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Roundup of Trespassing Cattle Begins in Nevada Desert

Cows Have Been Illegally Grazing in Gold Butte Area for More Than Two Decades

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By: Center for Biological Diversity

LAS VEGAS, April 5, 2014 - The Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and other federal agencies today began the long-delayed and long-awaited roundup and impoundment of cattle that have illegally grazed the Gold Butte area south of Mesquite, unmanaged and free of charge, for more than two decades. Rancher Cliven Bundy has been locked in a dispute with the BLM since 1993.

"Again and again federal judges have said the BLM has the right and duty to remove cattle trespassing in the Gold Butte area to protect desert tortoises and other imperiled species," said Rob Mrowka, a Nevada-based senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, which had filed a notice of intent to sue over the lack of action being taken by the federal agencies. "We're heartened and thankful that the agencies are finally living up to their stewardship duty. The Gold Butte area has been officially designated as critical habitat for threatened tortoises — meaning the area is essential to their long-term survival as a species."

"Mr. Bundy has long falsely believed that Gold Butte is his ranch," said Terri Robertson, long-time advocate for protecting the rich cultural and natural resources of Gold Butte and currently president of Friends of Sloan Canyon. "We all know that is not the reality, and it is time for him for obey the law."

"Mr. Bundy's defiance of the law and decades-long free grazing on public lands is a poke in the eye of every rancher who rightfully pays for their use of the public lands, and a further thumb of the nose to those responsible, progressive ranchers who graze sustainably, allowing for threatened species to survive on their allotments," said Karen Boeger, a former BLM advisory committee member.

The BLM estimates several hundred thousand dollars in unpaid grazing fees and penalties are due, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars the BLM and NPS have spent monitoring and addressing the ongoing problem of the trespass cattle.

"From the standpoint of wildlife, the springs and riparian areas in Gold Butte are vital," said Red Rock Audubon's conservation chairman John Hiatt. "The most immediate result of the removal of the trespass cattle will be the recovery of the vegetation around these water sources which will benefit all wildlife species."

"In 2005, the area suffered from widespread wildfires with catastrophic impacts on native desert vegetation," said Jane Feldman, conservation chair for the Southern Nevada Group of the Sierra Club. "Efforts to revegetate the burned area have been severely hampered by the constant and unrestricted access of cattle and their grazing on fragile newly sprouted shoots of vegetation. In fact, controlled studies on how best to revegetate the area had to be abandoned due to the impacts from the trespass cattle."

Over the years, volunteers have been out in Gold Butte protecting habitat by doing native plantings and seed gathering along with habitat restoration projects, only to see their hard work lost to the impacts from these illegal cattle.

"The point cannot be lost that Mr. Bundy is an affront and potential danger to the safety of the public servants — men and women who have chosen to get into this work because they love the land — and the contract wranglers who have been hired to round up the herd," said Alan O'Neill, former superintendent of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. "For too long, Mr. Bundy's bullying and threats have stopped the appropriate action in seizing his herd and levying fines. To allow him to continue to flout laws that others adhere to is certainly an affront to all Americans."

Beginning in 1993 the BLM has been in a dispute with rancher Cliven Bundy over his cattle grazing in the Bunkerville Allotment in Gold Butte. After the BLM terminated Bundy's grazing permit for failure to pay the required annual fees, Clark County, as administrator for the Clark County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan, purchased the grazing leases from the BLM for $375,000 in 1998 and retired the allotments from grazing in order to fulfill requirements under that plan to protect the threatened desert tortoise.

Despite having no legal right to do so, Bundy has allowed his cattle free access to graze throughout the Gold Butte area.

 

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