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BLM not in rush to return to Gold Butte area following Bundys’ arrests

CARSON CITY — The federal government will tread slowly before returning to the expansive Gold Butte area following the arrest in Oregon of a Bunkerville rancher and two of his sons, a Bureau of Land Management officials said Tuesday.

Gayle Marrs-Smith, Southern Nevada BLM field manager, told the Legislative Public Lands Committee the situation remains “fluid” and there is no timeline for federal officials to resume a presence on those public lands where a tense standoff occurred in 2014 between armed supporters of Cliven Bundy and law enforcement who tried to confiscate his cattle for failure to pay $1 million in grazing fees.

Gold Butte is about 110 miles east of Las Vegas, via Interstate 15 and state Routes 170 and 113.

Cliven Bundy was arrested the night of Feb. 10 in Portland, Oregon, while en route to a remote wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon where his sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, led an armed occupation of the government facility. The sons and several others were arrested Jan. 26 when they left the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for a community meeting in John Day.

The last four remaining occupiers surrendered Thursday.

Cliven Bundy remains jailed in Oregon on multiple charges, including assault on a federal law enforcement officer, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, extortion and carrying a firearm in a crime of violence.

Marrs-Smith spoke cautiously when questioned by Assemblywoman Heidi Swank, D-Las Vegas, about Gold Butte, telling committee members the agency’s priority is the safety of employees and the public.

“We’re going to be very measured and we’re going to kind of wait and see,” she said. “Things are very fluid.”

She added, “We are looking forward to managing out there, getting back out there.”

The federal government withdrew from the Gold Butte area after the 2014 standoff.

While some federal workers and contractors were sent back to work in the months afterward, the BLM ordered all staff and contract employees to stay out of the area after a survey crew was forced from their campsite by gunfire in the middle of the night.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3821. Find her on Twitter: @SandraChereb


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