Federal officials have now taken to killing the calves and cattle of a Nevada rancher as part of a standoff that his family says has the potential to become another Ruby Ridge, where, in 1992, federal agents shot an unarmed Idaho woman holding a newborn infant in her arms.
“We have seen cows with tight bags but no calves on them, who are being moved by the BLM,” Ammon Bundy told WND. “This means they have separated the newborn calves from their mothers and they will eventually die.”
Ammon, 38, is the son of Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher whose ties to the area go back to the 1880s and who has been engaged in a land dispute since 1993 with the Bureau of Land Management over long-established cattle-grazing rights.
The elder Bundy is the last rancher operating in Clark County, where he’s been grazing his cattle on a 600,000 acre portion of land managed by the BLM called Gold Butte.
However, after years of wrangling in the courts, last week BLM secured a federal court order declaring Bundy’s herd to be “trespass cattle” and began removing the animals.
While media has reported the cattle seizures, Ammon Bundy says the impression people have is that the cattle are just being re-located. But he says authorities are going far beyond that and are taking actions resulting in the death of many of Cliven’s cattle.
“They are flying helicopters over the herd to chase them,” Ammon said. “It was over 90 degrees here today, and the cattle can’t run very far in this heat before collapsing. This is especially true for the young calves. We have a lot of them being born because it is springtime, and they don’t have the strength to keep up with their mothers when they are running. The cattle then become overheated and die.”
Since 1998, the Gold Butte area has been off-limits to cattle grazing because it has been designated home of the protected desert tortoise. Despite that, ranchers have been continuously using the land. BLM officials say they are tired of local citizens ignoring their regulations, and they believe they have exhausted all other options.
“For more than two decades, cattle have been grazed illegally on public lands in northeast Clark County,” BLM said in a statement. “BLM and (the National Park Service) have made repeated attempts to resolve this matter administratively and judicially. Impoundment of cattle illegally grazing on public lands is an option of last resort.”
Following the actions taken by the federal government, the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmentalist group, praised the federal government for taking action.
“Despite having no legal right to do so, cattle from Bundy’s ranch have continued to graze throughout the Gold Butte area, competing with tortoises for food, hindering the ability of plants to recover from extensive wildfires, trampling rare plants, damaging ancient American Indian cultural sites and threatening the safety of recreationists,” Rob Mrowka, a spokesman for the organization, said in a statement.
The federal government appears to be taking steps to escalate the situation, causing concern the incident could develop into another Ruby Ridge or Waco episode in which federal agents engage in assaults with mass civilian casualties.
Bundy told The Blaze that more than 200 armed federal officers currently are in the area, and his wife Carol said it appears snipers now surround the family’s 150 acre ranch.
Officials would neither confirm nor deny the sniper allegation to The Blaze.
Additionally, Cliven’s son, Dave Bundy was taken into custody after allegedly being roughed up for taking pictures along State Road 170, which has been closed. His camera was confiscated.
“They gave my nephew Dave a concussion, stomped him on the ground to where he has kidney problems,” Kay Sessions, Dave’s aunt, told WND. “They hauled him to jail and interrogated him all night before letting him go. Before they took him to jail officials left him in a hot vehicle for three hours.
“He was trying to get pictures of what government officials are doing and they confiscated his camera and tablet.”
Ammon said while what happened to his brother Dave was bad enough, federal officials have turned up the pressure yet again when they attacked him and members of a group peacefully protesting the removal of the cattle.
“We were protesting peacefully when, suddenly, 14 units with Rangers came off the mountain – 13 of them were armed ranger vehicles with two rangers per unit,” Ammon explained. “There was about 50 of us protesting when we went over to see what was in a dump truck that was with them, because we were afraid this might have been a rendering vehicle, and we wanted to know what was in the back of the truck.”
He said the rangers got out of their vehicles and the conflict escalated.
“Things got pretty ugly for awhile. They threw a 65-year-old woman on the ground, they tased me twice and they had dogs out there.”
The confrontation had the potential to spiral out of control rapidly. The Nevada Militia issued an alert on the Bundy Ranch’s Facebook page calling for supporters to mobilize in the area.
“Nevada Militia is mobilizing and requesting mutual aid if any Winter Soldier wishes to go, no further permission is needed – you may do as you wish. We will be monitoring the situation at this time as a group,” the alert said.
The alert concluded, “If things escalate we will mobilize as a group.”
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, spoke out in opposition to the BLM’s establishment of so-called “First Amendment areas,” which are the only areas the federal agency will allow Americans to protest the removal.
“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,” Sandoval said in a statement Tuesday.
Clark County’s sheriff has called for both sides to resolve the issue peacefully, telling the Las Vegas Review-Journal “no drop of human blood is worth spilling over any cow.”
Ammon said while local officials are rattling the saber against the federal incursion, they are not willing to stand up to protect residents of their state and county from federal officials.
“The local sheriff has said they are not going to get involved in what is happening, saying this is a BLM issue,” he said. “This means they are leaving us completely vulnerable, because the BLM are the only side with the weapons and if they decide to use violent force there is nothing we can do.”
Cliven Bundy said he sees the issue as one of long-established rights going back to the early days of America versus a federal government determined to regulate citizens out of business to achieve their own ends.
“I have raised cattle on that land, which is public land for the people of Clark County, all my life. Why I raise cattle there, and why I can raise cattle there, is because I have preemptive rights,” he said, explaining that among them is the right to forage.
“Who is the trespasser here? Who is the trespasser on this land? Is the United States trespassing on Clark County, Nevada, land? Or is it Cliven Bundy who is trespassing on Clark County, Nevada, land? Who’s the trespasser?”