April 12, 2014

BLM ends Bundy cattle roundup, citing safety issues

BLM State Director Amy Lueders defends her agency's actions the day before backing down on the cattle roundup.


BUNKERVILLE -- The gathering of rancher Cliven Bundy's cattle in northeast Clark County has been stopped by the director of the Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM announcement came as Bundy was supposed to meet with Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie about the week-long dispute.

There was no confirmation of a deal between Bundy and the BLM that may have also involved the sheriff. Bundy refused to speak with a News 3 reporter who went to his ranch this morning.

The BLM had been using contract cowboys to round up Bundy's 900 head of cattle that have been grazing over 600,000 square acres in northeast Clark County for more than 20 years without his payment of grazing fees.

As of Friday they had secure 389 cattle from the Gold Butte area, nearly 90 percent of them marked with the Bundy Ranch brand.

The BLM said it decided to end the roundup because it was concerned about the safety of its workers and the public. BLM Rangers and Bundy family and supporters of were involved in a scuffle. Cliven Bundy's son, Ammon Bundy, was tased twice by federal agents. Another Bundy relative was thrown to the ground by an officer.

Safety concerns grew daily as Bundy supporters and militia-type people continued to arrive from around the country.

All of the public land closed for the cattle roundup have been reopened, the BLM said today.

New BLM Director Neil Kornze made the following statement this morning:

"As we have said from the beginning of the gather to remove illegal cattle from federal land consistent with court orders, a safe and peaceful operation is our number one priority. After one week, we have made progress in enforcing two recent court orders to remove the trespass cattle from public lands that belong to all Americans.

"Based on information about conditions on the ground, and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public.

"We ask that all parties in the area remain peaceful and law-abiding as the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service work to end the operation in an orderly manner.

Ranching has always been an important part of our nation’s heritage and continues throughout the West on public lands that belong to all Americans. This is a matter of fairness and equity, and we remain disappointed that Cliven Bundy continues to not comply with the same laws that 16,000 public lands ranchers do every year. After 20 years and multiple court orders to remove the trespass cattle, Mr. Bundy owes the American taxpayers in excess of $1 million. The BLM will continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially."

Gov. Brian Sandoval reacted to the BLM decision with a statement.

"The safety of all individuals involved in this matter has been my highest priority," the email said. "Given the circumstances, today's outcome is the best we could have hoped for. I appreciate that the Department of the Interior and the BLM were willing to listen to the concerns of the people of Nevada."