Two More Years of Trespass: Bundy’s Cows Still Trampling Tortoise Habitat

Reseda, CALIFORNIA – Hundreds of cattle are still on the loose two years to the day after the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) began rounding up Cliven Bundy’s cattle in the Gold Butte area of southern Nevada. Forced by armed militants to release the penned cattle at the famous standoff under the highway bridge, the BLM has not endeavored to finish the job and, in fact, has stated there is no immediate plan to revisit the area.

“Cliven Bundy is in custody but his cows are still on the loose on public lands that were designated as conservation areas for threatened desert tortoises back in 1998,” said Michael Connor, California Director of Western Watersheds Project. “Livestock were supposed to have been removed 18 years ago. It’s high time for the BLM to finish the job and remove those cattle.”

“Cliven Bundy’s livestock were ordered off these key desert tortoise habitats because they were incompatible with habitat protection, and the long-overdue removal of the cows is a necessary step to give the habitat a chance to recover and give the desert tortoise a leg up on survival,“ said Erik Molvar, wildlife biologist with WildEarth Guardians.

Cattle have direct and indirect adverse effects on desert tortoise, ranging from trampling tortoises and their eggs, trampling tortoise burrows and trapping tortoises underground, removing the nutritious vegetation that tortoises need to survive, and facilitating increased numbers of ravens that eat hatchling tortoises. The lands around Gold Butte are considered “critical habitat,” a specific geographic area that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined is essential for the conservation of the species.

“Grazing trespass is a form of theft. In this case, the Bundy clan is taking public resources to which they are not entitled,” said Kirsten Stade, Advocacy Director for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The BLM has indicated it has no plans to reinitiate the round-up of Bundy’s cattle.


  1. Lee Nelson Avatar
    Lee Nelson

    I want the cattle off the land, but safely. When BLM feels it is safe, I presume they will begin, again, but probably have to get paperwork in order again, as well.
    No cow is worth a human life. I don’t want the BLM or their contractors in danger.

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      We prove every minute that no cow is worth a human life, but that is the wrong way to view it. I want the cattle to be treated humanely if the are removed from the land. That’s what was said at the last pretense of a showdown by Sally Jewell, and a few cattle were shot for effect. I don’t want to see that happen again. Especially since the government agencies was slower than cold molasses getting this taken care of.

      1. Ida Lupines Avatar
        Ida Lupines

        oops, that should read: ‘gov’t agencies were slower than cold molasses (running uphill).

  2. Lindsay Fraser Avatar
    Lindsay Fraser

    I was interested to read that Bundy’s cattle were ordered off the land. Well naughty cattle for not obeying the BLM. As for Cliven. He is a lost cause.

  3. Scott Avatar

    Not only do those cows need rounded up, they need managed in accordance with Alan Savory’s Holistic planned grazing. Since Bundy refused to cooperate, then find a different rancher who will. And if the Radical fringe Belsky environmentalists protest, throw them in jail with Bundy.

    There comes a time when we need to ignore the fringe elements from both sides and simply do what is right for the environment. In this case restore the habitat and the tortoises will stage a comeback. No better tool to do that than sheep goats or cattle managed properly.

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      The cattle shouldn’t be there at all. Alan Savory is a charlatan who has been discredited time and time again.

      1. Kevin Jamison Avatar
        Kevin Jamison

        Mr. Cole, thanks for that comment. I was about to post that exactly:”charlatan” indeed. Grazing cows is not the same as the vast herds of migratory bison of the long ago past. Savory’s ideas are poppycock excuses for the cow industry, nothing more.

      2. Scott Avatar

        Ironically just about everything in that counterargument is actually the myths. Shows a profound lack of understanding even what Savory’s management plans even look like or how they are used. Some though are actually fairly obviously wrong.

        1. Ken Cole Avatar

          The problem with Savory’s method is that nobody seems to know how to do it correctly. Everyplace that I’ve seen it implemented there has been severe degradation to the habitat, particularly sage grouse habitat. Whenever it has been put to scientific scrutiny it has been debunked. It’s just magical thinking.

          The Savory Method Can Not Green
          Deserts or Reverse Climate Change

          1. Scott Avatar

            And yet when tested by people who have actually taken the time to learn how to do it, positive results.


            I find it quite interesting that you used Briske as a refutation of Savory when he represents the failed standard grazing management that caused all the damages to begin with.

            Isn’t that what is claimed here? All the cattle need removed because they are destroying habitat for the tortoise? Yet the main proponent of changing the management to something that regenerates habitat you oppose and use his opponent who wants to continue with the destructive practises currently used.

            Pretty ironic in my honest opinion. Like asking a mass murderer for babysitting tips.

      3. Mal Adapted Avatar
        Mal Adapted

        I don’t know that I’d call Savory a charlatan, and I’m willing to be convinced that some desertified land has been restored to a more natural condition by his methods. Cautionary and even harshly critical peer-reviewed research has been published, however.

        What disturbs me is the notion that all “desert” land started out as more productive grassland, and can be “restored” by the Savory treatment. A preponderance of evidence shows that over much of the US Intermountain West, arid and semi-arid ecosystems evolved in place, long before pastoralists arrived. An excellent piece by environmental journalist Chris Clarke articulates my own concerns very well.

