Armed federal agents have descended upon a Nevada cattle ranch, and will soon settle a feud with 67-year-old rancher Cliven Bundy, who has contested the U.S. government’s right to tax and regulate property that has been in his family since 1870.
Bundy’s disagreement with federal authorities began more than 20 years ago, when he first refused to pay mandatory fees to the U.S. government. His family has owned the ranch in Clark County, Nevada, for more than 150 years, and the federal government has no right to make him pay to herd cattle on his own property, he claimed.
Bundy is willing to pay fees imposed by county officials, but says he doesn’t owe the U.S. Bureau of Land Management anything.
“We own this land,” he said, according to Fox News.
BLM claims that Bundy’s cattle have wandered onto federal lands. Authorities have cited the land’s proximity to an endangered tortoise habitat as justification for their actions.
Federal agents have surrounded the ranch with helicopters and four-wheelers. They blocked off a road leading to the property, and clashed with protesters, tasering at least one person who dared to step out of the specifically designated “First Amendment zone,” according to video footage.
“They’re carrying the same things a soldier would,” said Bundy, according to The Washington Free Beacon. “Automatic weapons, sniper rifles, top communication, top surveillance equipment, lots of vehicles. It’s heavy soldier type equipment.”
BLM spokesperson Kirsten Cannon accused Bundy of inflaming tensions by characterizing the dispute as a “range war.” Cannon said BLM removed 134 of his 900 cattle that were breaking the law. Bundy owes $1.1 million in unpaid grazing fees, she said.
Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, criticized the way the federal agency is handling the matter.
“I have advised the BLM that such conduct is offensive to me and countless others and that the ‘First Amendment Area’ should be dismantled immediately,” he said, according to Russia Today. “No cow justifies the atmosphere of intimidation which currently exists or the limitation of constitutional rights that are sacred to all Nevadans. The BLM needs to reconsider its approach to this matter and act accordingly.”