BLM plans to roundup Bundy’s trespass cattle (Updated on 3-31)

Popular Lake Mead/BLM desert area to be closed in portions to secure cattle of scofflaw rancher-
See updates at the bottom of the article.

“Public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Clark County, Nevada, within the Gold Butte, Mormon Mesa, Bunkerville Flats Areas will see temporary closures to the public beginning tomorrow, March 27, in order to round up the cattle of Cliven Bundy, a rancher who has been trespass grazing in the scenic desert area since 1993 when he stopped paying his grazing fees to use the Bunkerville Grazing Allotment.

On the former Bunkerville Grazing Allotment. April 2012. Virgin Mountains in the background. Photo copyright Ralph Maughan

The BLM had modified some of the terms of the grazing permit to protect the desert tortoise. Bundy didn’t like the modifications and refused to pay the required grazing fee, but kept his cattle on the range anyway and did not obey the terms to protect the tortoise. Bundy rejected further government orders and even the orders of the federal district court and the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. For example, in 1998 the Nevada federal district court issued an order permanently enjoining Bundy from grazing cattle on the allotment. It ordered him to remove all trespass cattle and set a penalty of $200 per day per animal remaining on the federal range. Obviously by today, he owes a huge sum of money on his years of violations of the court order.

According to the BLM, “In 1999, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the District Court’s permanent injunction.  When Mr. Bundy failed to remove his livestock as directed by the District Court, the United States filed a motion to enforce the permanent injunction and the District Court ordered Mr. Bundy to pay $1,377 as willful repeated trespass damages and adjusted fines to be consistent with regulatory rates of $45.90 per day for each day Mr. Bundy’s cattle remained on the allotment based on a herd size of 51 cows BLM had documented as still remaining on the federal range.”

Bundy got away with his resistance. Nothing happened until 2011 when the over 900 cattle were counted by air on the allotment. Many were unbranded and lacked ear tags, contrary to law. Another cease and desist was sent to Bundy. He did not comply. Finally in April 2012, after 750 cattle were counted from helicopter on the federal lands, a roundup and impoundment was planned, but it was cancelled the day before it was to start. The government feared violence due to Bundy’s statements and support from anti-government right wingers.

Now Bundy apparently has as many as 600 cattle scattered over a wide area and the operation might take seven weeks. In all, the total acreage of the area where there will be temporary closures is over 580,000 acres. The government even has a roundup update site and a map of closed areas for the public at

This will be an expensive operation for the taxpaying public. It requires numerous personnel, vehicles, temporary corrals, and aircraft as well as law enforcement to prevent violence and perhaps to keep protesters within bounds. Two “free speech” areas from them have been set aside. Not only is there the expense for the operation, there has been twenty years when the rancher did not pay the required grazing fees, nor court ordered penalties. In addition, tortoise have not been protected from cattle on the BLM land and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

In his own defense, over the years Bundy has said he doesn’t believe the federal government has the right to require him to do anything on this land because his family has used it since the 1870s. In other words, he is claiming a prescriptive right to use the public property.

The local (Clark County, Nevada) sheriff and state officials are not backing Bundy. The Nevada Cattleman’s Association might get involved according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. The Wildlife News has posted at least 4 articles on this over the last two years (Search “Bundy” on our web site).

– – – – –

→added March 27. BLM’s list of the negative impacts of these trespass cattle on public and private property and other animals and plants. See

→added March 29. There is a good article in the St. George News. ON Kilter: Trespass cattleman not above the law.

News: Bundy’s efforts to declare that a “range war” is at hand is not generating much support. No one has showed up at the “free speech” areas.

We got email from a conservationist with the following opinion and news.

“It seems that the Sagebrush Rebellion has run out of gas. Media coverage has been along the lines of “What if they gave a range war and nobody came?”, no one showed at BLM’s First Amendment area, the ‘army’ of Cliven Bundy supporters consists of a fellow rancher in Elko who is not coming down, and the comment page of the local Mesquite NV paper is full of nasty comment letters about public land damage and rancher cheats.”

