Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy said Thursday he is once again “ready to do battle” with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over his cattle the government contends are illegally grazing on federal land.
Bundy said he learned recently from Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie that the BLM is planning “soon” to enforce a federal court order issued last fall to seize his cattle if he hasn’t removed them from the Bunkerville Mountain/Virgin River area southwest of Mesquite; something he has no intention of doing.
“The county sheriff told me it was going to happen but he just hasn’t told me when,” Bundy said.
Erica Haspiel-Szlosek, communications chief for the Nevada BLM office in Reno, confirmed Thursday the BLM is in possession of a federal court order telling Bundy to remove his cattle within 45 days, “and we are well past that time.”
“I don’t think we have a final date because there are many things still in flux,” Haspiel-Szlosek said. “We’re still evaluating the situation. Before we can impound any cattle, he will have to be notified in writing about the general time frame.”
Although Bundy said the only notice he received notice from the BLM was the August court order giving him 45 days to move his cattle off Gold Butte, he still believes it could happen any day.
“I’ll do whatever it takes to protect my life, liberty and property,” the 67-year-old rancher said. “I don’t know what it will take. I guess a lot of media, family, friends, whoever will stand with me. The state and local government has fumbled this thing so far.”
Bundy and the BLM have clashed repeatedly since the early 1990s about his cattle roaming the Gold Butte area.
Among other contentious disagreements, the government insists the area is important habitat for the endangered desert tortoise and Bundy’s cattle eat the vegetation that would otherwise sustain them.
Bundy disputes first that the tortoise is an endangered species and, second, that there’s plenty of food for both animals.
He also maintains his cattle aren’t “trespassing” since the federal government has no claim on the land, and his animals are feeding on grass that’s growing land owned by the state or county not the federal government.
“I can’t believe a federal judge wouldn’t recognize the sovereign right of the state of Nevada,” Bundy said in May.
Bundy said Thursday the latest skirmish with the BLM could be solved without any problem if Sheriff Gillespie would simply step in.
“I think the sheriff could shut this whole thing down,” Bundy said. “All he has to do is say, ‘No.’”
When queried about Bundy and the BLM via email, Metro Police responded, “The LVMPD is not involved in any scheduled cattle round up concerning Cliven Bundy.”
“Is the sheriff going to sit on the sidelines to keep the peace?” Bundy said. “If so, he’s not protecting me. He’s stopping me from protecting my property. He’s got to make a decision which side of the fence he’s on.”
The BLM’s plan, if Bundy continues to refuse to remove his cattle, is to hire a contractor to round them up and confiscate them. The process requires that every animal be checked by a state brand inspector.
“As I understand it, one of the reasons we went to court (instead of confiscating the cattle last fall) was so the state brand inspector would be on-site. That’s what the problem was last year,” Haspiel-Szlosek said.
Apparently, the confiscation order was too vague.
“The state brand inspector now has all the necessary legal documentation to inspect the animals we confiscate,” she said.
Bundy said the brand inspector should refuse to work with the BLM.
“All he has to say is ‘no,’” Bundy said. “The problem is the federal courts have been running the show. The state has never got into it.
“These state brand inspectors work for me as a citizen of Nevada, not the feds,” Bundy said. “They don’t have any order from a state court.
“I want to give fair warning,” Bundy said. “I will hold the state and county officials accountable and liable. I will also make any cowboy contractor who collects the cattle legally accountable. That means I’ll sue ‘em.”
However and whenever it occurs, no one wants to see violence.
“Guns are not my intent,” Bundy said.
“It’s hard to say what the circumstances might cause,” she said. “We certainly hope it doesn’t escalate to violence. We really don’t think Mr. Bundy will do that.”