Heavily armed federal agents have converged on Clark County, Nevada to stop the grazing of cattle on public lands. The standoff has been brewing for decades and only one rancher still remains in the fight. Cliven Bundy has likened the fight against the federal government in support of both individual rights and states’ rights to the Ruby Ridge and Waco tragedies.
Clark County is in the southern region of Nevada. Bundy is in defiance of a 2013 court order which demands he remove his cattle from US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management. His family has grazed the 600,000 public land since the 1800s.
Bundy had this to say about the armed federal agents attempting to remove his cattle from the Gold Butte area:
“I have raised cattle on that land, which is public land for the people of Clark County, all my life. Why I raise cattle there and why I can raise cattle there is because I have preemptive rights. Who is the trespasser here? Who is the trespasser on this land? Is the United States trespassing on Clark County, Nevada, land? Or is it Cliven Bundy who is trespassing on Clark County, Nevada, land? Who’s the trespasser?”
Bureau of Land Management and US National Park Service officials have deployed armed federal agents, “contract cowboys,” and possibly snipers to restrict Bundy’s access to the Gold Butte public land. When asked by journalist to confirm the snipers Carol Bundy, Cliven’s wife, believes she saw near their home, federal officials would neither confirm or deny the deployment of such agents to the Gold Butte public lands area.
A statement from federal officials about the longstanding battle over cattle grazing on public lands in Nevada reads:
“Cattle have been in trespass on public lands in southern Nevada for more than two decades. This is unfair to the thousands of other ranchers who graze livestock in compliance with federal laws and regulations throughout the West. The Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service have made repeated attempts to resolve this matter administratively and judicially. An impoundment of cattle illegally grazing on public lands is now being conducted as a last resort.”
To date, approximately 235 of Bundy’s 900 so-called trespass cattle, have been impounded by the federal government. In 1993 the Nevada rancher stopped paying the grazing fees required by the Bureau of Land Management. In court filings related to the case, Cliven Bundy stated that he was not obligated to pay such fees because his Mormon ancestors had worked the Gold Butte lands in question long before the agency had been created.
The Clark County public lands were declared off limits for cattle in 1998 when the area became a designated habitat for the federally protected desert tortoise. “It’s a freedom issue. It’s not about the cows. It’s a state rights issue,” Bundy said.
Ranchers and energy producers in five states are currently embroiled in a similar battle over private land usage and property rights due to the new protective status of the lesser prairie chicken. Some see the emerging restrictions on public and private land usage, and EPA pond and water usage limits, as a furtherance of the Agenda 21 initiative.