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Report: BLM destroyed tortoise den, shot prize bulls, destroyed water tanks

An American flag flies as ATV riders prepare to enter closed BLM land along U.S. 170 west of Mesquite, Nevada, on April 11.
An American flag flies as ATV riders prepare to enter closed BLM land along U.S. 170 west of Mesquite, Nevada, on April 11.
George Frey/Getty Images/AFP

When the Bureau of Land Management withdrew from the Bundy ranch Saturday, they left a trail of destruction that would cause anyone to question their stewardship of anything. On Wednesday, Fox News reported the agency destroyed water tanks and lines, ran over at least one tortoise den and shot two of Cliven Bundy's prize bulls.

"They had total control of this land for one week, and look at the destruction they did in one week," Bundy family friend Corey Houston told Fox. "So why would you trust somebody like that? And how does that show that they're a better steward?"

The agency, citing concerns over public safety, ended their operation to seize Bundy's cattle. Agency Director Neil Kornze, however, has said the agency would pursue their case through administrative and judicial means.

During a Friday night conference call, the agency told reporters that so-called "illegal structures" like water tanks, water lines and corrals, had to be removed in order to "restore" the land to its natural state. They also said it was necessary to prevent Bundy from restarting his cattle operation.

But now, federal agents are being accused of taking court orders a bit too far, Fox said. The court order, William La Jeunesse said, only appears to give feds the authority to "seize and impound" Bundy's cattle.

"Nowhere in the court order that I saw does it say that they can destroy infrastructure, destroy corrals, tanks ... desert environment, shoot cattle," Houston said.

According to Bundy's friends, contract cowboys shot Bundy's bulls because they were allegedly dangerous and could gore their horses. One bull was reportedly shot five times, Fox said.

But the pen holding the bull wasn't even bent, Houston said. "It's not like the bull was smashing this pen and trying (to) tackle people or anything," he said. "The pen is sitting here. It hasn't moved. No damage whatsoever. Where was the danger with that bull?"

Houston also said BLM vehicles apparently crushed a tortoise den near the damaged water tank. According to feds, the desert tortoise is an endangered species.

"How's that conservation?" Houston asked.

The BLM, La Jeunesse added, has not responded to questions regarding the allegations.

Although the agency has left, the dispute between Bundy and the federal government is not over. The agency says it will pursue the matter through administrative and judicial means, but Bundy maintains the federal government has no authority over the lands he continues to use. A federal judge, however, has said Bundy's claims are "without merit."