Nevada Rancher's Fight With Feds Reaches Boiling Point
Tensions reached the boiling point early this week after simmering for years in a Nevada turf battle pitting rancher Cliven Bundy against the federal government.
"We haven't lost this battle. We've barely begun."
The BLM is trying to remove Bundy's cattle from his ranch near Bunkerville, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
U.S. rangers claim he has been illegally grazing his herds on 600,000 acres of federal lands for two decades. The Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, says Bundy's unpaid land use fees total over $1 million. Bundy says he doesn't have to pay because he has no contract with the federal government. "I would sacrifice cattle for freedom. I don't like the idea of stealing, but it's state sovereignty. I'm serious about the fight about that."
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 on sSaturday.
Demonstrators have rallied to support Bundy leading to an altercation with law enforcement officials on Wednesday when one of Bundy's son's was tased after kicking a police dog. Ammon Bundy adds, "They tased me again...they pulled it out again, probably because I didn't drop on the ground. I was convulsing but not dropping."
Jim Lordy came from Montana to join the protesters. He says he and other militia members are not afraid to shoot if necessary.
"Why the gun?"
"Well, they have guns. 46 We need guns to protect ourselves from the tyrannical government."
The Bureau of Land Management says 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 says this fight is bigger than he is. "I'm like the founding father. I got a job to do and I'll do the best I can."
Authorities want the cattle off the land for another reason. Environmentalists says its home to the endangered desert tortoise, and its protected land.
Nevada state Assemblywoman Michele Fiore said Friday that people are standing up for important land rights. The Republican from Las Vegas says she's horrified that BLM police used stun guns on one of Bundy's sons during a Wednesday confrontation on a state highway.
Several Republican lawmakers from Arizona say they plan to travel to the site to protest what they call government heavy-handedness.
Nevada BLM director Amy Lueders would not discuss details of the incident during a conference call with reporters late Thursday, saying only that it is under investigation. She said Bundy's actions "do a disservice to the thousands of law abiding ranchers in the West."
Governor Brian Sandoval says his office has received a number of complaints over the issue, saying in a statement -- in part "no cow justifies the atmosphere of intimidation which currently exists...nor the limitation of constitutional rights that are sacred to all Nevadans."
Senator Dean Heller has told the newly appointed BLM chief that law-abiding Nevadans should not be penalized by an "overreaching" agency.
(The Associated Press also contributed to this report.)
On Thursday, April 10th, Governor Brian Sandoval released this statement:
Governor Brian Sandoval today issued the following statement regarding the Bureau of Land Management's roundup and reports of organized protests against it:
"Earlier this week, I advised the BLM not to limit or hinder the constitutional rights of Nevadans and be mindful of its conduct. The ability to speak out against government actions is one of the freedoms we all cherish as Americans. Today I am asking all individuals who are near the situation to act with restraint. Although tensions remain high, escalation of current events could have negative, long lasting consequences that can be avoided."