Feds Halt Roundup of Rancher's Cattle, Fearing for Safety
Officials, protesters faced off earlier this week
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Apr 12, 2014 4:15 PM CDT
Embattled Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy, left, and his son Dave Bundy talk to a reporter in downtown Las Vegas April 7, 2014.   (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, K.M. Cannon)

(Newser) – After a confrontation between locals and federal officials this week, the US has ended a Nevada cattle roundup early, CNN reports. "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," said Neil Kornze, director of the Bureau of Land Management, who was confirmed just this week. Some 400 cattle were gathered in the weeklong roundup; officials had planned to gather 900, the AP reports.

Officials prompted local protests when they began gathering cattle that were illegally grazing on federal land some 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, CNN notes. The animals belonged to rancher Cliven Bundy, who has allowed the illegal grazing for two decades. At issue is a 1993 law that altered grazing rules in order to protect an endangered tortoise. Bundy now owes the government $1 million in grazing fees, officials say. Bundy counters that according to the Constitution, Nevada should be in charge of such fees, rather than the federal government. A videotaped protest on Wednesday resulted in officials saying they were assaulted while protesters said they were thrown on the ground and tasered.

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Apr 14, 2014 6:16 PM CDT
It may not resolve the issues of jurisdiction raised by Mr. Bundy, but there was a pragmatic solution which could have avoided this particular confrontation. The Clark county clerk could have accepted Mr. Bundy's grazing fees, and then turned the monies over to the BLM. But, bureaucrats are not very creative or flexible. They follow the dotted line, and that line led straight to an armed confrontation.
Apr 14, 2014 1:47 PM CDT
Bundy's family has OWNED the water rights since 1877. It is similar to the situation with mineral rights, where a miner doesn't own the land upon which his claim sits, but he certainly owns the claim, and can transfer ownership of it by selling it. It is NOT a lease. Constitutionally, the state owns the land, not the federal government. The BLM manages the land for the states, for a fee. It is public land to be used by all citizens for productive and legal purposes. Grazing is a productive and legal purpose. When the BLM started managing the land they allocated grazing rights based on water rights. You could graze as many cattle as your water rights would support. The BLM designated areas of the correct size to support that number of cattle for the grazing use of the ranchers who owned the water rights. The ranchers and the BLM voluntarily established fees to be paid for grazing allotments, the proceeds of which were to be used to pay for the management and improvement of the land. Water rights and grazing allotments, like mineral rights and mining claims, can be sold or leased. Bundy's family sold the water rights, and thus the grazing rights to each other over the several generations they have used the land. Everybody was happy. And then the BLM started playing games. They blocked ranchers from using their water rights and demanded more limited grazing at the behest of environmentalists, using the excuse of protecting endangered species. When the BLM did this with Bundy he stopped paying those formerly voluntary fees, instead offering to pay them to the county, so the BLM took him to court and got a court order to remove his cattle from the land. That, under the Constitution is a "taking" by government. A rancher named Hage recently won a $4.5 million settlement for just such a taking, under almost the same circumstances. When Bundy and his family went out to take pictures of what the BLM was doing with their cattle they were confronted with threats of arrest and government snipers held rifles trained on them. They were told that they could not be on public land, and "free speech zones" were erected near the public highway, where they were told that they must go in order to avoid arrest. When they objected to this one of the family was tazed and arrested. Hearing of all of this, some distant organized militias and other citizens responded by coming to the area to support Bundy and his family. These peaceful protesters were then assaulted by BLM personnel. That's when the guns came out. Hundreds of citizen cowboys on horseback arrived saying they would take Bundy's cattle back from the BLM. As this confrontation reached a boiling point, the BLM was faced with the possibility of firing on American citizens who had broken no laws. It was a no win situation. In the meantime, the governor of Nevada issued a statement condemning the BLM's actions, and state police reversed their previous support of the BLM actions by unblocking the local roads, and the Clark County sheriff followed suit. At the same time, Right Wing radio sources discovered that the new director of the BLM was the former personal assistant to U.S. Senate majority leader Harry Reid, and that Harry Reid's son had recently closed a deal with a Chinese energy company (ENN) to use the land in question as a solar energy site, with construction to begin this year. Think what you will about the original source. Facts are still facts, no matter who discovers them. When this information was exposed in the mainstream media the BLM suddenly decided to leave the area and give Bundy's cattle back to him. That's where things now lie. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Chris Farley
Apr 14, 2014 8:11 AM CDT
Just looking at the numbers. How much does this guy owe? How much was spent over the last two years with all the personell, lawyers, and drone operators? How much is that land worth?