RENO, Nev. - A Nevada rancher vowed Tuesday to serve whatever jail time is necessary to defend his property rights after he was ordered confined for repeatedly trespassing cattle on federal land.
With state's rights activists rallying around him, Cliff Gardner pledged to appeal his case to the U.S. Supreme Court to fight what he says is the heavy hand of the federal government on public rangeland across the West.
"Even if I end up going to prison for six months, it would be a small price to pay if I can accomplish anything for more liberty, freedom and safety for my family," the Ruby Valley rancher told the Associated Press.
Gardner, 63, was sentenced Monday to one month incarceration at a halfway house in Reno followed by three months of house arrest at his ranch in eastern Nevada for refusing to remove his cattle from Forest Service land in a dispute that dates back to 1996.
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U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben also fined Gardner $5,000 and placed him on one-year's probation as more than 50 state's rights activists and other supporters jammed the courtroom. Three were dressed as American Revolutionary War patriots and another wearing a wig and red coat said he was England's King George.
"Has the West been won, or has the fight just begun?" read a banner at a rally outside the courthouse where 15 protesters on horseback carried signs while children waved the Nevada state flag.
At Monday's sentencing, the judge said Gardner had been "contemptuous" toward the court and warned that if he trespasses cattle on the Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forest again, he could face up to six months in prison.
Forest Service spokeswoman Christie Kalkowski said Tuesday that the judge was affirming the agency's authority over the land.