LAS VEGAS— A Nevada state court judge today granted the Center for Biological Diversity’s motion to challenge a lawsuit filed by rancher Cliven Bundy, who wants to seize more than 58 million acres of publicly owned federal lands, including national parks and monuments. Having granted the Center “intervenor” status in the case, the court can soon consider the Center’s motion to dismiss Bundy’s case.
“Cliven Bundy’s futile, rambling case is based on discredited legal theories. It’s a waste of the court’s time and taxpayer money,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center. “Bundy already owes more than a million dollars in grazing fees after flouting the law for decades and trashing critical wildlife habitat. I’m pleased the court has allowed us to intervene in this case. Hopefully the next step will be to dismiss it.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is asking a judge in Nevada to dismiss Cliven Bundy’s latest lawsuit seeking state control of federal land, arguing his claims lack merit and have been rejected numerous times already.
The center on Thursday filed a request to dismiss Bundy’s lawsuit and a motion to intervene in the case in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas. The center is a nonprofit environmental organization that cites protecting endangered species and their habitats as its mission.
Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke on Tuesday recommended shrinking the boundaries of Gold Butte National Monument in a move that distressed conservationists, who have fought for years to protect the land near Mesquite. Zinke’s report came one day after the president slashed the size of two national monuments in Utah, a move that has already sparked a lawsuit.
Compared to the wholesale changes the president approved in Utah, any adjustments to Gold Butte are expected to be minor. But Zinke’s recommendations, although similar to a leaked draft in September, carry a symbolic weight for the area. They signal a major reversal of public lands policy that comes almost exactly one year after President Obama designated the nearly 300,000 acres that start about 10 miles from the site of the 2014 Bundy standoff.
“We will fight it in court,” Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center for Biological Diversity wrote in an email. “And we will win.”
The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit this week challenging the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s June sale of oil and gas leases in parts of Nevada, including Nye County.
On June 14, the BLM offered nearly 200,000 acres of public lands in Nevada’s Battle Mountain district for fossil fuel development, including fracking. Among the affected areas are Big Smoky and Railroad valleys in Nye County, Diamond Valley in Eureka County and the Diamond, Fish Creek and Sulphur Creek mountain ranges.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in the federal court district of Nevada in Reno, alleges the BLM failed to consider the potential consequences of oil drilling in the area, from contamination of critical desert water sources to increased seismic activity and emission of climate-altering greenhouse gases.