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Feds Force Family Off 120-Year-Old Ranch To Protect Tortoise

rancher Cliven D. Bundy federal land

Image source: LA Times

A Nevada ranching family and its supporters are facing off against a federal agency in a modern day range war in Southern Nevada.

Rancher Cliven D. Bundy, 67, and his family are battling the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for the right to run cattle on land where their family has lived for more than 120 years. BML says it’s federal land and wants Bundy off it to protect a specific type of tortoise.

“Range War begins at the Bundy ranch at 9:30 a.m. [Monday]” said a message sent out by the Bundy family. “We’re going to get the job done!”

The message was prompted by the arrival of armed BLM rangers, hired cowboys and cattle trucks at the family’s grazing land on April 5. The trucks and cowboys were there to confiscate a herd of 134 cattle that Bundy and his sons have been grazing in the Golden Butte area near Bunkerville, Nevada.

Century Old Way Of Life Threatened

Like many ranchers in the West, Bundy grazes cattle on land the federal government owns. Bundy contends that the BLM has no right to keep him from grazing cattle on the land because his ancestors were running livestock there before the agency was created. Bundy and his sons have run cattle on the land without a grazing permit since 1993. His supporters say the BLM only wants his land.

“My ancestors created the rights to that land one hundred and some odd years ago,” Bundy’s daughter Bailey Logue told The Los Angeles Times. “And we’re not giving them up.”

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His ancestors settled in Southwestern Nevada in the 1880s when only Native Americans were living in the area. They have been living in the region since before the city of Las Vegas was founded in 1905.

A federal judge ordered Bundy’s cattle impounded because he hadn’t paid $300,000 in BLM grazing fees. Bundy says he paid fees to the county in an arrangement that existed prior to the BLM coming on the scene.

Son Arrested For Recording Federal Officials

The Las Vegas Review Journal reported that Cliven Bundy’s son Dave was arrested by the BLM during the roundup Monday but released later in the day.

“I stood there and continued to express my First Amendment right to protest, and they approached me and said that if I didn’t leave, they’d arrest me,” Dave Bundy told The Review Journal. Bundy claims BLM rangers roughed him up.

Dave Bundy was cited for misdemeanor charges of refusing to disperse and resisting arrest, Natalie Collins of the US Attorney’s Office told The Review Journal.

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“What’s happening is they had stolen cattle from me and now they have taken their prisoner,” Cliven Bundy said at a rally on April 7. “That’s what you want to call him — he’s a political prisoner.”

“He was doing nothing but standing there and filming the landscape,” Dave’s brother Ryan Bundy told The Moapa Valley Progress newspaper. “We were on the state highway, not even off of the right-of-way. Even if they want to call [the area that we were filming] federal land; which it’s not; we weren’t even on it. We were on the road.”

For its part, the BLM says it wants to work with the family.

“The Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service support the public’s right to express opinions peacefully and lawfully,” BLM spokeswoman Kirsten Cannon wrote in a press release. “However, if an individual threatens, intimidates or assaults another individual or impedes the impoundment, they may be arrested in accordance with local, state or Federal laws.”

Tortoise Sparked Range War 

Cliven Bundy isn’t just the son of pioneers; he could be the last of his kind. The Review Journal described him as the last active rancher in Clark County where Las Vegas is located. If the BLM succeeds, there will be no more ranching in Clark County.

Incredibly, the modern day range war might have been sparked by a tortoise. The Review Journal reported that the BLM and the National Park Service have banned grazing in the area in an effort to protect the desert tortoise an endangered species. Twenty years ago Bundy rejected the government’s land-use restrictions intended to protect the tortoise.

“Not only is the federal government the country’s largest and least competent landowner, it’s also the country’s largest police force and largest law firm, wrapped with red tape into one unflinching leviathan,” a Review Journal editorial stated. … “Although Mr. Bundy stopped paying grazing fees to the BLM in 1993, the desert tortoise is driving this confiscation.”

The newspaper’s editorial writers accused an environmentalist group called the Center for Biological Diversity of orchestrating the BLM’s move against Bundy. It also said grazing helps the tortoises.

“Grazing has long benefited tortoise populations by churning seeds into soils, keeping predators at a distance and limiting the vegetation overgrowth that feeds wildfires … The environmentalist toadies at the Center for Biological Diversity don’t like ranching and grazing,” the Review Journal charged. “They believe a few hundred cattle will destroy hundreds of thousands of acres of desert. They want the BLM use force to remove Mr. Bundy’s cattle. The roundup will disturb plenty of tortoise habitat, at great public expense, but no matter. BLM officials have spent years in the courts making sure Mr. Bundy has no legal recourse to stop them this time.”

The newspaper suggested the federal government release the land to local control.

The modern day range war hasn’t led to violence yet but the Review Journal had a grim prediction.