“The Vegas stringer for the LA Times did get another of his fact-free ranch romances published but it foundered on the notion of Bundy’s claimed ownership of BLM lands — he would then owe back property taxes for the the last 144 years (plus interest and penalties).   Even the tea partyist ‘Las Vegas Review Journal” struggled to keep control over reader backlash:”

“Bundy also issued a ‘Range War Emergency Notice and Demand for Protection,’ notice to Clark County and Nevada state officials that seems without precedent or meaning, demanding that the Sheriff stand up to the feds. However his office just responded sometimes court decision don’t go your way and his office just follows the law.” [Our note: isn’t this the kind of thing  the Washington State “build-wherever-you-want activist” did back in 200-2002?]

. . . . We did look for the comments section on the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Bundy stories, and they seem to have disappeared.

– – – – – –

March 31. Decades-Long Cattle Trespass Comes To A Head For Lake Mead National Recreation Area And BLM. National Parks Traveler. By Jim Burnett.


  1. Nancy Avatar

    600 head of cattle @ roughly $1,000 a head? That should pay back some of the debt to taxpayers 🙂

    1. Chris Avatar

      My understanding is that feral cattle are the property of the state, in Nevada.

    2. Edward Avatar

      This is not about money, This is a states right issue, when the state of Nevada became a state the Federal government kept 85% of land and gave only 15% back to the people to govern. This is completely wrong and Mr. Bundy knows this and has been fighting for the people to make it right. My understanding is that for the past 19 years he has been paying the fees to Clark County

      1. Ken Cole Avatar

        BS. When Nevada became a state it opted out of taking the usual 2 sections per township that most of the other states like Idaho and Montana took. They didn’t want state endowment lands.

      2. Jay Avatar

        Bundy is a criminal. This is a country of laws–don’t like it, move.

      3. WM Avatar


        If what you say is true (which it is not), why would Bundy have a couple federal court injunctions, weighing such allegations, and ultimately saying these cattle need to be removed? And, are you certain he has been paying to graze- are you really certain, because I think the facts are otherwise?

        As Ken says, BS.,0,5253273.story#axzz2xMlZ0xAX

        1. WM Avatar

          Perhaps you should also read this Oct. 8, 2013, Order from the District Court. Very explicit on what it orders the BLM to do, and batbrain Bundy not to do:

          I think Bundy(representing himself, of course) appealed this ruling to the 9th Circuit, and was unsuccessful.

        2. Edward Avatar

          Very Certain. Mr. Bundy has no problem paying for land use if the proper owners say it to be. His point is that grazing right were attached to the ranch when it was homesteaded. Nevada became a State and made the grazing rights state law. Many years later the BLM said that it was not state land and state law does not apply. Either way state or federal the grazing right was attached to the land, first by the feds and then the state.

          1. WM Avatar

            So, are you saying the federal court decisions are not valid and controlling?

            Curious that the state of NV has not advanced Bundy’s cause. Or, if he really believes he has a strong legal position that he hasn’t retained talented legal help to make his case in court, because it looks to me like he just keeps losing.

            And, even more puzzling is just leaving 600 cows out there, without rounding up the ones that should be going off to market?

            Aren’t all these aspects, just a bit odd?

            And, if Bundy has been paying Clark County grazing fees, have they actually been cashing the checks or taking the money for 19 years? If, so then it seems they should also be in the legal fight (and apparently are not).

            Let’s face it Edward, if you believe all this BS, you’re as nuts as Bundy.

  2. Gail Avatar

    Glad they’re taking Bundy to task … finally.

    I wonder if the current number of cattle is a result of procreation or did he continuously keep adding cattle to the group? Either way, isn’t it interesting that the herd wasn’t decimated by predators? Where were all those “vicious and mean” coyotes and mountain lions? Doesn’t sound as if there was any oversight.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    This is a tremendously important roundup because much more is at stake here than Bundy’s cattle, which I think have become more or less feral given their lack of brands or ear tags.

    There will be shockwaves if he can resist orders by the BLM, and the Federal District court of Nevada and the 9th Circuit Court as well as state livestock branding laws.

