Feds Seize Rancher's Cattle, Taser Son to Protect Desert Tortoise Grazing

Matt Vespa | April 11, 2014 | 10:43am EDT
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Cliven Bundy is the last rancher in Southern Nevada.  He's created a firestorm with his defiance of a federal order to remove his grazing cattle from a 600,000 acre Gold Butte area, which his family has used since the late 1800s.  As a result, Bundy claims he has right to use the property since the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) didn't exist at the time; he considers it public land.

Nevertheless, Bundy has been "at war" with the BLM for the past two decades over grazing fees - and his defiance of the federal government wasn't taken too kindly. Nearly 200 armed federal agents were dispatched. They surrounded his farm and arrested his cattle. Why? Well, besides fees, there's the desert tortoise (via the Las Vegas Sun):

Bundy believes big government is trying to sabotage his plans to one day hand over the ranch's reins to his son by stripping Bundy of land-use rights his family spent a century earning. He says overregulation has already driven scores of fellow ranchers out of business in sprawling Clark County, leaving him as the last man standing.

For two decades, Bundy has waged a one-man range war with federal officials over his cattle's grazing on 150 square miles of scrub desert overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. Since 1993, he's refused to pay BLM grazing fees. He claims he "fired the BLM," vowing not to give one dime to an agency that's plotting his demise. The back fees exceed $300,000, he said.

Now a showdown looms, one with a hint of possible violence.

Officials say Bundy and his son are illegally running cattle in the 500,000-acre Gold Butte area, a habitat of the protected desert tortoise. In July, U.S. District Court Judge Lloyd George ruled that if Bundy did not remove his cattle by Aug. 23, they could be seized by the BLM.

That hasn't happened - yet - and the rancher insists his cattle aren't going anywhere. He acknowledges that he keeps firearms at his ranch and has vowed to "do whatever it takes" to defend his animals from seizure.

"I've got to protect my property," Bundy said as Arden steered several cattle inside an elongated pen. "If people come to monkey with what's mine, I'll call the county sheriff. If that don't work, I'll gather my friends and kids and we'll try to stop it. I abide by all state laws. But I abide by almost zero federal laws."

The face-off is the second time Bundy has challenged federal officials. In 1998, a federal judge issued a permanent injunction against the white-haired rancher, ordering his cattle off the land.

Yesterday, Laura Ingraham said, "there's a sense that the federal government is completely out of control here. There's eminent domain, but this is eminent domination... to send 200 agents to supervise the 'deportation' of these cattle, it's ridiculous."

Right now, the BLM has brought in out-of-state rangers to help with security, which led to confrontation last Wednesday (via the Washington Free Beacon):

Armed Rangers were brought in from out of state by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to assist in security surrounding the Bundy Ranch, according to the family.

A heated confrontation on Wednesday resulted in Cliven Bundy's son Ammon being tasered by BLM officials and a 57-year-old protester being shoved to the ground.

Stetsy Bundy Cox, Cliven's daughter, told the Washington Free Beacon that some of the rangers had Oregon and California license plates.

"You know, some of these guys don't even know why they're here," she said. "A few people have talked to them and they got called in here on an emergency feed and they didn't know what it was for, it just said they had to be here."

"They're almost like a hired gun," Cox said. "Because what they're supposed to do is they each have a road, and are told to stay on that road, and they're supposed to keep people off that road, whatever means possible. That's their job. They don't even know how many cows have been gathered."

The BLM did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Cox said she spoke with an out-of-state Ranger who was ashamed of his job.

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