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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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