ENR (202) 514-2008 TDD (202) 514-1888

FEDERAL COURT REAFFIRMS U.S. OWNERSHIP OF PUBLIC LANDS STRIKES DOWN COUNTY SUPREMACY THEORY WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Rejecting a claim of "county supremacy", a federal judge in Nevada has upheld United States' ownership and management of national forests and other public lands. In an October 5 decision in U.S. v. Gardner, U.S. District Judge David W. Hagen ordered rancher Cliff Gardner, a self-styled participant in the "Sagebrush Rebellion", to remove his cattle from Forest Service lands in Elko County, Nevada within 20 days and to pay for his illegal use of these lands. The judge rejected Gardner's claims that Nevada, rather than the United States, owned the public lands in that state, saying that under "unambiguous Supreme Court precedent, there can be no reasonable doubt that the National Forests...are the property of the United States and rightfully managed by the Forest Service." Gardner's claims were virtually identical to those made by a number of counties in the West -- including Nye County, Nevada -which have challenged federal control of public lands. In a separate case, the government sued Nye County on March 8 to end the county's threats against federal land managers and other challenges to its land management authority. "We are very pleased by the court's decision. As we have said all along, these lands are public lands to be owned and managed for all Americans. We hope this decision will help put to rest baseless challenges to sensible land management policy," said Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. "This decision is consistent with other recent court decisions," said Kathryn Landreth, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada. "It clearly reaffirms that the United States owns and has the right to manage the public lands." -MOREThe United States filed a civil trespass action against Gardner on June 21, 1995. Since May of 1994, Gardner has been illegally grazing his cattle on the Humboldt National Forest in Nevada, despite repeated requests by Forest Service land managers to stop. Gardner defended his action by claiming that the United States neither owned the land nor had the authority to require permits for the land on which their cattle were grazing. The court disagreed, finding that "the Gardners have no

valid argument that the United States does not own the land," and that "similarly without merit is the Gardners' assertion that the United States has no authority to retain public lands in its possession." In addition to removing his cattle, Gardner was ordered to pay $7,000 in unauthorized grazing use fees. ### 95-533