–A coalition of conservation organizations today pressed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to stop Cliven Bundy’s cattle from continuing to trample Mojave desert tortoise habitat in southeastern Nevada in accordance with the agency’s commitments under the Endangered Species Act and as authorized by a court order explicitly ordering the U.S. government to seize and impound these trespassing cattle. A letter
to BLM from nine organizations demanded that Bundy’s cattle be removed by the end of this summer.
“We recognize that the cattle round-up of 2014 failed due to real threats to agency personnel,” said Travis Bruner, executive director of Western Watersheds Project. “Those ‘threats’ are now mostly imprisoned and awaiting trial, but the crimes against desert tortoise continue. The BLM cannot wait any longer to comply with the law.”
Livestock trample, crush, compete for food with, and degrade the quality of desert tortoise habitat. Bundy was told in 1993 to reduce his herd to reduce the risk posed to the species. Bundy refused to do so. He then stopped paying his grazing fees, and his supporters ultimately succeeded in stopping the round-up of his illegal cattle in 2014. The herd remains scattered across and enormous area and the BLM has publicly stated that it has no immediate plans to resolve the trespassing issue.
“These cattle are competing with native wildlife in the area for food”, said Rob Mrowka a senior scientist working for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Whatever vegetation the cattle eat is vegetation that is not available for desert tortoise and other native wildlife for nourishment of for cover from predators. I am very familiar with wildland grazing, and ranchers are generally required to rotate their grazing herd to give the land a rest and to allow the grasses to regrow; neither is happening on Gold Butte.”
The impacts of the cattle grazing extend to illegally constructed water tanks and pipelines to serve livestock water sources. Bundy’s cattle are allegedly starving on the range, which means there is even less forage for the native wildlife. The current situation is cruel to all of the animals that make the area their home.
“While these cattle do not share Bundy’s criminal culpability for their actions, they are still degrading fragile habitat every day they remain on the Nevada range. It is time for them to be rounded up and sent to greener pastures.” Kirsten Stade, Advocacy Director with Public Employees for Responsibility.
“This has been an effort by a radical fringe group to seize public lands for their own personal use, and it’s well past time that it comes to an end” said Greg Dyson, Wild Places Program Director at WildEarth Guardians. “Public lands are an American birthright, they belong to us all. The BLM has received a lot of pressure to allow these cattle to continue to trample the land, and now the public is fed up. We are turning the tables and taking the land back for the public and for the wildlife, and to put an end to this blatantly illegal activity.”
The nine organizations include Center for Biological Diversity, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Los Padres Forest Watch, Pacific Biodiversity Institute, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Ventana Wilderness Alliance, Western Lands Project, Western Watersheds Project, and WildEarth Guardians.