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Bunkerville rancher appeals ruling on cattle grazing on Gold Butte range


Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy has appealed a federal judge’s ruling that orders him to remove cattle from the Gold Butte range where they have wandered from a grazing allotment that public lands managers canceled 19 years ago.

Bundy filed an appeal Friday to the July 9 ruling by U.S. District Court Senior Judge Lloyd D. George that gives Bundy until Aug. 23 to remove strays from his herd of more than 500 cattle grazing on public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service. If he doesn’t comply, federal agencies can seize and impound them.

The possible action is tied to a related case that resulted in a 1998 ruling ordering Bundy to remove his cattle from the former Bunkerville allotment, 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

The BLM canceled Bundy’s permit for the Bunkerville allotment in 1994. But he continued to let his cattle graze on the vast, sage-dotted landscape — without paying the $2-per-head, per-month fee.

Although that case was closed in 1999 after Bundy lost an appeal in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, U.S. attorneys filed a new motion this year that seeks a court order for the state brand inspector to allow impounded cattle to be sold at auction. In addition they seek a directive that precludes Bundy from physically interfering with the government’s effort to round up any of his trespass cattle.

In a news release accompanying his appeal of the July 9 ruling, Bundy said he will be filing a motion for stay to prevent the government from proceeding with George’s order.

“The big question not addressed by the lower court was the fraud committed by the BLM in ordering all cattle off the Nevada public lands back in the 1990s,” Bundy’s news release states.

The basis for his appeal is his belief that federal biologists wrongly used the Endangered Species Act to claim that his cattle grazing damaged habitat critical to the federally protected desert tortoise, which is listed as a threatened reptile.

“It is very clear that this critter does not come under the jurisdiction of the Endangered Species Act and all actions taking the BLM to strip me of my property rights, and all the folks here in Nevada that had to pay mitigation fees for the tortoise were stolen from also,” Bundy stated.

Officials for the BLM’s Southern Nevada District Office had no comment Monday on Bundy’s appeal.

When Bundy didn’t comply with the 1998 order, the BLM had authority to seize the herd but did not act until April 2012, when a roundup was planned and then abruptly suspended. BLM officials cited safety concerns for people involved with rounding up an estimated 900 head of cattle as reason for suspending the roundup indefinitely.

Bundy has said he would do “whatever it takes” to resist government efforts to remove his cattle from rangeland used by his family since 1877. In an April 11 motion filed in the related case, U.S. attorneys noted Bundy’s “often confrontational behavior” and “the possibility that Bundy will attempt to physically resist any federal impoundment action.”

“The United States therefore requests that this court direct Bundy not to physically interfere with the federal impoundment of his cattle, should such an impoundment become necessary,” the government’s motion reads.

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at krogers@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0308.

 

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