Commissioners in Nye County, Nev., have “worked hard” for 17 months to provoke the lawsuit the federal government filed against the county earlier this month, Nye County Commissioner Dick Carver declared Tuesday.
Carver got several rounds of applause and a final standing ovation when he addressed about 100 sympathizers from Stevens, Pend Oreille and Ferry counties at the Fort Colville Grange Hall. The crowd loved his promises to give meddlesome federal bureaucrats their comeuppance.
But the 50-year-old rancher remained low-key and conciliatory throughout a two-hour talk sponsored by the Stevens County Citizens Coalition of property rights organizations.
Some federal officials worry about physical confrontations with followers of Carver’s doctrine that national forests and other lands controlled by the federal government really belong to the states.
The Idaho director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management issued personal safety guidelines to bureau employees earlier this month after Carver addressed a central Idaho crowd.
But Carver repeatedly told his Colville audience that a revolution against federal tyranny will be won “without bloodshed.” The solution is simple, he said: Compelling legal arguments will persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Nye County’s contention that federal lands are really under control of county governments.
One of the key points in Carver’s thesis is that Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution preserves all “engagements” the states made before ratifying the Constitution.
He takes that to mean not only financial obligations, but various treaties and agreements. He said states retained the sovereignty they enjoyed under the Articles of Confederation and nothing in the Constitution justifies the federal government’s claim to 93 percent of the land in Nye County.
Carver said he used a D-7 Cat last July 4 to fire “a shot that was heard around the world.” Backed by 200 to 300 supporters, Carver used the bulldozer to reopen a washed-out road the Forest Service had closed in the Toiyabe National Forest in south-central Nevada.
Nye County, which has about 20,000 residents in an area twice the size of New Hampshire, declared the road to be under county control last June and announced plans to reopen it.
Carver said a Forest Service law officer refused to come unarmed so about 50 of Carver’s supporters brought guns to the road-reopening ceremony. He said the crowd pushed the “Smoky Bear cop” out of the bulldozer’s path when he refused to move.
Carver, vice chairman of the county commission, subsequently attempted to file criminal charges against the federal officer on grounds that he interfered with a public official and impersonated a peace officer.
The county attorney refused to prosecute the case and was voted out of office.
The groundwork for the confrontation was laid in December 1993 when Nye County commissioners declared that the state of Nevada owns all public lands within its borders and that Nevada counties “have a duty to manage these lands, to protect all private rights held on these lands, and to preserve local customs, culture, economy and environment.”
That action advanced a movement dubbed the Sagebrush Rebellion II, which began in 1991 in Catron County, N.M. Catron County asserted only that the federal government had to consult the county before making decisions about federal land.
Carver is to speak in Republic, Wash., on April 2.
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