Was releasing Cliven Bundy’s cattle a mistake?

Many reports are making the BLM, Bundy feud sound rather cut-and-dry. I don’t see it that way; I think it’s a much more complex issue that takes deeper thought. It has been one week now since the BLM and their contractors retreated from the Gold Butte, Nevada area and released Cliven Bundy’s cattle back to him. Things in Gold Butte really started getting intense after armed militiamen from around the country started to show up in Cliven Bundy’s defense.

There’s no doubt that, according to federal law, Bundy was grazing his cattle on public lands illegally. For a rancher to graze his cattle on public land, the rancher is required to pay ‘grazing fees’ to the federal government. Sounds reasonable, right? Not to the Bundy’s and their thousands of supporters.

Bundy’s argument is that the land that he grazes his cattle on belongs to the state of Nevada and to Clark County, Nev. Cliven also claims that his family has used the land since the 1800s and has “preemptive, adjudicated” livestock and water rights to the land. While this is a strong argument for some, others just don’t see it that way.

Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management began rounding up Cliven’s ‘trespass cattle’ to protect the endangered desert tortoise. According to reports, the bureau had collected nearly 400 cattle.

When this whole thing began, it didn’t look good for the rancher. Two separate court orders, one from 1998 the other from 2013 that ordered him to remove his cattle from the public lands. Bundy even received an order from a judge not to physically interfere with the impoundment of his cattle. The video below shows Bundy family members and supporters (they all appear to be unarmed) confronting BLM officers.

Eventually, the BLM released this statement in response to the rising tensions:

“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.”

I think in the end, releasing the cattle was the most sensible option. It just seems a bit extreme for the BLM to waste all their resources and time to deal with a few cows. How are the cattle harming any of the endangered tortoises?


featured image by Famartin