        Then there’s the modern history of livestock production on land that didn’t evolve under heavy grazing. In my observation, localized areas of grazing damage, in particular floodplains of arid-land streams, recover quickly when livestock are completely removed. Like many of you, I’m suspicious of proposals to restore these areas with more grazing.

        1. Ida Lupine Avatar
          Ida Lupine

          Well said. +1!

        2. Scott Avatar

          The problem of course is defining the difference between desertified and desert. Savory avoids this by simply saying that brittle environments that lost their keystone grazers and started degrading because of that trophic cascade are desertified. Many though don’t agree that the increase of deserts in the West were the result of the Quaternary extinction event and the trophic cascade that followed. Then increased by the modern european colonization and the further extirpation of even more species causing even larger trophic cascades. Some don’t even consider a trophic cascade a real thing at all.

          To those people it is pretty difficult to convince that using biomimicry to regenerate the lost ecosystem function caused by those cascades could possibly work. Obviously, because they don’t even believe in the cascade in the first place. Some actually go so far as to claim a symbiosis between grasslands and their grazers exists. No symbiosis, and no loss of function losing the grazer.

          None of these people will accept Savory’s work because they don’t understand biome interconnectedness enough to even notice what was lost. They often also describe Savory’s work as “magical”, simply because it is too advanced for them to comprehend.

          For those people it is just best to ignore their protestations that it shouldn’t work, and do it anyway. Let them believe it is magic for all I care. What matters is that it is based on solid, (although controversial to slow learners), biological and physical principles.

        3. Mal Adapted Avatar
          Mal Adapted


          Many though don’t agree that the increase of deserts in the West were the result of the Quaternary extinction event and the trophic cascade that followed…

          None of these people will accept Savory’s work because they don’t understand biome interconnectedness enough to even notice what was lost. They often also describe Savory’s work as “magical”, simply because it is too advanced for them to comprehend.

          Well, for a trained scientist, a lack of convincing evidence is a significant obstacle to belief. As a semi-trained (as far as two years in a Ph.D. program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology before I found an easier way to make a living) ecologist, I don’t have a problem with the trophic cascade concept. However, while I’m hardly an expert in grassland ecology, my review of the refereed literature has failed to find much support for claims that Savory’s methods are widely applicable. Within the peer community of actual experts (namely, trained ecologists who have published in appropriate peer-reviewed venues), there is certainly no consensus in favor of short-rotation, intensive grazing everywhere Savory recommends it.

          Non-experts in any scientific discipline are wise to withhold acceptance of controversial claims before a consensus of experts emerges, or they risk succumbing to the Dunning-Kruger effect. Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself (“The first rule is, you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool” -Feynman). Its epistemic justification rests on two foundations: empirical observation and inter-subjective verification, or “peer-review”. If few grassland ecologists support Savory, it may be because his work is “too advanced for them”, or because he’s substantively wrong. If I were a betting man, though, I’d bet on the latter.

          You can believe whatever you want, Scott, but how do you know you’re not fooling yourself? I’ll wait for the expert consensus, thanks.

          1. Scott Avatar

            Well I certainly understand where you are coming from. I would contend with the idea there is no evidence though. People have claimed there is no evidence, that’s certainly true. They are factually wrong. But by far and away what people claim as the scientific consensus is actually a series of hypotheses as to why they believe it shouldn’t work, rather than actually examining land under HM and measuring it’s properties, the wildlife and biodiversity over time etc… There is good evidence, despite what some people claim. Needs to be even more of course, but it is there for those willing to dig for it.

            Keep in mind though, there is an important difference in what Savory is doing. The principles he uses are extremely well vetted mostly. But in the past they failed in certain types of arid brittle landscapes. Savory’s early work was highly influential in the wetter more humid environments where this has been used for decades.

            Where Savory really made his most recent breakthrough though, is in understanding how to also make it work where it had previously failed. It is an important breakthrough.

        4. Marc Bedner Avatar

          I do call Savory a charlatan. He is primarily an entertainer, communicating his ideas through such means as TED talks. As a trained game rancher and hunter, I will acknowledge that he knows more than I do about how to track and kill wildlife. But this does not make a scientific expert on conservation biology, not to mention climate change.
          His system, originally called Holistic Range Management, has always focused on how to maintain livestock operations, not on how to preserve and restore ecosystems for wildlife.

          1. Marc Bedner Avatar

            correction to word order above (Ralph, I wish you had a way to correct posts)
            It is obviously Savory, not me, who has the experience in tracking and killing game, as he has described his elephant killing experience in his Ted talks.

          2. Scott Avatar

            Be careful. The same idea behind the failed elephant cull Savory was a part of is in fact standard operating procedure here in the states as well.


            Savory being one of the first wildlife biologists to figure out that was a failed strategy.

  4. WM Avatar

    I continue to be disappointed in the slow progress made on this matter.

    We should smell one or more bankruptcies in the Bundy clan affecting financial interests in those cows. And, by the time all the legal fees for various actions are calculated, damages claims are made and cow round up costs are totaled, it could be there are more liabilities than assets to satisfy them. Sure hope BLM is perfecting an immediate creditor priority to snag some of what is owed and available.

    Ah, but that would be the rational thing to do. Maybe not in an election year, though.

  5. monty Avatar

    Are the gun nuts still at the Bundy ranch?


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