Protesters, federal officials clash over cattle, land rights

Posted at 10:35 PM, Apr 10, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-11 00:36:58-04

BUNKERVILLE, Nevada - The range war continues in Clark County, and while protesters are coming from several different states, the Bureau of Land Management has rounded up hundreds of cows they said are trespassing on federal land.

Protesters once again took to the streets, rallying for the western states to take the land they say is rightfully theirs.

“The western states have been deprived of their land and the eastern states were established under the Constitution, primarily correctly,” Protester Ammon Bundy said.

Ownership of state land is an argument activists have long made, but now comes after a decades old battle with local rancher Cliven Bundy. Bundy stopped paying grazing fees in the 1990s because he says the land should belong to Nevada, and his rights inherited from the state.

The BLM, however, has managed the public lands for the federal government for decades and says Bundy’s cattle are trespassing. Bundy has ignored court orders to remove the cattle, so the BLM is doing it for him.

That’s led to serious confrontation. Wednesday, multiple people caught one confrontation on camera between Bundy’s son and federal law enforcement agents. Ammon Bundy took a shot from a stun gun while questioning officers about the operation.

“We wanted to know why and what was in that back hoe that was so important, and also we were wanting to protest what they’re doing,” Ammon Bundy said.

In a statement, the BLM says protesters blocked a federal truck and threatened employees. They’ve also said a heavy law enforcement presence is for safety during the operation and anyone getting in the way could be cited. But protesters see it as limiting free speech. Designated First Amendment areas were taken down at the request of Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval.

The movement has drawn in crowds from neighboring states. Moms from Utah said they saw it as an opportunity to stand with those who share their belief.

“I felt really strongly this is something I can do,” protester Linzi Hansen said. “I can come down and show this family that I support them and that I don’t agree that the federal government owns 84 percent of the land in Nevada.”

Utah lawmakers are also weighing in. Thursday, in a joint letter, U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch, Mike Lee and Representatives Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart urged the BLM to keep confiscated cattle out of Utah. The letter echoes one sent by Governor Gary Herbert earlier this month saying, “going forward with the plan to transport the Nevada cattle to Utah may endanger the health of Utah herds and place Utah state employees and other Utah residents in danger.”

Currently the cattle are being held in a compound on the public land. The BLM said leaving the cattle on the range wouldn’t be fair to thousands of ranchers who use the land in compliance with the law.