By Rory Carroll
Nov 2 (Reuters) - Ryan Bundy, who helped stage an armed takeover of a federal wildlife center in Oregon and was acquitted last week of conspiracy and weapons charges, said similar protests would be justified if U.S. President Barack Obama designates much of the Nevada desert as a national monument as promised.
"Absolutely! That's the best thing in the world ... to do," Bundy told the Washington Post newspaper on Monday during a telephone interview.
"Read the Declaration of Independence," he said. "It says right there that if the government becomes abusive, it's our right and our duty to abolish that government. If the government won't restrain itself, whatever happens is their own fault."
Bundy spoke to the paper from an Oregon jail where he was awaiting trial in February for separate charges related to the 2014 standoff with federal agents on the family's ranch in Nevada.
At issue now is the Obama administration's plan to designate Gold Butte, about 350,000 acres of desert land a few hours from Las Vegas, as a national monument for permanent protection.
Ryan Bundy told the paper the U.S. Constitution does not grant the federal government power to own large tracts of land nor does it give the president the authority to create national monuments.
Environmental group Friends of Gold Butte said protection of the area is needed to safeguard the habitat of numerous wildlife species including the desert tortoise and desert bighorn sheep and to preserve cultural and historical resources including Native American rock art, caves, and agave roasting pits.
Bundy, 44, would not tell the Washington Post whether he and his family would encourage some kind of anti-government action over Gold Butte, because "I never say what we will do."
Asked whether violence was ever justified against an abusive government, Bundy told the paper: "Ask George Washington."
An attorney for Bundy was not immediately available for comment. A spokesperson for the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Nevada also was not immediately available for comment.
The federal jury's decision last week to acquit Ryan Bundy, his brother Ammon, and five others on the most serious charges related to their role in the 41-day Oregon occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge marked a stinging defeat for federal prosecutors and law enforcement. (Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by David Gregorio)
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