The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is demanding that 67-year old Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, father of 14, remove his family’s herd of cattle which has been grazing on an area of land for over a century. The prime mover in what has turned out to be a bitter range war over cattle grazing rights is the declining population of turtles in the area.
The Center for Biological Diversity allegedly threatened BLM with a lawsuit in federal court if they didn’t force Bundy’s cattle off the public land. Spokesman Rob Mrowka said, “Despite having no legal right to do so, cattle from Bundy’s ranch have continued to graze throughout the Gold Butte area, competing with tortoises for food, hindering the ability of plants to recover from extensive wildfires, trampling rare plants, damaging ancient American Indian cultural sites and threatening the safety of recreationists.”
The U.S. government took action by sending dozens of armed agents in SUVs and helicopters to vacate the area where Bundy’s cattle graze. In 1998, the land had been declared illegal grazing grounds by the BLM in order to protect the indigenous wildlife and plants. The BLM isn’t happy with Bundy and claims that he owes over $300,000 in unpaid grazing fees. Bundy is of Mormon ancestry and claims his family has owned the land since the 1880’s and has been using it for grazing ever since.
The protracted conflict began in 1993, five years before the land was ruled to be off limits for grazing, when Cliven refused to pay grazing fees to the BLM. “We own this land,” he said, not the feds. Bundy says he is willing to pay grazing fees to Clark County but not to the BLM.
“This is a lot bigger deal than just my cows,” Bundy told Fox News. “It’s a statement for freedom and liberty and the Constitution.” Bundy added, “They got helicopters flying low. They got snipers around the ranch. Our access to public lands has been blocked.” So far, 134 of Bundy’s cattle have been impounded.
The John Wayne throwback has long defied orders from bureaucrats he says are bent on running him out of business. “Years ago, I used to have 52 neighboring ranchers,” Cliven said. “I’m the last man standing. How come? Because BLM regulated these people off the land and out of business.”
Bundy said he’s not going to let the feds do that to him, “I said, ‘No.’ Then, ‘Hell, no.'”