ELKO — A rural Nevada county will send a message the old-fashioned way to Washington about what it calls federal overreach on public lands: by horseback.
Elko County Commissioner Grant Gerber said riders will begin the 2,800-mile ride at Point Reyes, Calif., around Sept. 26 and reach the U.S. Capitol about 20 days later.
Multiple riders covering 5 miles each at a time will carry the commissioners’ resolution touching on various issues including livestock grazing, water rights and wild horses.
The theme of the Cowboy Express ride is “regulation without representation is tyranny,” he said, and commissioners hope its outcome will be an increase in local voices on public land decisions.
“It’s extremely serious, but we’re trying to make it fun as we go,” Gerber told the Elko Daily Free Press.
He said he organized the ride in response to the federal Bureau of Land Management’s decision to temporarily close some areas of the Argenta grazing allotment in Humboldt and Lander counties because of severe drought.
Bureau officials have said federal regulations require them to take such actions if grazing poses likely damage to rangelands during a drought.
Gerber, a lawyer who has represented dozens of plaintiffs in lawsuits against the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service, said riders will follow along freeways and on frontage roads as they cross the country.
“We’ll be riding from 13 to 24 hours (a day) depending on the moon and such,” he said. “I expect most of the time we’ll be looking at riding 15, 16, 17 hours.”
This past spring, Gerber staged a 70-mile horseback trek from Elko to Battle Mountain to protest livestock grazing reductions on federal lands.
His protests follow the federal government’s run-in with Southern Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy earlier this year.
Bundy and his states’ rights supporters, some of them armed militia members, thwarted a BLM roundup of his cattle about 75 miles northeast of Las Vegas in April. The BLM says he owes more than $1 million in fees and penalties for trespassing without a permit over 20 years, but he refuses to acknowledge federal authority on public lands.