“There is great potential for violence,” the editorial noted. “It shouldn’t come to that. We hope it doesn’t.”

What do you think? Should Mr. Bundy be allowed to stay on the land? Let us know in the comments below. 

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  1. It sounds to me the tortoise has survived the past 120 years with grazing cattle. Doesn’t really sound like that’s a problem. Just another govt agency flexing its muscles to see how much control it can spread.

  2. Perhaps Mr. Bundy’s family is the last active ranching operation in Clark County because they haven’t been paying to feed their cattle for over 20 years the way that every other cattle rancher has to. The government instituted land-use regulations 20 years ago which Mr. Bundy “rejected” … for his own personal gain. That’s not the way America works, friend. The way I see it, he had 20 years to update his ranching practices in order to evolve his family’s business and he chose not to – not the governments fault, not my fault, and certainly not the fault of a species that has resided in the area for thousands of years. If the tortoise does so well sharing land with cattle, why is it now endangered? This earth was not created for human beings to use up – we don’t get to just wipe out another species because “that’s the way our grandpappy did it.” I am a *huge* proponent of family farms and despise the move towards giant agribusiness in this country. But family farms are a business. Businesses must evolve to meet the changes that time brings. The federal government and it’s agencies do a lot of things wrong, but that doesn’t excuse the Bundy family from their own choices that have led them to this outcome.

    • Tracy, you use the word “friend” loosely. You and your “go along with what Big Brother says” attitude are no friend of mine.

  3. PS: here is an amazing 4 minute video that explains how the reintroduction of a once-endangered species (wolves, in this case) effects every aspect of an ecosystem … other animals, the trees, the rivers. It is truly inspiring. If the desert tortoise goes extinct in this area of Nevada, the impact will be widespread. Humans – as bright as we are – are never be able to replicate nature. Sometimes we just have to leave what God created alone. His wisdom is so much more infinite than what we can conceive.

  4. Is this the same BLM that last August was going to kill hundreds of those endangered desert tortoise?

  5. Bet some Muslims want it.

  6. David … I definitely agree that government agencies sometimes act in ridiculous ways, but killing desert tortoises at a desert tortoise conservation center isn’t one of them: “All healthy tortoises at the Center will be relocated to sites that will support the recovery of the species. Healthy tortoises will not be euthanized.”

    Mavis … Really? I’m going to assume you’re trying to by cynically funny.

  7. Another viewpoint on this story. Emphasis via capital letters is mine.

    “Release Date: 04/05/14 Cattle Removal Begins Today in Southern Nevada

    Las Vegas – As provided in TWO FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT ORDERS, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Southern Nevada District Office and National Park Service (NPS) Lake Mead National Recreation Area today will begin removing cattle that have been GRAZING ILLEGALLY ON PUBLIC LAND IN CLARK COUNTY FOR MORE THAN 20 YEARS.

    The BLM and the NPS have made REPEATED ATTEMPTS TO RESOLVE THIS ADMINISTRATIVELY AND JUDICIALLY. THE AGENCIES ARE NOW IMPLEMENTING TWO FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT ORDERS to remove the cattle. The BLM and NPS are working closely with local, state and federal officials to ensure that removal occurs in a safe and orderly manner.

    As the BLM and NPS remove these unauthorized cattle from public lands, the agencies will put into effect TEMPORARY CLOSURES to some publicly accessible land to ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THE PUBLIC, FEDERAL EMPLOYEES AND CONTRACTOR PERSONNEL. Every effort will be made to minimize the impacts on visitors and public land users while the gather operations are underway, and all temporary closures will be lifted once the removal is complete. ”

  8. Wow charging to graze on land that is not used…That’s sad.

  9. Let the revolution begin.

  10. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The government has been pinching ranchers off our public lands for many years now. This is just an example. They have closed thousands of acres by changing their classification to “wilderness”. This forces cattle out. They have put land management plans in place that fence off any wet lands, creeks. ponds, rivers, even seasonal wet areas 200′ back, even on private property. These bottom lands are usually the best grazing. They have introduced non-native wolves into the forest lands where the cattle are run…. Our government has forgotten it’s place. They are supposed to work for us. We stand with the Bundy family.

  11. Cattlemen here in Wyoming pay their fees to graze cattle on public lands. They could also claim a historical right to the land but instead the abide by the law. What makes Bundy so special?

  12. I think that this is just one more way for the government to impose itself on the community where it is not needed. This grazing land has been in this family for years and the tortoises have always been there too. It seems to me that there shouldn’t be any issues. And it also looks to me like the government is just using this as an excuse because they cannot collect money. It’s a sad sad sight when money drives a person on more than life . In my opinion the Bundys should be able to stay in the government should go away. After all they work for us right?