    1. Chris Avatar

      Bundy has done some illegal range “improvements”, but lots of them are in just inaccessible locations (except on foot or helicopter) that he is obviously never getting to…. you will see some that are pretty domestic looking, but others are feral.

  4. Yvette Avatar

    He should have been imprisoned years ago, and as for his argument that his family has used that land since 1870, well, I bet there a many Indigenous people that used that land, pre-date his 1870 claim by centuries.

    Things like this are infuriating. So it’s taken 16 years to for some sort of resolution?

  5. Kevin Lewis Avatar
    Kevin Lewis

    16 years to finally enforce a federal court order only emboldens others in their anti-government agenda.

  6. Sue carter Avatar
    Sue carter

    So BLM did nothing for decades because they feared Bundy’s Anti – Government rhetoric ? Or is it because they agree with his Anti -government rhetoric? BLM is run by Cattlemen for Cattlemen. Now they will set up two Free Speech Zones for Bundy’s and his posse. Where are the Free Speech Zones for the Wild Horse proponents, who are kept miles away from the helicopter round-ups ?

  7. Tick Avatar

    Bundy aside, can someone explain the importance of a few lost desert tortoise? Also can someone direct me to documented facts of how many have been lost to cattle grazing? Not just talk, facts. Pictures, proven incidence, etc.

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      Because it ain’t just a few, honey.

      1. ramses09 Avatar

        I can only imagine the damage the cattle have done to that land.
        Ida, your right on that . . “it ain’t just a few.”

    1. Tick Avatar

      ramses09- Thanks for the prompt and intelligent reply. The links were very helpful. I don’t have desert tortoise around my place, my curse right now is the gulp of double-crested cormorant destroying my small lake. I do have an insatiable appetite for the knowledge gained by civil exchange of information, it helps me manage my own little piece of this rock we live on.

      Tick, Piney Woods of East Texas

      1. Ida Lupines Avatar
        Ida Lupines

        Nobody owes you a reply. You can look things up yourself, and you might get a better response if you framed your requests a little more civilly in the future. I hope you are not going to be a petty little annoyance as your screename would imply.

        1. Mark L Avatar
          Mark L

          How do you know his wife’s name isn’t Tock?

          1. Ida Lupines Avatar
            Ida Lupines

            You got me there. 🙂

          2. Tick Avatar

            You sir, are an inconsiderate ass.


        2. Tick Avatar

          Ida, I’m sorry you took my legitimate questions that way. I really wanted to know and the links I was given helped. I owe you no explanation but I’ll give it anyway then leave. I have secondary progressive MS on top of a few other problems. I’m at a point where my cognitive functions are such that sometimes I just find it easier to ask than search. As for my screen name it’s simply a nickname given in Vietnam for being more than a ‘petty little annoyance’. Lots of us were given one. I’m proud of it.

          Sorry I bothered you and your forum. Again, thanks ramses09, you were kind.


  8. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    The state of Nevada should open a slow elk (cow) season and issue tags so that hunters could “harvest” a cow or two.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Larry Thorngren,

      I see the estimated number of cattle in the closed allotment is down about 40%. There could be several reasons. Bundy might be selling them, though you can’t sell them unbranded. Some are probably dying on the range. Perhaps some folks do get some of the “slow elk.” I came across some of them last April a bit southeast of Mesquite. No one was around. They seemed completely unattended.

  9. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    I came across the BLM’s summary of the impacts of these trespass cattle over the years. I think it’s interesting.

  10. Real Nice Guy Avatar
    Real Nice Guy

    Glad to see that BLM will finally take action. However, when I compare this to how fast federal, state, and local authorities act when a single bison steps over the YNP boundary, I get disgusted.

    1. Yvette Avatar

      Exactly, Real Nice Guy. Look at how quickly Tim Dechristopher was charged, tried and imprisoned for winning a bid for which he didn’t have the money on the sale of public lands to oil & gas companies.

