United States v. Gardner

Portion of Federal Land in each state

Background

In 1988, the U.S. Forest Service approved Clifford and Bertha Gardner’s request for a ten-year permit that would allow them to graze their cattle on parts of the Humboldt National Forest in Nevada. Just four years later in 1992, the Forest Service and Nevada Department of Wildlife closed the forest to cattle grazers for two years to allow the land to recover after a wildfire destroyed over 200 acres.

A year later, the Gardners were caught violating their permit and grazing cattle on the closed land, and the Forest Service revoked their permit. When the Gardners were found to be continually grazing their cattle even without a permit, the federal government sued to stop the unauthorized grazing.

Outcome

Similar to the U.S. v Bundy case, the Gardners argued that Nevada was the rightful owner of the land, so the federal government did have the power to prohibit them from using the land.The case was appealed to the Ninth Circuit which ruled that Equal Footing Doctrine did not conflict with the states powers reserved in the Tenth Amendment and that the federal government was allowed to have power over public lands within states. In other words, Nevada was not being unconstitutionally deprived of its power to control the public lands within the state and could police these lands as long as their enforcement of laws did not conflict with federal laws.

So…?

Who owns the West? In this case, not Nevada.

Who has the right to use public lands? Definitely not the permit-less Gardners. But, for public lands in Nevada, the government has the right to make decisions about how the land is used and by whom.

United States v. Gardner Summary 

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