A Nevada rancher has threatened a “range war” over illegal cattle grazing on public lands.
Federal authorities rounded up as many as 900 cattle owned by Cliven Bundy, who denies the U.S. government owns Mojave Desert land where his livestock has been grazing for decades.
Bundy stopped paying the Bureau of Land Management a token fee in 1993 required of ranchers who graze livestock on public lands after he refused to accept new land-use rules to protect the threatened desert tortoise.
Environmentalists say his cattle have degraded the Gold Butte landscape and argue the rancher has interfered with ecological restoration efforts.
“Mr. Bundy has long falsely believed that Gold Butte is his ranch,” said Terri Robertson, president of an environmental preservation group. “We all know that is not the reality, and it is time for him for obey the law.”
The rancher’s son, Davey Bundy, was arrested Sunday during a protest on state Route 170 about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office said the younger Bundy was cited on misdemeanor charges of refusing to disperse and resisting arrest, but his father suggested darker motives.
“What’s happening is they had stole cattle from me and now they have taken their prisoner,” Cliven Bundy said. “Davey is a political prisoner. That’s what you want to call him — he’s a political prisoner.”
His son claims federal agents beat him during the arrest and asked his family members to leave while snipers and other uniformed men arrived.
“Wake up America,” said the rancher’s daughter, Bailey Bundy Logue. “Look what our ancestors fought for and we need to stand up for that. We need to realize what’s happening. They are taking everything away from us. This isn’t only about one family. This is about everyone’s family. This is martial law and it’s in America and so what are you going to do to have it stay out of America?”
The Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service closed off public access to about 600,000 acres of federal land while the derelict herd was rounded up.
Gold Butte is an expanse of wild desert between Lake Mead, Calif., the Grand Canyon National Monument, and Bunkerville, Nev., where Bundy lives.
Bundy claims he owns only 500 cattle, although federal authorities say the rancher has allowed up to 1,000 to illegally graze on the land.
Federal authorities had intended to remove the rancher’s cattle in 2012, but that was postponed after Bundy threatened violence toward government employees.
The rancher’s grazing permit was revoked in 1998, five years after he stopped paying his fees, and Clark County, Nev., bought out his permit and retired it permanently to protect the desert tortoise.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the Bureau of Land Management for failure to remove the rancher’s cattle despite two court orders that the livestock be confiscated.
The Nevada Cattlemen’s Association said it was concerned about how the cattle confiscation was resolved, but noted that the organization supports effective range management and cooperation among agencies to conserve wildlife.
The organization said it would not interfere with the ongoing roundup.
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