Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy’s long battle with the federal government over cattle he grazes illegally in the Gold Butte area may be coming to an end.
United States District Judge Lloyd D. George on July 9 ordered Bundy to remove his cattle by Aug. 23 or face having them seized and impounded by the Bureau of Land Management.
Bundy’s claim that federal district court doesn’t have jurisdiction because the United States does not own the public lands in question also was denied by George in his summary judgment.
The ruling again would allow BLM law enforcement agents to remove feral cattle and cattle with Bundy’s brand from the Gold Butte area, which has been designated as habitat reserved for the protected desert tortoise.
A plan to remove the cattle last fall was canceled after BLM officials said they feared Bundy might resort to violence if the attempted to round up his cattle.
According to a Nov. 26, 2012, article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Bundy had notifiedCattoor Livestock Roundup, Inc., the company contracted to gather the cattle, that he would "do whatever it takes to protect his property and rights and liberty and freedoms."
That canceled roundup was to enforce a judgment against Bundy dating back to Nov. 3, 1998, when the court ordered him to remove his cattle from the Bunkerville allotment before Nov. 30 of that year.
He later lost an appeal in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. But the federal government, nonetheless did not enforce the court order, and Bundy’s cattle freely roamed the allotment and onto public land around Gold Butte and National Park Service area along the Overton Arm of Lake Mead.
The case ruled upon July 9, 2013, was filed by U.S. attorneys on May 14, 2012, and addresses that “broad swath of additional federal land,” the court referred to as “new trespass lands.”
Bundy’s legal woes with the federal government began in the early 1990s when he stopped paying his mandated grazing fees. Citing his family’s use of the land since 1877, he complained the BLM’s management was geared to get ranchers and livestock off public lands. The BLM canceled his Bunkerville allotment in 1994, but he has continued to graze his cattle there and allowed them to roam outside of that allotment.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal article cited a BLM investigation conducted in March 2011 that discovered more than 900 cattle roaming throughout the 500,000-acre Gold Butte area.
In seeking injunctive relief, the U.S. attorneys said Bundy’s trespassing not only causes damage to natural and cultural resources, but also poses a danger to motorists as free-roaming cattle frequently cross the Gold Butte Road which in some areas has blind curves and frequent hills and dips which impair visibility.
By Kent Harper