  13. Bundy doesn’t seem to be refuting the fact that the federal government owns the land. I’d like to know how much in fees his family paid to the county “prior to the BLM coming on the scene.” When that happened, his ancestors consented that they did not own the land they were using for grazing. It was owned by the county, now it’s owned by BLM, years from now it could be, as one newspaper suggests, given over to local control. In any case, Bundy has making money off cattle grazing on land that isn’t his.

  14. Tracy
    there is an active right here.
    it is called Grandfather’d in
    Mr Brady’s family were running cattle there
    before the BLM was even formed.
    Another question… Why has it taken the BLM
    20 yrs to all of a sudden to come after them for some
    The BLM wants that land for something and its not back payments or to save an animal
    Girl you need to wake up from you rose colored government glasses

  15. Senator Harry Reid’s name as well as his son’s name has come up in this fight over the property.
    One account I’ve read says Rory is representing a big Red Chinese energy firm that wants to build a massive solar electric generating farm in the area. The government claim that it is to protect the tortoise is just an excuse for their actions – cattle don’t go around stomping on turtles. If livestock were a threat to tortoises, then the wild horses that populate the region would also have to be considered, which they have not been mentioned.

    I read another item some time back that said Reid was worth about one million when he was elected to the Senate and is now worth about ten million, to which he is said to have credited “some wise real estate investments” for his good fortune.

  16. It seems to me that the BLM is out of control just as the rest of the Government’s so called agency’s are. Someone is going to make a lot of money and it’s probably not the Bundy Family. I smell a rat. It reminds me of the Bail Out when Pelosi got a large chunk of money for some stupid little fish that she thought was worth saving. How much money did she receive and where did it go? To her Husband for his Tuna Canning business? It’s all about the money and not the People anymore. The government is out of control and have slowly shredded our constitution, along with our rights. Why do they want to Disarm the People? Same reason as Hitler did. Think about it People before our great Country becomes a Third World Country. Hasn’t anyone been paying attention to what is happening here? The Police are no longer officer friendly. On the Island of Maui a new High School was supposed to be build but instead they build a brand new huge Police Station in Kihei right next door to the huge Monsanto Building. The police dress in paramilitary uniforms and were Jackboots. What does that tell you? WAKE UP PEOPLE before it is to late. Seriously, when the cops start looking like storm troopers and have TASERS, GUNS, Billy Clubs etc than it is time to take your ear buds out of your ears and quit believing all of the lies they spew out on the bought and paid for news and start taking a real good look at what is happening in this country. This is no longer the Country I grew up in. We are in serious trouble when we listen to airheads like Nancy who said we will just have to pass the Obama Care Bill to see whats in it. Seriously????? I knew what was in it, basically more TAXES, GUN CONTROL not to mention overpriced Medical Care. What do you think? When you are paying $679.00 a month for Medical Insurance and they cancel you because YOUR policy is not good enough according to the ACA and Three Days later you have a heart attack which was not a per-existing condition, who should pay for it? The Crooks who run this country or YOU. I believe that the people who are in Congress should have TERM LIMITS and not a life time career. I also think they should not be paid the money they make while in office for the rest of their life, plus COLA, private medical not to mention that if that person dies their Spouse still gets paid that money. If you quit your job or lose your job, is your company still going to support YOU and YOUR FAMILY, pay for your medical insurance, continue to raise the amount you receive due to Inflation and have a completely different retirement plan. The numbers of UN-employment are a lie (more like 25%), Our National Debt is a huge LIE, ($126 TRILLION) is more like it. I am tired of paying for the Vacations that Michelle takes, and for Barry’s Golf Games. So it’s time to wake up PEOPLE and quit believing everything you are told and start THINKING for YOURSELF and take off you ROSE COLORED Glasses. All is not well in the LATE GREAT NATION of the UNITED STATES. They call it the BOOB TUBE for a reason. When people are more interested in Sports, the OLYMPICS, MOVIES, and MISSING JETS (which is not missing at all but more likely on the ATOLL of Diego Garcia) a U.S. Naval and Air Force Base in the Indian Ocean) we were bombarded for 19 Days by every station on the BOOB TUBE. These are all just distractions so we don’t pay attention to what is really happening in not only our country but the whole World. Our Country is broke and Ceaser is still playing the fiddle as Rome Burns. Doesn’t Harry Reid live in Nevada? Are the Chinese involved in this mess? Who stands to make a lot of money here when Bundy losses his RANCH which he will, unless thousands of Americans stand up with him to fight Big Brother which is alive and well (NWO)). Re-read 1984 by Orson Wells.


  17. The AP article I read mentioned the 200 BLM employees and their hired on “Rangers” that went to the ranch in question. The article was very cryptic about who the “rangers” were. Got to wonder if it was some foreign troops so US citizens could be shot at by non US citizens? Sure hope that is not the case….

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