Feds Make Abrupt Move In Fight With Rancher

UPDATE: Federal land managers abruptly ended a roundup of cattle on public land in southern Nevada from a rancher who has refused to recognize their authority, citing a "serious concern" for the safety of employees and the public.

Bureau of Land Management chief Neil Kornze made the announcement Saturday morning at the same time militia members and others gathered near the roundup site to protest the removal of hundreds of Cliven Bundy's cattle.

Some 400 cows were gathered during the roundup that began a week ago, short of the BLM's goal of 900 cows that it says were trespassing on public land.

Bundy didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

In an interview broadcast Friday on "CBS This Morning," Bundy said, "The money's not the deal. The cows are not the deal. It's freedom and liberty and access to our land and get rid of this abusive government."

Gov. Brian Sandoval, who had complained about the BLM's handling of the roundup, issued a statement praising the agency for its willingness to listen to the state's concerns.

BLM officials dismantled designated protest areas Thursday. Sandoval and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, both Republicans, have said they were upset with the way the BLM was conducting the roundup.

The dispute that triggered the roundup dates to 1993, when the BLM cited concern for the federally protected tortoise. The agency later revoked Bundy's grazing rights.

Bundy claims ancestral rights to graze his cattle on lands his Mormon family settled in the 19th century. He stopped paying grazing fees and disregarded several court orders to remove his animals.

BLM officials say Bundy now owes more than $1.1 million in unpaid grazing fees.

"I'm seeing a lot of passionate Americans willing to stand up for important rights," said Nevada state Assemblywoman Michele Fiore.

Fiore, a Republican, said Friday she has been making the 80-mile drive from Las Vegas to a growing tent city of militia members, advocates and protesters in dusty but scenic rangeland near Bundy's ranch, just east of the Virgin River. She said she was horrified that BLM police used stun guns on one of Bundy's adult sons during a Wednesday confrontation on a state highway near the Bundy melon farm in the Gold Butte area.

Video of that confrontation has spread on the Internet, along with blog commentary claiming excessive government force and calls to arms from self-described militia leaders. Some have invoked references to deadly confrontations with federal authorities, including a siege of a ranch home in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992 and the fiery destruction of a religious compound near Waco, Texas, that killed 76 people in 1993.

In Arizona, state Rep. Bob Thorpe of Flagstaff said he and state legislators were upset the BLM initially restricted protesters to so-called free speech zones.

After the areas were removed Thursday, Sandoval issued a statement.

"Although tensions remain high, escalation of current events could have negative, long lasting consequences that can be avoided," it said.

Amy Lueders, BLM state director in Nevada, said Friday that two protesters were detained, cited for failure to comply with officers at a barricade on Thursday and released.

That brought to three the number of arrests. Bundy's son, Dave Bundy, was arrested Sunday on State Route 170 and released Monday with citations accusing him of refusing to disperse and resisting arrest.

Original Story: A confrontation in Nevada threatens to become a modern-day range war. The government is taking away a rancher's herd, and tensions are running high.

Rancher Cliven Bundy said his land has been in his family since the 1870s, Teri Okita reports. In his mind, he's not just fighting against some unfair fees. He said he's trying to keep Uncle Sam out of everyone's backyard.

Tensions reached the boiling point earlier this week after simmering for years in a Nevada turf battle pitting Bundy against the federal government. Bundy said, "We haven't lost this battle. We've just barely begun."

U.S. rangers are rounding up Bundy's cattle, claiming he has been illegally grazing his herds on 600,000 acres of federal lands for two decades. The Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, said Bundy's unpaid land use fees total more than $1 million. Bundy said he doesn't have to pay because he has no contract with the federal government.

He said, "The money's not the deal. The cows are not the deal. It's freedom and liberty and access to our land and get rid of this abusive government."

Two federal judges issued orders last year that if the 67-year-old rancher did not remove his cattle from the land, they could be seized. The seizure began Saturday.

Demonstrators have rallied to support Bundy, leading to an altercation with law enforcement officials Wednesday, when one of Bundy's sons was tased after kicking a police dog.

Ammon Bundy said, "Then they tased me again, and they pulled it out again, probably because I didn't drop on the ground."

Jim Lordy came from Montana to join the protesters. He said he and other militia members are not afraid to shoot if necessary. Lordy, of Operation Mutual Aid, said, "Why the gun? Well, they have guns. We need guns to protect ourselves from a tyrannical government."

The Bureau of Land Management said this is a matter of equity and fairness to the 16,000 ranchers and farmers who do manage to pay their fees every year. No matter what the BLM does with his cattle, Bundy said this fight is bigger than he is. He said, "I'm guess maybe I'm a little bit like the Founding Fathers. I got a job to do, and I'm going to do it the best I can."

Authorities want the cattle off the land for another reason. Environmentalists say it's home to the endangered desert tortoise, and it's protected land.


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