A family of Nevada ranchers is declaring temporary victory in their long showdown with federal agents.
“Rancher Cliven Bundy won his battle against the Bureau of Land Management, at least for the moment,” wrote a member of the family on the Bundy Ranch blog Tuesday.
The declaration came after federal agents returned hundreds of cattle they had taken from the ranch over the weekend. However, Business Insider called Cliven Bundy’s son, Ammon Bundy, Tuesday and he said the family was still “looking for support” from the armed militia members and other conservative activists who flocked to the ranch this month. Though the BLM backed down for now, Ammon, who works on the ranch, said his family still believed they could face “retaliation” from the government if their supporters leave.
“We embarrassed them, we gave them a black eye and the federal government doesn’t like that,” Ammon said. “There’ll be some type of, you know, retaliation. We just hope that it’s in the daylight, not in the dark. But you know, they have been known to do it in the dark.”
The federal agents had taken about 400 cattle from the ranch. In total, Bundy had about 900 cattle and the BLM planned to spend a month rounding them up.
Cliven Bundy’s battle with the BLM stretches back to the 1990’s when the family stopped paying grazing fees to the agency, which manages land near the ranch in order to protect an endangered species of tortoise. In 1998, the BLM got the first of many court orders ruling Bundy was trespassing on federal land by having his cattle graze there without paying fees. Now, the agency claims Bundy owes over $US1 million in grazing fees accumulated over the years. A judge gave the BLM permission to impound the cattle last summer.
After returning the cattle to the Bundy Ranch, BLM spokesman Craig Leff told CBS News the agency would seek to resolve the situation “administratively and judicially.” He declined to comment further.
Bundy and his supporters framed the showdown as an issue of state’s and constitutional rights and argued a federal agency did not have authority to keep him and his cattle off the land.
“This is a state’s rights issue, the Bundys are just caught deep in the middle of it,” Ammon Bundy said Tuesday. “This is a state’s rights issue. This is a ‘We The People’ issue and that is what this is.”
Ammon said Tuesday that a “handful” of armed militia remembers remained at the ranch.
“They’re just kind of there keeping watch and then all the others are on call,” explained Ammon. “Militia means what? It’s the army of the people. They got to go home and make their livings and be with their families.”
Though the number of armed militia members on the ranch has decreased, Ammon said his family would not back down if the government makes further attempts to remove their cattle.
“We’re not afraid, I’ll tell you that. We believe that god is in control and there’s no room for fear, because that’s what those type of people want,” he said of the government. “That’s how they build their power is off of fear and we will resist that 100 per cent.”
In addition to the militia members, Ammon said the family has as-yet-unidentified allies in Washington. However, he said support from local officials and the public at large is more important to the Bundys than having allies in the federal government.
“We do have some supporters in Washington, but not that we want to go public with,” said Ammon. “But we feel like we don’t need supporters in Washington. We need our county to stand up. We need our state to stand up and that’s all we need, because this is a federal issue. What good does it go to get the feds, you know, when it’s a federal issue. That just exhibits that they do have more authority than they have and that is certainly not the case.”
Ammon encouraged more militia members to come to the ranch and said his family was willing to “assist” anyone who wanted to help establish a permanent armed presence there. He also said the ranch would play host to a “family” rally Friday.
“We still are looking for support,” Ammon said. “We’re calling for a family activity barbecue on Friday afternoon. We’re hoping to get a couple thousand people here, and we’re gonna feed them, and have a live band, and it will be more of a fun activity.”
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