    1. Chris Harbin Avatar
      Chris Harbin

      Thanks for the link. I found the comments section to be most enlightening. Most of the comments have no connection to the issue and basically try to slur (more) the BLM/US Government or (much less) Bundy and his backers. It is easy to see why representative government has digressed to a similar state.

      1. Nancy Avatar

        Chris – alittle background on the man behind the feral cattle.

        Looking at the prospects for grass ever growing beyond the lawn around his home, its no wonder he’s taken “full” advantage of public lands 🙂

        1. Chris Harbin Avatar
          Chris Harbin

          Thanks Nancy,
          If “My Boys” and “My Pretty Girls” are all his I can see where he might have lacked time to properly steward his cattle.
          I have been through that part of Nevada and it is hard to imagine that any cattle could survive. Not much for them to eat, even less water to drink, undoubtedly poisonous plants and summer heat/winter cold combine for a hostile environment for any living creature.
          It’s a shame that it has been torn up by cattle owned by a poor steward with an attitude. I always though the Virgin River Gorge was a nice place. It will take a long time for those allotments to recover.

  11. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    We have “beefed” up our article “BLM plans to roundup Bundy’s trespass cattle” with an addendum that has links to additional information, articles, and commentary. This is found after the original article.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan


      I want to add that the Las Vegas Review Journal (your link above) has always been quite favorable to Bundy, giving him a lot of attention that many think only eggs him on — the “Last of the Old West” kind of stuff.

  12. Jay Avatar

    Our local Mesquite authors have written several articles on the Bundy saga that is ongoing. Anyone who would like to follow can do so here:
    The recent articles include yesterday’s article about Bundy’s threat of a “range war”.

  13. Monty Avatar

    Many so called cowboys and ranchers have a real knack for striping and milking desert lands with profiteering cattle schemes that are unrealistic given the carrying capacity of fragile desert lands. European cattle, if they have a place in the west, should be on well watered lands. If these knot heads want to grow meat in the desert, raise desert bighorns!

  14. Mal Adapted Avatar
    Mal Adapted

    What I find most ironic is that Bundy refuses to pay the ridiculously low grazing fees charged by the BLM! If that’s a lot of money to him, his operation must be pretty marginal. If ranching is the best occupation he can find, he’s a pathetic loser. Hard to believe the public sympathy he’s getting from sagebrush rebels and tea-baggers is genuine, since self-reliance is supposed to be an important value to them.

  15. Jameson Avatar

    Well, the Desert Tortoise was there first, obviously, and long, long before Bundy’s family advantageously and unethically claimed what wasn’t theirs; the First Peoples were there for some thousands of years prior to the European land grab. Why should he be given any preferential treatment, especially when he owes taxpayers a huge hunk of cash? Bundy is making this a bigger issue than it really is; no need to drivel the same old “government vs. me” piffle that we’ve all heard millions of times before; leave that to Fox News.

    1. Mark L Avatar
      Mark L

      Hmm..makes we wonder had Bundy been native American what would have happened….

  16. Michael Mann Avatar
    Michael Mann

    What was the purpose behind creating the “new land-use rules” that Bundy is allegedly in violation of? Just why is Mr. Bundy’s cattle being allowed to graze on BLM land so harmful or unjust? If Bundy’s claim is true that his family was allowed to let their cattle graze on this land since the 1870s, then what happened in just the past few decades that made it necessary for the BLM to tax him by charging “grazing fees”?

    On their site,, the following can be found: “BLM’s mission is to manage and conserve the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations under our mandate of multiple-use and sustained yield.” Mr. Bundy is part of the public, and he was exercising his right – before unconstitutional laws were enacted – to use public land. And let’s not make the absurd assumption that this is about protecting another alleged, nearly extinct creature. We have to be pretty stupid to believe that this is about the desert tortoise.

    Everyone who has ever followed the work of “environmentalists” and other so-called “Non-Governmental organizations” (many of them financed by governments) knows that they perform functions on behalf of our governments that are seldom in the best interests of the citizens. In this case, are we to take the word of “environmentalists” and animal rights activists that the desert tortoise is really in danger of becoming extinct if cattle are allowed to graze on this land? Can you imagine how much fewer government land grabs and taxes there would be if this and similar groups were seen by most for what they are: mindless toadies of a government out of control?

    And if it’s true that Mr. Bundy’s cattle goes for $1000 a head then it seems that the BLM owes Mr. Bundy hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is one thing to charge him with ridiculous grazing fees (just another tax), and it’s quite another to steal his cattle and auction them off. And if this is really a case of trespassing, why (as several commenters posted to a similar article) isn’t our government rounding up illegal aliens and sending them back to their countries? The incredible amount of money that our wretched government claims is likely to be spent on rounding up trespassing cattle could go a long way toward rounding up the real trespassers: illegal aliens.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Michael Mann,

      Let me answer some of your questions.

      “What was the purpose behind creating the “new land-use rules” that Bundy is allegedly in violation of?”

      Mr. Bundy grazed his cattle on a public grazing allotment. Each allotment has rules that the grazing permittee (Bundy in this case) has to obey. It has been that way since the Taylor Grazing Act of 1936. Back in 1993 the local BLM wanted to protect the desert tortoise which inhabits the area of this grazing allotment. So they wrote instructions in the lease renewal (leases renewed every 10 years) to protect tortoises from certain types of cattle grazing. I don’t know what they were specifically. Bundy rejected the new grazing instructions and kept grazing anyway. Doing this is not permitted – neither disobeying the instructions or grazing without a grazing permit.

      “Just why is Mr. Bundy’s cattle being allowed to graze on BLM land so harmful or unjust? If Bundy’s claim is true that his family was allowed to let their cattle graze on this land since the 1870s, then what happened in just the past few decades that made it necessary for the BLM to tax him by charging ‘grazing fees’?”

      Bundy is in trouble not because grazing on BLM land is harmful or unjust. He is in trouble because he has no permit to graze because he rejected the terms of his grazing permit renewal in 1993.
      Grazing fees are not a tax, but a charge for the cattle eating public grass and other forage. Grazing fees are generally thought to be very low. Many say they are far below market value of the grass. In other words, if he was leasing private pasture that he didn’t own, it would cost him much more than what the government charges. Grazing fees have been around since the 1930s. They are nothing new.

      “On their site,, the following can be found: “BLM’s mission is to manage and conserve the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations under our mandate of multiple-use and sustained yield.” Mr. Bundy is part of the public, and he was exercising his right – before unconstitutional laws were enacted – to use public land. And let’s not make the absurd assumption that this is about protecting another alleged, nearly extinct creature. We have to be pretty stupid to believe that this is about the desert tortoise.”

      These public lands are indeed supposed to be managed for multiple use. Wildlife is one of the multiple uses and Bundy now has no right to graze at all, having rejected the terms of his lease. He has no more standing than other Americans, in fact, less because he is in violation.

      All of Bundy’s troubles come from his rejecting his new grazing lease in 1993 and grazing thereafter without a permit. He has now lost two cases in federal court over the matter. Disobeying a court order is a serious matter even if he, or others, think the court decided wrongly. It is surprising that he is not in prison. He seems to have got off easy so far.

    2. Ken Cole Avatar

      If, as Bundy claims, this is his land, then why in the hell hasn’t he been paying property taxes like everyone else?

  17. topher Avatar
    I posted this in interesting news but this is where I should have put it.

  18. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan


    I wrote a story on the trespass cattle roundup. Thanks for the news.

  19. Chris Harbin Avatar
    Chris Harbin

    If memory serves correctly, The U.S. purchased the land from France (the Louisiana Purchase). If that’s not quite right then it was ceded to the U.S. by Mexico. So ultimately the federal government owns the land. Of course this leaves out the people who were originally on the land and it was essentially taken from them. If all this correct that means that Bundy’s ancestors either bought the land from the feds (which I’m pretty sure did not happen) or they grazed on open range.
    Grazing rights do not come with the purchase of private land. It is a lease issued by the government which almost always come with several conditions. Sorry Mike if this rains on your parade.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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