A “range war” between the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and a rancher has reached fever pitch as the BLM surrounded Cliven Bundy’s Clark County ranch with four-wheel drive cars, armed officers, and helicopters.
The war is over 600,000 acres of land near the border of Utah called Gold Butte, controlled by the BLM and used as a habitat for the protected desert tortoise. Ranchers who allow their cattle to graze there have to pay fees, which Bundy stopped paying since 1993.
According to Bundy, he has rights to the land since his Mormon ancestors have worked there since the 1880’s. He further stated that there is no federal authority on the land, which belongs to Nevada.
Just last week, the BLM also seized grazing cattle “in violation of a law” meant to protect the tortoise. Kirsten Cannon, spokeswoman for the BLM said that it was a last resort, blaming Bundy for forcing a range war.
Bundy’s son, Ammon Bundy, claims that BLM's actions have resulted in the death of many of their cattle.
Christie Vanover, spokeswoman for the National Park Service, said that they have to account for citizens’ safety in the face of threats that could harm them.
Cannon also stated that Bundy has been trespassing for more than 20 years, and that he owes $1.1 million to the federal government for grazing fees. Local authorities also arrested Bundy’s son Dave last Sunday. According to Dave's aunt, her nephew was arrested for simply taking pictures of what the government officials were doing. He was released the next day.
Bundy has help from two top leaders. Both Sen. Dean Heller and Gov. Brian Sandoval have come to his rescue, saying that the BLM’s actions were heavy-handed. According to Heller, the BLM is handling the situation poorly.
Sandoval agreed, saying that there exists an atmosphere of intimidation and that they should change their approach.
Bundy claims that the situation is bigger than his cattle, and that this is an issue of freedom, liberty and constitutional rights.
He further said that he’s willing to pay grazing fees, as long as it is to Clark County, not the BLM.
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