Nevada cattle at center of battle between federal, county officials

Posted at 10:19 PM, Apr 04, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-05 00:19:25-04

ST. GEORGE, Utah - A Nevada rancher is in the middle of a range war with the federal government. Now Southern Utah county commissioners are getting involved, urging the feds to back off.

Washington county commissioners held an emergency meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss the range war.

The meeting ended with a resolution urging Nevada BLM administrators to leave free-range cattle where they are. Commissioners said if rangers move to confiscate the cattle, those cattle should stay out of Utah.

“It’s inherently wrong in my opinion,” said Washington County Commission chair James Eardley. “And I think the collective opinion of the commissions, that we would take the private property of an individual and confiscate it.”

Washington County is the latest local government to get involved in a bitter dispute between the Bureau of Land Management and Clark County rancher Cliven Bundy.

“My stand is, I have no contract with the United States government,” Bundy said. “And [the government] does not own this land, this is land that’s part of the sovereign state of Nevada, Clark County.”

It’s a battle that goes back more than 20 years, when Bundy decided to stop paying the BLM for range land use. Bundy said he felt the federal agency was miss-managing the land his family had used freely for close to a century before. The BLM has asked Bundy multiple times to remove his cattle. Finally, a federal judge signed off on a court order allowing rangers to forcibly remove the cattle.

Iron County commissioners are also getting in the fight, backing Bundy with a resolution warning the BLM if they follow through with their plan to confiscate Bundy’s cattle, commissioners will direct the Iron County Sheriff to begin measures to thin out the wild horse population.

Managing wild horses is a task of the BLM, but commissioners said the federal agency is failing at its job. The resolution states if the BLM would rather spend money rounding up cattle, Iron County will round up the horses.

The BLM has closed public lands in Clark County while they work on a plan to round up the “trespassing” cattle. Only marked vehicles are allowed past a barricade, and free speech zones are located several miles away.

BLM public affairs specialist Hillerie Patton said officials haven’t started confiscating cattle as of Friday afternoon, but a public website had been set up to apprise the public on the current status.

Bundy said he’s not sure what will happen if they do take his cattle, but he’s prepared to do everything he can to stop it from happening, and said it’s comforting to know people are behind him.

“I’ve tried to fight this thing legally, and I’ve tried to fight it politically,” Bundy said. “We’ve got one more fight. We the people haven’t fought yet.”

Updates on the status of the BLM activities in Clark County can be found here.