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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

County Commissioners issue ultimatum

CEDAR CITY — Clark County rancher Cliven Bundy has been fighting a range war with the federal government for nearly 20 years, but this time around, he's getting help from unexpected sources located about 85 miles away in Iron County.
In a notice sent Tuesday directed to the Bureau of Land Management deputy director Neil Kornze and the Nevada BLM state director Amy Lueders, the Iron County Commissioners and Sheriff Mark Gower warned that any action taken by the BLM to gather and confiscate Bundy's cattle currently grazing on Clark County public lands would warrant Iron County to begin immediately taking steps to reduce the number of feral horses in Southern Utah.
"You are officially put on notice that at the moment any action in Clark County, Nevada is taken to gather and confiscate private cattle without managing your own responsibility of feral horses in West Iron County to appropriate management levels, orders will be given to the Iron County Sheriff, deputies and other authorized agents to take necessary means to reduce the numbers of feral horses . . . This is not a threat. This is a plan of action," the notice states.
The BLM is in the process of preparing to impound hundreds of Bundy's cattle left on the public land after the government ordered him to remove them nearly 20 years ago. Bundy has been fighting ever since.
The BLM notified Bundy of its plans to impound his livestock March 19 and has followed that up the last couple of days by barricading the area Bundy 's livestock grazes in.
It is this action, the commissioners argue, that prompted them to write the notice to the BLM.
Iron County Commissioner Dave Miller said the federal government has used a lack of financial resources as the reason for not managing the feral horses. Yet the price tag for rounding up Bundy's livestock is close to $2 million dollars.
"If they don't have the money to manage the feral horses then they don't have $2 million dollars to rustle up Cliven Bundy's private property," he said.
Part of the $2 million includes $300,000 to an auction in Utah who has agreed take the cattle off the BLM's hands since no auction company in Nevada would take them, Miller said.
Governor Gary Herbert's Chief of Staff Mike Mower said Tuesday the governor views this as a Nevada issue that should be resolved there and does not believe the cattle belong in Utah.
Likewise Mower said Herbert is concerned about the overpopulation of feral horses.
"The governor is aware and shares the concerns of the commission about the range lands in the west desert and wants make sure there is viable grazing land for the permit holders of that area," he said.
Matt Wood, an Iron County rancher who grazes about 300 head of cattle, was one of about 200 ranchers on the west desert asked to reduce their allotments by 50 percent this coming summer.
"This is 50 percent on top of the 50 percent they've already had me cut through the years," he said.
Under the Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, the secretary of Interior is tasked with immediately removing an overpopulation of horses from the range to achieve appropriate management levels.
The fact that the federal government is asking ranchers to reduce their head of cattle when they aren't doing anything to cut the numbers of horses on the range is part of the problem, Miller said.
The commission gives the agency until April 4 to bring the numbers of the wild horse populations into compliance according to the law.
Miller said the commission is prepared to do what it takes to manage the wild horses if the BLM decides to ignore their notice.
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