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Feds: Safety concerns led to Nevada cow release

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."

Join the discussion

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guntotingobamahater April 13 2014 at 8:45 AM


Flag Reply +14 rate up
1 reply
violetvalerieviolet guntotingobamahater April 13 2014 at 8:53 AM

actually its about unpaid grazing rights, whether turtles and Reid are involved or not. 16,000 other rancher s pay these fees and somehow Bundy thinks he is exempt. if u are a rancher with no land do u just get to feed ur cattle on land that isnt urs so u can make a living? Do u get to grow vegetables in ur neighbors yard?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
dowlink April 13 2014 at 8:45 AM

As usual, AOL/Huff Post misses the whole point. This was not about collecting "fees" or saving a "tortoise", it was about Harry Reid making a deal with a Chinese company to build a solar generation plant on this land. The head of the BLM is a former staffer to Reid... Follow the money!!! Maybe the Huff Post should do some real investigative reporting??? The BLM backed down once the truth came out: http://www.infowars.com/feds-back-down-from-bundy-siege-after-infowars-expose-of-chinese-land-grab/

Flag Reply +15 rate up
barb April 13 2014 at 8:46 AM

seems to me that the federal government owes the ones that paid that tax for years, all of their money back...that should be a pretty penny the uh um..taxpayers....(really the government...cause "we the people" will probably never see a dime of it)...can use to balance out what he (cough cough )..Owes...another (cough)...Us...double cough!...Thank fully we still have people who have the guts to stick up for their rights...I thought America was doomed !!!!hooray for the ranchers!!!

Flag Reply +7 rate up
cshae89546 April 13 2014 at 8:51 AM

Cirious how Utah and the Ukranie seem to have an lot in common is some respects?

Flag Reply +2 rate up
fegr61 April 13 2014 at 9:19 AM

First Amendment area = ' special trains'

Flag Reply +8 rate up
fisherman695 April 13 2014 at 9:21 AM

Why 21 years later is the government worried about land. Something is up, more to story.

Flag Reply +10 rate up
2 replies
bchbum63 fisherman695 April 13 2014 at 9:26 AM

I'm sure a donor wants to develop the land.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
Blessed One X 20 bchbum63 April 13 2014 at 9:32 AM

That's what the article says.

Flag 0 rate up
Todd fisherman695 April 13 2014 at 9:27 AM

Chinese solar plant that would pay Reid 4mil.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
aligriggs April 13 2014 at 9:22 AM

This is alarming:
confine protesters to a fenced-in "First Amendment area"

Flag Reply +11 rate up
gpilgrim25 April 13 2014 at 9:31 AM

Every penny the Gov't spends and everything the Gov't does is paid for by you and me with tax dollars.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
Bobby Brown gpilgrim25 April 13 2014 at 9:41 AM

that means we own them B#$#@%'s---so we should act like it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HA

Flag Reply +1 rate up
whiteflash April 13 2014 at 9:37 AM

The Feds did the right thing unlike Ruby Ridge and Waco.

Flag Reply +11 rate up
Leroy Gd April 13 2014 at 9:52 AM

The numb nut liberals want an all powerful government to "take care of them" from cradle to grave. So do the democrat state controlled media like the huff puff/aol excrement pushing so called media.
With giving up freedoms, which the numb nuts are all willing to give up at the drop of a hat, the government can do whatever they want. Look at the power the government has, they spy on every word spoken, texted, or typed, but the numb nuts are fine with that. The government can order us to buy a product, that fits their needs, not the citizen "required" to buy it [obamacare].
Wake up America before it's too late.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
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