A tense standoff between a local Nevada rancher and the federal government concluded Saturday, with U.S. officials citing public safety concerns as they ended a controversial week-long cattle roundup that drew nationwide attention.
"Based on information about conditions on the ground, and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public," Neil Kornze, director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, said in a statement.
Rancher Derrel Spencer speaks during a rally in support of Cliven Bundy near Bunkerville Nev. Monday, April 7, 2014, 2014. The Bureau of Land Management has begun to round up what they call "trespass cattle" that rancher Cliven Bundy has been grazing in the Gold Butte area 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, John Locher)
Earlier this week, the decades-long battle escalated when protesters confronted federal agents attempting to roundup Cliven Bundy's approximately 900 "trespass cattle."
Bundy does not own the land and has refused to pay grazing fees since 1993, contending he doesn't recognize the federal government's claim to the property.
“Historically, ranchers would let their cattle graze on public land, and the government didn’t stop them," Jeremy Hudia, an Ohio attorney familiar with the legal claims being made, explained to TheBlaze in an email. "Back in the 1930s, however, the land was being harmed by all the uncontrolled grazing. So laws were passed to create a permit process to control the amount of grazing."
"There is no ‘right’ to use public land for one’s personal gain,” he added. “If that were the case, I would start drilling for oil in Yosemite National Park.”
Bundy, however, doesn't see things that way.
“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,” Bundy told TheBlaze Monday. “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?”
[sharequote align="center"]“I have raised cattle on that land, which is public land for the people of Clark County, all my life."[/sharequote]
In 1998 the federal government said the land was off-limits to cattle, in an effort to morph the property into a habitat for an endangered tortoise. Bundy has refused to leave the area, despite a court order.
This week a tense standoff ensued as federal agents attempted to round up his cattle. Protesters, many driving from far distances, flocked to the area to support Bundy.
In one incident, captured on video, the rancher's son was struck by a stun gun as his sister was pushed to the ground.
The controversy forced Nevada's Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval to comment on the matter. He said he was "disturbed" by the First Amendment zones established by officials to prevent protests from spreading all over the land.
“To that end, I have advised the BLM that such conduct is offensive to me and countless others and that the ‘First Amendment Area’ should be dismantled immediately,” Sandoval said. “No cow justifies the atmosphere of intimidation which currently exists nor the limitation of constitutional rights that are sacred to all Nevadans. The BLM needs to reconsider its approach to this matter and act accordingly.”
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