went in?”
Cliven Bundy: “Not a thing. We’re still grazing cattle on Clark County, Nevada land.”
And if he had it to do all over again, Bundy says he really wouldn’t do anything differently during his ongoing feud with the federal government over the years.
“So, if I was going to change anything, I’d say ‘hey, state of Nevada, back me up! I’m one of your citizens, I’m a producer, I think I’m worth protecting.'”
The supporters who traveled to the Bundy ranch in support of the patriot movement are no longer here.
Son Ammon Bundy even distanced himself from some of those supporters who have closely aligned themselves with President Trump’s views on immigration.
Whether or not their help would ever be enlisted again if federal agents try to seize Bundy’s cattle remains to be seen.
The possibility is there because regardless of what happens in court, Bundy says he has no plans to change what he’s doing in the future.
The federal government is expected to file its brief with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court sometime next week.