Feds: Safety concerns led to Nevada cow release

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Updated: 4/14 7:27 am

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Federal land managers say "escalating tensions" led them to release all 400 or so head of cattle rounded up on public land in southern Nevada from a rancher who has refused to recognize their authority.

Bureau of Land Management Chief Neil Kornze announced an abrupt halt to the weeklong roundup just hours before the release.

"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 concerns about the safety of employees and members of the public," Kornze said in a statement.

Hundreds of states' rights protesters, including militia members, showed up at corrals outside Mesquite to demand the animals' return to rancher Cliven Bundy. Some protesters were armed with handguns and rifles at the corrals and at an earlier nearby rally.

Las Vegas Police Lt. Dan Zehnder said the showdown was resolved with no injuries and no violence. Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie was able to negotiate a resolution after talking with Bundy, he said.

The fight between Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management widened into a debate about states' rights and federal land-use policy. The dispute that ultimately triggered the roundup dates to 1993, when the bureau cited concern for the federally protected tortoise in the region. The bureau revoked Bundy's grazing rights after he stopped paying grazing fees and disregarded federal court orders to remove his animals.

Kornze's announcement came after Bundy repeatedly promised to "do whatever it takes" to protect his property and after a string of raucous confrontations between his family members and supporters and federal agents during the weeklong operation.

Bundy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Republican Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval issued a statement praising the agency for its willingness to listen to the state's concerns. He earlier criticized the agency for creating "an atmosphere of intimidation" and trying to confine protesters to a fenced-in "First Amendment area" well away from the sprawling roundup area.

"The safety of all individuals involved in this matter has been my highest priority," Sandoval said. "Given the circumstances, today's outcome is the best we could have hoped for."

Nevada's congressional delegation urged the protesters to be calm and to leave the area.

"The dispute is over, the BLM is leaving, but emotions and tensions are still near the boiling point, and we desperately need a peaceful conclusion to this conflict," U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said in a statement. "I urge all the people involved to please return to your homes and allow the BLM officers to collect their equipment and depart without interference."

The 400 cows gathered during the roundup were short of the BLM's goal of 900 cows that it says have been trespassing on U.S. land without required grazing permits for over 20 years.

Bundy, 67, doesn't recognize federal authority on land he insists belongs to Nevada. His Mormon family has operated a ranch since the 1870s near the small town of Bunkerville and the Utah and Arizona lines.

"Good morning America, good morning world, isn't it a beautiful day in Bunkerville?" Bundy told a cheering crowd after his cattle were released, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The crowd protesting Saturday recited the pledge of allegiance, and many offered prayers. Others waved placards reading, "This land is your land," and "We teach our children not to bully. How do we teach our government not to be big bullies?" according to the newspaper.

It's the latest skirmish since the 1980s when the Sagebrush Rebellion challenged federal ownership of Nevada rangeland ranchers said was rightfully theirs.

A federal judge in Las Vegas first ordered Bundy to remove his trespassing cattle in 1998. The bureau was implementing two federal court orders last year to remove Bundy's cattle after making repeated efforts to resolve the matter outside court, Kornze said, adding the rancher has not paid grazing fees in 20 years.

"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," Kornze said. "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."


©2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Think about it - 4/14/2014 9:28 PM
0 Votes
Up until a few years ago, I always thought that an 'American Patriot' referred to honest, red-blooded, United States citizen who was willing to die if necessary to protect our country and the beautiful people who live in it from enemies or forces who would aspire to destroy our way of life or threaten to take away the freedom that many of our fore fathers gave their lives to give us. When and who changed that concept to now symbolize a 'radical faction' or an extreme left militia member?

Think about it - 4/14/2014 9:15 PM
0 Votes
Bundy is 20 years in arrears of payment? Is their a lien on his ranch? Does he pay his property taxes? Why weren't his vehicles confiscated years ago? Why was he not arrested before now? Something reeks of a lie here or did somebody just wake up and said "Well, 20 years is enough". What does the Judicial system, or court records say about all of this? Why was there enough time for Bundy sympathizers to gather? Was it so that the Government could gather names of people that they consider potential threats to their plan of "Complete control of the masses"? Could this be more along the lines of trying to show people why 'they' need to take the guns away from all of the citizens? Are they also rounding up the names of people who respond to these writings? I will just ask you one question. With the questions concerning the 911 attack and who on the inside helped it happen (remember the phone call to Willie Brown telling him not to fly that day and the record Airlines stocks that were sold before the attack), the attack of Iraq over non existent WMD, the Wall Street fiasco(which almost bankrupt this country), the bailout (and million$ paid to CEO's as bonuses for failing)and hence the astronomical debt that the American workers are being harassed to pay back. Who is really on the side that is looking out for and protecting this country AGAINST the thieves and crooks?

Inga McGrath - 4/14/2014 4:02 PM
0 Votes
Wake up and smell the coffee. This isn't about one party. Both are as corrupt as the day is long. If you think it's just this administration you're kidding yourself. What's going on is criminal and the people who could have done something to help this farmer failed him miserably. Why did the Governor of Nevada put a stop to this? Why did they allow the land to be sold for a fraction of its real value? It sold for less than $5 million and was appraised at about $35 million. WHY ISN'T THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA REPORTING THIS STORY?!! Because the news outlets are owned by people who want our news censored. This is not a free America. We have slowly been losing our rights over the past two Administrations. Americans are asleep at the wheel.

op36a - 4/14/2014 3:07 PM
0 Votes
No, the Obamunist and Dems realized that this was getting out of hand. He already has too many scandals and coverups to lie about...Would look real bad for November elections...BUT, when elections are over, the BLM will be back.
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