The grazing rights battle between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the federal government, resulting in a tense, armed standoff between Bundy’s supporters and federal law enforcement officers, garnered international media attention in 2014. Saints, Sinners, and Sovereign Citizens places the Bundy conflict into the larger context of the Sagebrush Rebellion and the long struggle over the use of federal public lands in the American West.
Author John L. Smith skillfully captures the drama of the Bundy legal tangle amid the current political climate. Although no shots were fired during the standoff itself, just weeks later self-proclaimed Bundy supporters murdered two Las Vegas police officers and a civilian. In Eastern Oregon, other Bundy supporters occupied the federal offices of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and one of them died in a hail of bullets.
While examining the complex history of federal public land policies, Smith exposes both sides of this story. He shows that there are passionate true believers on opposite sides of the insurrection, along with government agents and politicians in Washington complicit in efforts to control public lands for their wealthy allies and campaign contributors. With the promise of billions of dollars in natural resource profits and vast tracts of environmentally sensitive lands hanging in the balance, the West’s latest range war is the most important in the nation’s history. This masterful exposé raises serious questions about the fate of America’s public lands and the vehement arguments that are framing the debate from all sides.