Utahns paying close attention to dispute between BLM, Nevada rancher

Published: Tuesday, April 8 2014 7:50 p.m. MDT

The feud between Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy and federal land managers has been going on for more than two decades. That's far too long in Utah cattle rancher Beth Anderson's mind.

Charlie Riedel, Associated Press

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CALLAO, Juab County — The feud between Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy and federal land managers has been going on for more than two decades.

That's far too long in Beth Anderson's mind.

"It would be really wonderful if all of the entities involved worked together to control and manage things in a proper way," said Anderson, president of the Utah Cattlewomen's Association.

"It is possible," she added.

Anderson, whose husband serves as president of the Utah Cattlemen's Association, isn't taking Bundy's side in his grazing dispute with the Bureau of Land Management, as some might expect.

"He is definitely not the poster child of how ranchers handle their animals or take care of the land that they're stewards over," she said. "We don't want to support somebody who is breaking the law."

Bundy's cattle have been trespassing on BLM-administered lands for at least 25 years, according to the agency. The bureau obtained a court order in 1998, requiring the rancher to remove his livestock from public lands. Two similar orders were issued 2013 — one in July and one in October.

Armed with a court order, the BLM has started rounding up some of the nearly 1,000 cattle Bundy has run on public lands without the required grazing permits. The agency says he owes at least $1 million in unpaid permit fees.

Bundy, however, has maintained that the federal government has no authority to manage the range. He believes the land, which has been ranched by his family for generations, belongs to the state of Nevada.

"Our battle is about who owns this land," Bundy's son, Randy Bundy, told supporters who traveled to Nevada over the weekend to stand with the family.

"The grazing fees are quite minimal," Randy Bundy continued. "That has never been the issue. We keep putting the federal government, the United States flag above everything. We are not anti-government, but we are pro-proper government under our Constitution."

Another of Cliven Bundy's sons, Dave Bundy, was arrested Sunday. The arrest came as the family gathered to record and photograph the seizure of their cattle in an area the BLM had temporarily closed to the public.

Dave Bundy, 37, was released from custody after being cited for refusing to disperse and resisting officers, according to the BLM.

Some see the court-ordered roundup and weekend arrest as an example of a federal agency running roughshod over a private citizen. Others see Cliven Bundy as a maverick who is being reined in.

"He's taken things into his own hands and is really not following the avenues that would be appropriate," said Anderson, who runs 300 head of cattle with her husband in Juab County.

"It has to come to a head because you can't just roll over and allow people not to take care of things the way they should," she added, noting that the comment is directed at both Bundy and the BLM.

Ranchers across the West have long had issues with the agency over its management of wild horses on public lands and what they see as a growing list of endangered species whose protection further reduces livestock range. Those controversies are now part of the "snowball of issues" that continue to grow as the situation in Nevada rolls on, Anderson said.

"We all have issues with the desert tortoise, sage grouse and wild horses," she said, "but this isn't the appropriate way to go about it."

Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox got involved in the situation Monday, traveling to Nevada with Attorney General Sean Reyes to ask the BLM to reconsider plans to ship seized cattle from Bundy's ranch to Utah for auction.

"We already have one flashpoint in Nevada, which is where they're rounding up the cattle," Cox said. "And we're already starting to see protests in Sevier County at the auction house.

"Our message today was, 'This is a Nevada problem, a Nevada issue. These things should be worked out in Nevada,'" the lieutenant governor said. "If there is going to be a sale of these cattle, it should take place in the state of Nevada."

BLM officials agreed to delay and re-evaluate plans to sell the cattle to Utah, Cox said. The agency expects the court-ordered roundup of Bundy's cattle to wrap up sometime before the end of the month.

Email: gliesik@deseretnews.com, Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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