BLM agents reportedly ran over a desert tortoise den and shot a prized bull while it was in a livestock holding pen during the Bundy ranch standoff. The stated reason the Bureau of Land Management wanted the cattle owned by Cliven Bundy off the public lands was to ensure the safety and longevity of the desert tortoise.
Prior to the Bundy ranch fiasco, the Sierra Club threatened to sue the BLM for not filing the mandated conservation reports indicating the ongoing efforts to protect the desert tortoise for the past several years. Fox News crews toured the damage reportedly caused by BLM agents on the Gold Butte public lands.
Corey Houston, a friend of Bundy ranch owner Cliven Bundy, said this about the damage to the habitat of the desert tortoise caused by the federal agents:
“They had total control of this land for one week, and look at the destruction they did in one week. So why would you trust somebody like that? And how does that show that they’re a better steward?”
During a teleconference meeting with the press on Friday evening before the BLM agents stood down, officials from the federal agency told reporters that “illegal structures” on the Bundy ranch had to be removed in order to “restore” Cliven Bundy’s land to its “natural state” and prevent the Nevada rancher from jump starting his “illegal cattle operation” anew. The so-called illegal structures included corrals, water lines, and water tanks.
The court order giving the armed BLM agents the authority to remove Bundy’s “trespass cattle” from the Gold Butte public lands reportedly ordered only the seizure and impounding of the livestock and did not mention the forced removal of structures or infrastructure needed to keep livestock.
According to Bundy ranch supporters and protesters who were at the scene throughout the standoff, BLM hired cowboys said the bulls were shot because they “dangerous” and could gore the horses. One bull owned by Cliven Bundy was reportedly shot five times. Houston allegedly inspected the holding pen where bulls were placed temporarily. The fellow rancher said the pen was not bent or smashed in any spot he could see to indicate a struggle and was left standing after the BLM agents pulled out.
BLM officials have not responded to media questions about vehicle tracks found on a crushed desert tortoise den or the bull deaths. Emerging details in the Bundy ranch standoff indicate that a desire to avoid a potentially fatal confrontation with protesters and the family might not have been the only reason behind the federal retreat.
If statements made by multiple Nevada livestock buyers and ranchers are accurate, no one in the state was willing to purchase Cliven Bundy’s cattle, not at any price. Nevada Agriculture Commissioner Ramona Morrison said, “The sale yards are very nevous about taking what in the past been basically stolen cattle, from the federal government.” Fear of being blacklisted by the plethora of ranchers and suppliers who support Bundy likely also factored into the decision to rebuke sale offers by the BLM.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert refused to allow the BLM to transport Bundy ranch cattle across state lines.
A letter written by Governor Herbert said:
“I urgently request that a herd of cattle seized by the Bureau of Land Management from Mr. Cliven Bundy in Bunkerville, Nevada, not be sent to Utah. There are serious concerns about human safety and animal health and well-being if these animals are shipped and sold in Utah.”
How do you feel about the damage to the tortoise dens and bulls deaths reportedly at the hands of the BLM during the Bundy ranch standoff?