While distancing itself from the legal issues that prompted the Bureau of Land Management to round up Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy’s range cattle then release hundreds of them as the threat of violence loomed, the conservative Nevada Cattlemen’s Association issued a statement Wednesday that sympathizes with Bundy.
“The situation in Nevada stands as an example (of) the federal agencies’ steady trend toward elevating environmental and wildlife issues over livestock grazing,” reads the statement from Ron Torell, the group’s president.
The statement adds that ranchers such as Bundy, who graze livestock on multiple-use public lands, which include habitat for the threatened desert tortoise and other federally protected species, “have found themselves with their backs against the wall as, increasingly, federal regulations have infringed on their public land grazing rights and the multiple-use management principle.”
“This is not only devastating to individual ranching families; it is also causing rural communities in the West to (wither) on the vine. In the West, one in every two acres is owned by the federal government,” the Cattlemen’s Association statement said. “Therefore, the integrity of the laws protecting productive multiple use is paramount to the communities that exist there.”
The group contends that the Endangered Species Act and other such laws “are being implemented in a way that are damaging to our rights and to our Western families and communities. In Bundy’s case the designation of his grazing area as a critical habitat for the endangered desert tortoise gave the BLM the rationale they needed to order a ... decrease in his cattle numbers. There never was any scientific proof that cattle had historically harmed the desert tortoise.”
The BLM halted its roundup Saturday as gun-toting militia and protesters in support of Bundy converged on a corral near Mesquite where government cowboys were preparing to haul away some 380 head of cattle gathered in the Gold Butte area for auction.
The association emphasized, however, that it doesn’t support those who break the law and abuse grazing privileges.
“In accordance with the rule of law, we must use the system set forth in our Constitution to change those laws and regulations. Nevada Cattlemen’s Association does not condone actions that are outside the law in which citizens take the law into their own hands,” the group’s statement said.
The Nevada Cattlemen’s Association is a nonprofit trade association that was established in 1935. The group has 567 dues-paying members who convene annually to “review, renew and create policy for our organization,” according to Torell.
Torell said Bundy is not a member of the association, which consists of cattle and sheep ranchers who hold grazing permits and pay fees for grazing privileges on public, federal lands.
The association made it clear that it doesn’t take a stand on Bundy’s legal issues because the membership “does not feel it is our place to interfere.”
Instead, the matter is solely between Bundy and the federal court system, the association’s statement said.
“This case was reviewed by a federal judge and a decision was rendered to remove the cattle. Nevada Cattlemen’s Association does not feel it is our place to interfere in the process of adjudication in this matter,” the group said in its statement.
“We regret that this entire situation was not avoided through more local government involvement and better implementation of federal regulations, laws, and court decisions,” the statement said. “While we cannot advocate operating outside the law to solve problems, we also sympathize with Mr. Bundy’s dilemma.”
A BLM spokesman said Wednesday that bureau officials have seen the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association statement but wouldn’t comment on it.
Contact Keith Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0308. Find him on Twitter: @KeithRogers2.