Cliven Bundy has finally gotten 400 head of cattle back after they were seized by the Bureau of Land Management for grazing on public land near Gold Butte (about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas),Nevada not far from the Utah border. The animals’ release came after the Bureau was beset escalating tension from hundreds of protesters, including ranchers, state’s right protesters (including militia) and members of the Tea Party. Bundy’s fight to get his cattle back has since evolved into a major debate about state’s rights and the policy regarding use of federal land.
According the Associated Press, Bundy had refused to pay grazing fees to the Bureau of Land Management since 1993, going far as to claim in court filings that his “Mormon ancestors had worked the land long before the Bureau was formed, giving him rights that predated any federal authority.” It was also noted that lawmakers in Utah also objected to BLM plans to ship the cattle to an auction house in their state fearing that transporting “feral” animals among the herd could endanger animals there by spreading disease. It should be noted, however, that only seized animals with Bundy’s brand were returned to him. An additional seized 500 animals will be kept in Nevada.
In the meantime, CattleFax, an information group based in Colorado noted that the price of beef are now at the highest level they’ve been for nearly 30 years due to dwindling herds, particularly throughout the country (due in large part to the long drought out west) as well as growing demand from Japan and Chinese markets. Although hard hit ranchers welcome the extra money, they also fear that sustaining high prices may eventually drive consumers away from buying beef in favor of chicken or pork, despite rising prices of both as well.