WASHINGTON, April 12, 2014 —The Bundy family and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have reached a deal to end the week-long crisis, at least temporarily.
Bundy, a 67-year-old rancher whose family has operated a ranch since the 1870s, does not recognize federal ownership of the land where his cattle graze. Nevada, says Bundy, owns the property.
The federal government disagrees. In 1993, the government revoked Bundy’s grazing rights on the land after he stopped paying grazing fees. He also refused to comply with federal orders to remove cattle from the property, which the federal government says is home to federally-protected tortoise populations.
The government says Bundy has not paid fees for more than 20 years and that his willful refusal to comply with federal law is unfair to other ranchers in the area who do follow federal regulations.
Armed Bundy family leaders met with BLM officers in Mesquite on Saturday afternoon to discuss the fate of the Bundy’s cattle. Armed US Federal Agents and hired cowboys began rounding up the cattle, sometimes using helicopters, in order to seize Bundy’s 1,000 head of cattle, putting them into a holding area in order to auction them to pay alleged back fees they claim Bundy owes the Federal Government. Those fees are reported to be over $1,000,000.
At issue is the decades long disagreement between the ranchers and the U.S. land managers over grazing rights on close to 600,000 acres of federal range and park lands in the Nevada desert. The BLM over sees some 18,000 permits and leases that give ranchers permission to allow livestock to graze on 158 million acres of federal land.
Cliven Bundy, who had been paying a grazing fee ($1.35 per cow-calf pair) in 1993, understandably ignored the government’s cancellation of his grazing lease and refused to remove his cattle from the Federal land.
The standoff this week has been twenty-years in the making. And it is about more than the Bundy Ranch near Bunkerville, NV.
It is also about the Desert Tortoise that lives in the Nevada desert and solar power development by a Chinese corporation in Sen. Harry Reid’s Nevada.
In 2012 The Center for Biological Diversity notified the government that it was suing the federal government in order to protect the Mojave Desert tortoise.
“The federal government has been caving in to Cliven Bundy for years at the sacrifice of lands that are not only being destroyed for the tortoise but also for all the people of the United States who own it,” said Rob Mrowka, a senior scientist with the center.
The BLM’s official reason for the grab of cattle from Cliven Bundy is to to protect the endangered desert tortoise.
“A tortoise isn’t the reason why BLM is harassing a 67 year-old rancher; they want his land,” journalist Dana Loesch wrote. “The tortoise wasn’t of concern when [U.S. Senator] Harry Reid worked with BLM to literally change the boundaries of the tortoise’s habitat to accommodate the development of his top donor, Harvey Whittemore.”
“Reid is accused of using the new BLM chief as a puppet to control Nevada land (already over 84% of which is owned by the federal government) and pay back special interests,” she added. “BLM has proven that they’ve a situational concern for the desert tortoise as they’ve had no problem waiving their rules concerning wind or solar power development. Clearly these developments have vastly affected a tortoise habitat more than a century-old, quasi-homesteading grazing area.”
“If only Cliven Bundy were a big Reid donor.”
The desert tortoise is on the endangered species list and Defenders of Wildlife report that the decline of the desert tortoise is most severe in the Western Mojave Desert where populations have decreased by 90%. Female’s do not breed until they are 15-20 years of age and only about 2% of all hatch-lings survive.
Which could be an issue with many environmentally minded Americans except for the friendly suit issues Communities writer Judson Phillips raised:
An environmental group, often leaning pretty far left, sues the EPA over some agenda item they want. Instead of being truly antagonistic opponents, the EPA and these groups are in fact colluding.
“Sue and settle agreements allow EPA to convert a state Regional Haze program into a major new set of federal mandates, with no recourse for those affected until it’s too late,” said Bill Kovacs, the Chamber’s senior vice president for Environment, Technology & Regulatory Affairs. “The report outlines the potentially disastrous effects of this regulatory tool being used by the EPA to disregard states sovereignty and take over what Congress clearly determined to be a state environmental responsibility. These federal haze requirements offer only high costs for states, utilities and consumers, with no benefit.” (US Chamber of Commerce)
The Mojave desert is about 3 miles from the Bundy Ranch, though data on the tortoise population North East of Las Vegas is not readily available and it is not likely that Bundy’s cattle are grazing through Las Vegas to the deserts listed as the habitat for the Tortoise.
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