A 20-year dispute between a Nevada rancher and federal rangers over illegal cattle grazing erupted into an Old West-style showdown on the open range this week, even prompting self-proclaimed members of militia groups from across the country to join the rancher in fighting what they say is U.S. “tyranny.”
What began as a legal fight between longtime rancher Cliven Bundy and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has escalated as Bundy kept his cattle on the federal land, and the government has responded by beginning roundups of the livestock.
A confrontation teetered on violence Wednesday when Bundy family members and dozens of supporters angrily confronted a group of rangers holding Tasers and barking dogs on leashes near Bunkerville, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
Federal officials say a police dog was kicked and officers were assaulted.
Bundy family members say they were thrown to the ground or jolted with a Taser.
In the end, the rangers got into their white SUVs and drove away, a YouTube video of the incident showed.
“Get out of our state!” the cheering protesters yelled at the rangers as they departed in several vehicles. “BLM go away! BLM go away!” they added, referring to the Bureau of Land Management.
The entire incident is now under investigation, Amy Lueders, the bureau’s director in Nevada, said Thursday.
To some, the 67-year-old Bundy is a hero who hails from a long family of ranchers stretching back to the Wild West.
To environmentalists and the feds, however, he’s an outlaw of sorts who owes U.S. taxpayers more than $1 million in unpaid grazing fees.
The U.S. government is rounding up Bundy’s cattle that it says have been grazing illegally on public lands in Clark County for more than 20 years, according to the land-management bureau and the National Park Service.
Between Saturday and Wednesday, contracted wranglers impounded a total of 352 cattle, federal officials said. Bundy says he owns 500 of the more than 900 cattle that federal officials are planning to confiscate for illegal grazing, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. Bundy told the newspaper that each head of his livestock is worth about $1,000.
Since the roundups began, protesters have been confined to two areas to publicly declare their grievances, but the peaceful protests in recent days “have crossed into illegal activity, including blocking vehicles associated with the (roundup), impeding cattle movement, and making direct and overt threats to government employees,” the two federal agencies said in a statement.
SOURCE: Michael Martinez