Nevada’s governor is criticizing a federal cattle roundup and what he calls “intimidation” in a dispute with a rancher who claims longstanding grazing rights on open range outside LasVegas.
Federal Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service officials didn’t immediately respond Wednesday to Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval’s call for the BLM to “reconsider its approach.”
Sandoval says he’s most offended that federal officials have tried to corral people protesting the roundup into a “First Amendment area.”
Federal officials say 277 cows have been rounded up since Saturday from a 1,200-square-mile area that it has closed to the public for the operation about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
The BLM says Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy has allowed his cattle to trespass and graze for decades in the area.
Bundy, a descendant of Mormons who settled in Bunkerville more than 140 years ago, claims an inherent right to graze the area and casts the conflict as a states’ rights issue. He said he doesn’t recognize federal authority on land that he insists belongs to Nevada.
His dispute with the government dates to 1993, when land managers cited concern for the federally protected desert tortoise and capped Bundy’s herd at 150 animals on his 158,666-acre Bunkerville allotment of rangeland.
Bundy protested by withholding his monthly grazing fees and kept using the range. The BLM canceled his grazing permit in 1994. A federal court in 1998 ordered him to remove the animals, and federal authorities in 1999 officially closed the Bunkerville allotment to cattle.
Conservationists say the cows eat scarce forage needed by wildlife including the tortoise and horses.