The Bureau of Land Management announced on Saturday morning that they will stop the roundup of cattle by rancher Cliven Bundy. This decision comes a week after ranchers began gathering the cattle from land near Bunkerville, Nevada.
The BLM released a statement saying:
“Based on information about conditions on the ground, and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public. 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.”
About an hour after BLM released this statement, Bundy urged supporters to block the free until the cattle were released. This led to an afternoon standoff between protesters and police that began around 1 p.m. Protesters began to block the Interstate 15 northbound freeway shutting it down for nearly 4 hours. Many protesters were also armed with weapons, and refused to budge until the cattle were free. Police then began to act as a barrier between protesters and BLM officials. SWAT was also on the scene. No arrests were made. Around 4:30 p.m. the BLM decided to release the cattle they confiscated from an enclosed area where they were being kept. Officials say nearly 400 cows were released.
The BLM released a new statement saying they released the cattle to help restore order and avoid violence.
Senator Harry Reid and representatives Steven Horseford and Dina Titus also released statements saying that they support the decision made by the BLM, and urged protesters to leave the scene peacefully.
It has been a nasty battle between Bundy and the BLM this week, that even resulted in Bundy’s son saying he was tased by a BLM official during a protest.
Meanwhile, Nevada governor Brian Sandoval spoke out against the bureau’s “disturbing” confinement of protesters to a “First Amendment area” on the public land; the federal officials have since allowed them to gather on the land as long as they don’t interfere with the seizure of cattle.
“No cow justifies the atmosphere of intimidation which currently exists nor the limitation of constitutional rights that are sacred to all Nevadans,” Sandoval said.
The Blaze’s Dana Loesch reports on possible ties to another prominent Nevada politician: Senate majority leader Harry Reid.
Part of the BLM’s justification for enforcing its authority over the land is that it falls within the boundaries of a protection area for desert tortoises, a threatened species. But, Loesch writes in her blog, exemptions and accommodations for land falling inside the boundaries have been made in the past for wind- and solar-power projects, as well as a top Reid donor named Harvey Whittemore (Whittmore is currently serving time in prison for illegal campaign contributions to Reid’s campaign.) She asks why similar accommodations can’t be made for Bundy.
As the situation continues to unfold, Bundy’s daughter has offered a plea to onlookers.
“Wake up America,” Bailey Bundy Logue told KSL-TV. “Look what our ancestors fought for and we need to stand up for that. We need to realize what’s happening. They are taking everything away from us. This isn’t only about one family. This is about everyone’s family. This is martial law and it’s in America and so what are you going to do to have it stay out of America?”
Neil Kornze has been running the Bureau of Land Management since 2013. Previously, the native Nevadan worked on public lands issues in Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office.