The federal government moved some cattle and Nevada’s governor isn’t happy about it

April 9, 2014

Cliven Bundy walks on land where he runs cattle near Bunkerville, Nev. (John Locher/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

The federal government isn’t happy. Nevada’s governor isn’t happy. And Cliven Bundy most definitely isn’t happy.

Ranchers in Utah? They’re happy now.

All those emotions stem from a long-simmering fight over cows, which boiled over during the weekend.

For more than 20 years, Bundy, a Nevada rancher, has allowed his cattle to graze on federal land, and his main contention is that the government doesn’t really own the land. The Bureau of Land Management finally started rounding up the cows this weekend. They initially wanted to sell them at auction in Utah, but Gov. Gary Herbert argued that the whole controversy needed to be contained to Nevada. He succeeded, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, but Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is still pissed about the whole affair.

“No cow justifies the atmosphere of intimidation which currently exists nor the limitation of constitutional rights that are sacred to all Nevadans,” Sandoval said in a Tuesday statement. “The BLM needs to reconsider its approach to this matter and act accordingly.”

He took particular issue with the government’s decision to establish a specific area in which residents could protest.

“Most disturbing to me is the BLM’s establishment of a ‘First Amendment Area’ that tramples upon Nevadans’ fundamental rights under the U.S. Constitution,” he said in the statement.

A park service spokeswoman told the Las Vegas Review Journal that the area was intended to do just the opposite. Roads had to be closed to protect safety during the cattle removal, she said, but the service wanted to make sure protestors still had an area to gather.

The fight dates  to at least 1993,  since which Bundy has refused to pay the federal government fees for his grazing cows, according to the Los Angeles Times. In 1998, a federal court told Bundy to stop letting his cows graze there. And, last July, the same court reaffirmed that order, giving Bundy 45 days to remove the cows before the federal government would. They started  Saturday, acting on two federal court orders, they said in a statement that day.

“The BLM and the [National Park Service] have made repeated attempts to resolve this matter administratively and judicially,” the Nevada BLM statement read. “The agencies are now implementing two Federal District Court orders to remove the cattle. The BLM and NPS are working closely with local, state and federal officials to ensure that removal occurs in a safe and orderly manner.”

Bundy has insisted that his family owns rights to the land, which it has been working since the 1880s, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Read more:

The Los Angeles Times on Bundy

Gov. Sandoval’s statement

The July federal court order

Nevada BLM’s statement

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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