EDITORIAL: BLM’s cattle battle ends — for now

The Bureau of Land Management finally made one prudent decision in its battle with rancher Cliven Bundy: withdrawing. The weeklong feud began with the BLM rounding up hundreds of Mr. Bundy’s cattle, and reached heightened tension levels by Saturday afternoon in a 20-minute standoff between armed ranchers and law enforcement officers.

As reported by the Review-Journal’s Tom Ragan, Annalise Porter and Wesley Juhl, the BLM decided to halt the roundup near Bunkerville early Saturday, fearing for the safety of its agents and the public. The BLM then defused the standoff by releasing about 380 cattle back to Mr. Bundy, after protesters stormed the corral where federal agents were keeping the animals. Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie deserves kudos for helping broker negotiations to de-escalate tensions.

BLM spokesman Craig Leff told The Associated Press that the agency would continue to try to solve the matter of Mr. Bundy’s $1 million grazing fee bill. In a Monday Reno Gazette-Journal report, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., agreed: “I have been very clear in saying this thing is not over, OK?”

But it should be. The BLM planned to spend $1 million (at least) to remove the cattle from federal land for the dubious reason of desert tortoise protection. It was a complete waste of taxpayer funds from the get-go, proven by the end result of the cattle going back to Mr. Bundy. The problem isn’t cattle grazing fees nor saving the tortoise. It’s that the federal government owns too much land — more than 80 percent of Nevada — and is completely incapable of managing it. The BLM would be wise to follow its Saturday tactic and withdraw from more federal land — by selling it to local owners, who would be far better caretakers.