BLM gives up its duty

To the Editor:

The Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and other federal agencies on Saturday capitulated to threats of violence from armed militia members and ceased their legally and morally required duty to remove trespass cattle from public lands. Even worse, they returned 400 head of cattle confiscated over the past week so they can be illegally returned to public land again without permit, payment or management.

The BLM has a sacred duty to manage our public lands in the public interest, to treat all users equally and fairly. Instead it as allowing a freeloading rancher and armed thugs to seize hundreds of thousands of acres of the people’s land as their own fiefdom.

In stopping the roundup of illegal cattle on public lands, the federal agencies are ignoring two court orders, one from 1998 and the most recent from 2013, as well as their duties under the Taylor Grazing Act, Federal Land Management Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Clark County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan.

Twenty year ago, rancher Cliven Bundy stopped paying the Bureau of Land Management for the natural resources his business takes from BLM lands in the Gold Butte area south of Mesquite. His permit was consequently revoked, but he has continued to graze cattle on the land illegally and without payment, giving him an unfair business advantage over the thousands of other ranchers who pay for the grass they use on private, state and public lands.

Bundy abdicated his grazing permit in 1994 due to lack of payment. In 1998, Clark County as administrator for the Clark County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan, purchased from willing sellers all the valid existing grazing leases in the Gold Butte area for $375,000 in exchange for being able to destroy a set amount of tortoise habitat on private lands to facilitate growth and development. The purchase included Bundy’s revoked grazing permit, but Bundy has continued to graze on the county’s conservation land, undermining the agreement.

 In April 2012, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the BLM for canceling a planned roundup of the trespass cattle at the last moment.

 “The situation is still very dynamic and uncertain and we are still gathering the facts and assessing the situation. That said, it is clear that the BLM has a legal duty to remove trespass cattle from the land entrusted to it by the American people. It has a moral responsibility to not let armed thugs and threats of violence seize hundreds of thousands of acres of public land for their own. We intend to hold the BLM accountable to the American people, fair play, and the clear intent of the law.

Rob Mrowka
Senior Scientist
Center for Biological Diversity

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