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Nevada cattle conflict recalls Old West showdown between ranchers, feds

A Nevada cattle showdown pits ranchers against federal authorities.
A Nevada cattle showdown pits ranchers against federal authorities.
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Nevada cattle grazing illegally on federal land are being rounded up by armed rangers in a range war that has come to a head over concerns about a threatened species of tortoise, Reuters reported on April 10.

The Nevada cattle dispute is pitting ranchers against federal authorities as a 20-year-old conflict over land use erupts like an Old West showdown.

The Nevada cattle conflict began as a legal fight between rancher Cliven Bundy, 67, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, CNN reported.

A number of ranchers have grazed their cattle, including the Nevada cattle, on public lands for decades and often led the way in land-use decisions for the public lands.

But environmentalists and land managers who now want land used in other ways — whether to protect endangered species, for oil and gas development, or for recreational uses — are butting heads with ranchers, and the Nevada cattle showdown has become emblematic of the conflict, the Las Vegas Review Journal noted.

The conflict between ranchers grazing the Nevada cattle and federal authorities came to a decidedly heated head this week and widened into a national debate over land use rights. Now, state lawmakers, many of the members of the Tea Party, have been drawn into the battle and are heading to Nevada to rally for the Bundy family.

Violence in the Nevada cattle conflict nearly erupted on Wednesday near Bunkerville, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, when members of the Bundy family and their supporters confronted U.S. rangers, who were armed with Tasers and German shepherd police dogs.

A video of the Nevada cattle incident apparently shows angry Bundy supporters shouting and swearing at the rangers, according to the Daily News. It says that Bundy’s son, Ammon Bundy, was shocked twice with a Taser until he bled, and that his 57-year-old sister, Margaret Houston, was thrown to the ground by a BLM officer.

While some view Bundy as an outlaw hero of sorts, others say he’s nothing more than a cheat, noting that he owes U.S. taxpayers more than $1 million in unpaid grazing fees on Nevada land.

Meantime, wranglers hired by the government have started rounding up Bundy’s Nevada cattle, so far impounding more than 350 cattle. Bundy says that of the 900 Nevada cattle that federal authorities plan to confiscate, 500 are his — with a value of about $1,000 a head.

It’s unclear how long the Nevada cattle roundup will last or what the next steps will be in the grazing dispute.