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Report Finds Connection Between Anti-Government Extremist Groups And Lawmakers

Associated Press

Supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy were involved in an armed standoff with Bureau of Land Management agents in April 2014. A report by Center for Western Priorities shows connections between anti-government extremists and lawmakers.

After the now infamous standoff at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Bunkerville between law enforcement and armed militia, more extremist groups have refused to recognize the authority of the U.S. government on public lands.

A new report by the Denver-based Center for Western Priorities says there are wide-ranging ties between extremist groups and Western legislators.

The named officials in Nevada?

None other than controversial Republicans Michelle Fiore and Ira Hansen. 

Jessica Goad is the advocacy director for the center. She told KNPR's State of Nevada that lawmakers in 11 western states have introduced legislation that attempted to turn federal land over to the states or private interests.

Assemblywoman Fiore is one of those lawmakers. Assembly Bill 408 was deemed unconstitutional. 

Goad said the idea of moving federally managed land into state hands is "far outside the mainstream of conservative thought."

However, some lawmakers on the federal level have started talking about moving public land currently managed by the federal government into state control, including Nevada Republican Congressman Mark Amodei, who introduced a land transfer bill earlier this year.  

Goad called the moves by lawmakers a "clear and troubling pattern."

The center traces much of the land transfer efforts back to last year's standoff at the Bundy ranch between Bureau of Land Management agents and armed supporters of rancher Cliven Bundy. 

"It's clear that what happened at the Bundy ranch has inspired some groups as well as some state lawmakers across the West to try to implement policies that are designed to take American lands away from the American people," Goad said.

The center is also concerned about the connections these lawmakers have to groups like the Oath Keepers, which they consider to be an anti-government extremist group. 

The Oath Keepers were at the Bundy ranch and in Ferguson, Missouri last week when violence broke out during remembrances of Michael Brown, the young man shot and killed by a police officer. 

According to the Oath Keepers website

"Oath Keepers is a non-partisan association of current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders, who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” That oath, mandated by Article VI of the Constitution itself, is to the Constitution, not to the politicians, and Oath Keepers declare that they will not obey unconstitutional orders, such as orders to disarm the American people, to conduct warrantless searches, or to detain Americans as “enemy combatants” in violation of their ancient right to jury trial." 

Goad's group sees the Oath Keepers as a "real threat." Assemblywoman Fiore took the Oath Keepers' oath while at the Bundy ranch last year, according to Goad.

Jessica Goad, advocacy director, Center for Western Priorities

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Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.