Nevada Ranchers: Feds Mistreated Cattle During Standoff

Monday, 14 Apr 2014 09:54 PM

By Newsmax Wires

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A Nevada rancher said Monday that he's trying to determine whether federal agents damaged his cattle when the animals were rounded up and then released in a showdown with angry protesters over a decades-long dispute about range land rights.

Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze said the agency backed off to avoid a potentially violent situation over the weekend.

Special: Powerful New Movie Reveals Alarming Threats on U.S. Border – See Trailer Here.

He vowed, however, to go to court to collect more than $1 million in back grazing fees he says rancher Cliven Bundy owes for trespassing on federal lands since the 1990s.

Bundy, whose family has operated a ranch since the 1870s southwest of Mesquite a few miles from the Utah line, does not recognize federal authority on the land, which he insists belongs to Nevada.

On Saturday, the bureau released some of the 400 head of cattle it had seized from Bundy. Fox News reported that only about 260 of the cattle were returned. Bundy's daughter, Bailey Logue, said she has heard they either had been shot or run to death.

The operation had been expected to take a month to collect as many as 900 cattle. Fox reported that the BLM paid a company from Utah $966,000 for a six-week contract to round up the cattle and sell them in Utah.

The state of Utah livestock brand manager refused to accept them, so the cattle were left under a bridge trestle near the ranch.

The animals were freed after armed militia members joined hundreds of states'-rights protesters at corrals outside Mesquite. Bundy said they were united in defense of their constitutional rights.

"They have faith in the Constitution," he told KDWN-AM in Las Vegas on Monday. "The Founding Fathers didn't create a government like this."

Carol Bundy, Cliven Bundy's wife, showed Fox News a calf named Liberty that she said was born during the standoff. The calf's mother fled in fear and can't be found, she said. As a result, Liberty won't grow as strong as the others and will likely end up as a pet.

Carol Bundy was critical of the BLM and "contract cowboys" who rounded up the cattle, saying the animals were mistreated.

"They were abused. They didn’t have water. They had very little feed," she told Fox News. "Cattle prods were laying everywhere.

"We don't treat our cattle that way," she said. "They're shrunken up, and they need to go back out on the range. What is more natural in the West than to have a cow and a calf out on the range?"

The BLM's National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board was meeting in Sacramento on Monday on the broader issue fueling the conflict over how to divide the scarce forage on mostly dry lands across the West among livestock, wild horses, and wildlife.

Wild-horse protection advocates say the government is rounding up too many mustangs while allowing sheep and cattle to feed at taxpayer expense on the same land scientists say is being overgrazed. Ranchers say the government refuses to gather enough horses in the herds, which double in size every five years.

Advocates on both sides accused the BLM board of not addressing their concerns.

"Americans want wild horses on our public lands," said wild horse advocate Bonnie Kohleriter. "You cattlemen and wildlife people are special-interest groups . . . You need to stop attacking the wild horses, attempting to diminish their numbers, and make resources available to them."

Debra Hawk, a biologist representing the Wildlife Society, said the BLM's failure to cut the number of wild horses is harming other species that rely on the land. She criticized the agency for indicating it may not continue the horse roundups, saying the BLM should "utilize all methods available" to cut the population.

"Not conducting roundups will result in further degradation of native ranges, harming native wildlife and plants," she said.

Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore said she spent much of the past week with the Bundy family and helped feed some of the calves that were returned over the weekend.

"It's going to take a lot to revive the calves that were nearly dead when they were returned to the Bundy ranch because they had been separated from their mothers during the roundup, and a few most likely won't make it," said Fiore, a Republican from Las Vegas.

"It's time for Nevada to stand up to the federal government and demand the return of the BLM lands to the people of Nevada," Fiore said.

Horse protection advocates and other critics of livestock grazing on federal land said the government's suspension of the roundup sends the wrong signal to law-abiding ranchers who secure the necessary grazing permits to use the land.

The BLM "is allowing a freeloading rancher and armed thugs to seize hundreds of thousands of acres of the people's land as their own," said Rob Mrowka, a senior scientist for the Center for Biological Diversity. "It's backing down in the face of threats and posturing of armed sovereignists."

BLM spokesman Craig Leff said the agency will work to resolve the matter "administratively and judicially" but planned no further public comment on Bundy's case.

"The gather is over," he said in an email.

In 1998, the BLM secured the first of a series of court orders that found Bundy's cattle in trespass, rejecting his argument that the land in an area known as Gold Butte belonged to the state.

The BLM filed a new complaint in federal court in Las Vegas in May 2012, seeking an injunction to prevent what it called Bundy's continued trespass, and Judge Lloyd George issued another order last July authorizing the agency to impound the cattle.

Special: Powerful New Movie Reveals Alarming Threats on U.S. Border – See Trailer Here.

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