A tense, week-long showdown between the federal government and supporters of a Nevada cattle rancher came to a close over the weekend.
Over the last several weeks, rancher Cliven Bundy and his cattle garnered national headlines — and numerous supporters — in what some have called “showdown on the range.” This range war is the latest development in a long-standing battle between Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The BLM claims Bundy owes around $1 million in back fees owed to allow his cattle to graze on federal land. Bundy, however, counters that he has the right to graze his livestock on open range. Read, “In a “Range War” between a rancher and government – no one wins.”
The Associated Press reports in an article here the situation came to a head on Saturday as 1,000 of Bundy’s supporters, many armed, faced down BLM officials as they shut down a 1,200-square-mile-area to round up the rest of Bundy’s cattle herd. The BLM had previously rounded up several hundred head of Bundy’s cattle earlier in the week.
Bundy’s son, Ammon, told Reuters in an interview an armed standoff was necessary to stop the government.
“We were dedicated to opening those gates and peacefully walking through to retrieve those cattle," he said in an interview. "The presence of weapons was needed in order to intimidate them."
To avoid violence, restore order and keep officials safe, the BLM announced an end to the standoff. It also released the cattle previously rounded up.
"Due to escalating tensions, the cattle have been released from the enclosures in order to avoid violence and help restore order," the BLM said in a prepared statement.
Tensions among Bundy’s supporters remained high throughout the weekend. U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, asked out-of-state supporters to return home to avoid further altercations, according to a CNN report.
"The dispute is over, the BLM is leaving, but emotions and tensions are still near the boiling point, and we desperately need a peaceful conclusion to this conflict," Heller said in a statement. "I urge all the people involved to please return to your homes and allow the BLM officers to collect their equipment and depart without interference.
However, while the BLM may have been forced to pull back for now, the bureau isn’t ready to wave the white flag just yet.
"This is a matter of fairness and equity, and we remain disappointed that Cliven Bundy continues to not comply with the same laws that 16,000 public lands ranchers do every year," BLM director Neil Kornze said in the statement. "After 20 years and multiple court orders to remove the trespass cattle, Mr. Bundy owes the American taxpayers in excess of $1 million. The BLM will continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially."