A Nevada rancher has received support from a pair of powerful state politicians in his decades-long fight against the federal government regarding his cattle grazing on a remote public rangeland about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
The rangeland is under federal protection to safeguard an endangered desert tortoise. Over the weekend, the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) surrounded the vast 1,200-square-mile area of rangeland with helicopters and armed officers who seized 134 of Clark County rancher Cliven Bundy's 900 cattle that were grazing there, Fox News reported
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The rancher's 37-year-old son, Dave Bundy, was arrested on Sunday for refusing to disperse at the start of the cattle roundup. He was reportedly freed the following day.
Nevada's Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, a former state attorney general and federal district court judge, weighed in late Tuesday after several days of media coverage about blocked roads and armed federal agents fanning out around Bundy's ranch, The Associated Press reported
"No cow justifies the atmosphere of intimidation which currently exists nor the limitation of constitutional rights that are sacred to all Nevadans," Sandoval said in a statement
. "The BLM needs to reconsider its approach to this matter and act accordingly."
Nevada State Sen. Dean Heller, also a Republican, expressed disappointment with the way in which the federal government handled the situation. He said that BLM Director Neil Kornze "told him very clearly that law-abiding Nevadans must not be penalized by an over-reaching BLM."
In response to the controversy, BLM spokeswoman Kirsten Cannon put the blame on Bundy, saying it was the rancher's "inflammatory statements," and vows to fight the cattle removal that caused the government agency to act.
"Mr. Bundy has been in trespass on public lands for more than 20 years," Cannon said.
According to the spokeswoman, the rancher owes the federal government some $1.1 million in unpaid grazing fees as a result of his infringement on federal land, Fox News reported.
Contractors were paid $966,000 to put the cattle into temporary pens and remove them from the area over the weekend, Cannon added.
In response to the roundup, Bundy told Fox News, "This is a lot bigger deal than just my cows. It’s a statement for freedom and liberty and the Constitution."
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