Bundy case more complex than tortoise, grazing rights

Apr 18, 2014

Following the end of a tense standoff between the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association (NCA) says the incident underscores the steady trend of federal agencies elevating environmental and wildlife issues over livestock grazing.

By doing so, the agencies are violating multiple use statutes, grazing rights and water rights protected by laws such as the Taylor Grazing Act, placing more emphasis on uses other than grazing, the NCA said in a news release, adding ranchers have found themselves with their backs against the wall.

Well-intentioned laws such as the Endangered Species Act are damaging individuals, families and communities. In Bundy’s case, designating his grazing area as a critical habitat for the desert tortoise gave the BLM the rationale needed to order a drastic decrease in his cattle numbers without proof cattle harmed the tortoise, it said.

“This is not only devastating to individual ranching families, it is also causing rural communities in the West to wither on the vine. In the West, one in every two acres is owned by the federal government,” it stated. “Therefore, the integrity of the laws protecting productive multiple use is paramount to the communities that exist there.”

On the other hand, the NCA said it does not condone actions outside the law when citizens take things into their own hands in contradiction to the system set forth by the Constitution to change laws and regulations. It encourages members of the livestock industry to abide by regulations governing federal land.

The association said it supports effective range management through collaboration with resource management agencies and interested parties to achieve economically viable ranch operations and conserving wildlife species.

Stressing it should not interfere with the case’s adjudication, the NCA said settlement of the issue is between Bundy and the courts. A federal judge reviewed the case and ordered Bundy’s cattle removed.

“We regret that this entire situation was not avoided through more local government involvement and better implementation of federal regulations, laws and courts,” the NCA said, emphasizing it sympathizes with Bundy’s dilemma.

“With good faith negotiations from both sides, we believe a result can be achieved, which recognizes the balance that must be struck between private property rights and resource sustainability.” — Mark Mendiola, WLJ Correspondent