On Saturday, the Bureau of Land Management said it will cease operations in the effort to take cattle belonging to Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. The announcement came one day after reports linked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to what is being seen as a land grab for solar power stations.
“As we have said from the beginning of the gather to remove illegal cattle from federal land consistent with court orders, a safe and peaceful operation is our number one priority. After one week, we have made progress in enforcing two recent court orders to remove the trespass cattle from public lands that belong to all Americans," BLM director Neil Kornze said in a statement.
"Based on information about conditions on the ground, and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public," he added. "We ask that all parties in the area remain peaceful and law-abiding as the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service work to end the operation in an orderly manner."
Kornze, a former senior aide to Sen. Reid, called ranching an "important part of our nation’s heritage" and accused Bundy of failing to comply with multiple court orders to remove the cattle. According to Kornze's statement, Bundy owes $1 million in grazing fees.
But instead of using snipers, so-called "First Amendment areas" and heavily-armed agents, Kornze said the BLM will "continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially."
Bundy, Infowars reported, told Sheriff Gillespie he had one hour to disarm federal agents surrounding his ranch, demanding he bring their weapons to the platform where speeches were delivered Saturday morning. He also said Gillespie should take down the barricades set up by federal agents.
The heavy-handed operation began last Saturday, with contract cowboys rounding up Bundy's cattle. Since then, federal agents arrested protesters allegedly violating the arbitrary free speech zones, set a dog on a pregnant woman, pushed one of Bundy's sisters to the ground and tased Bundy's son.
On Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration established a no-fly zone over the Bundy ranch, raising concerns federal agents were on the verge of another incident like Waco or Ruby Ridge. The "Notice to Airmen," or NOTAM was set to remain in effect until May 11, 2014.
News that BLM is backing down did not sit too well with some on the far left, who referred to Bundy as a "terrorist" rather than a U.S. citizen. The SPLC also called Bundy a domestic extremist, Mark Dice said.
The agency did not say if it would return the cattle it had already taken, and, Infowars added, Bundy did not ask for them. He has, however, asked for his freedom and for the BLM to lay down its arms.