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BLM Director Rugwell Addresses Local Cattle Battle-Video
Posting Date: 05/10/2012

By Barbara Ellestad

Mary Jo Rugwell, District Manager for the Bureau of Land Management, in the Southern Nevada District, attended the Mesquite City Council meeting Tuesday, May 8, and provided an update on the ongoing dispute the agency has with local cattle rancher Cliven Bundy and a status update on the Gold Butte area.

Herein is her statement verbatim followed by a video copy of her address.

"I'm here tonight to provide an update on the trespass cattle gather that you probably heard about in the community and read about in the media," Rugwell began.

As background, since 1993, branded and unbranded cattle have been in trespass on public lands that are administered by the Bureau of Land Management, our Las Vegas Field office, and also on the National Park Service's National Recreation area.

We have made repeated attempts to elicit voluntary compliance from Mr. Cliven Bundy to remove these cattle. The United States District Court for the District of Nevada issued a permanent injunction and ordered him to remove his cattle in the late 1990s. The Interior Board of Appeals also confirmed the BLM's decision and cancelled his range improvements that were located on public lands.

Gathers of livestock are really a last resort for us. We try very hard to get folks that are not in compliance to voluntarily become compliant. Mr. Bundy has not had a permit since the early 90s in this area.

In April we had scheduled an operation where we were going to remove approximately 750 head of cattle. Just before this operation was going to occur, I was informed that it had been suspended indefinitely. Our intention was to gather the cattle and return the branded cattle to the owner or owners of those cattle. Then to give all the stray or unbranded cattle to the State of Nevada Department of Agriculture according to Nevada State Law.

Many people have asked me why the BLM decided to try to do an operation after this trespass had been occurring for almost 20 years. My response is that I don't really know what my predecessors did before I got to southern Nevada. I arrived in 2008 and this was one of the first things I was briefed on when I got to southern Nevada in my current job.

For me, I looked at this as something that had gone on for many years and had not been resolved. For me, it's two things. Number one, a willful trespass is not fair to the many thousands of ranchers and other users of the public lands that follow the rules and pay their fees as a regular course of doing business. The authorization that Mr. Bundy had in the

early 90s was for 152 head of cattle. There are now anywhere between 750 and 800 cattle in the area.

Because the operation was suspended, the question I've been asked is what are we doing now. What we're doing now is working with state, local, and federal officials to try to go back to court and get a fresh, more current, and more comprehensive court order that would order him to remove the cattle from public land. As always, we would prefer voluntary compliance and my door is always open to have a discussion with Mr. Bundy to try to affect that voluntary compliance.

As I was coming in this evening, the Mayor asked me to talk a little bit about wilderness. There are currently two designated wilderness areas in the Gold Butte area. One is called Lime Canyon. The other is called Jumbo Springs. It's important to know that wilderness is designated by Congress. Mary Jo Rugwell or the BLM of Nevada does not have the power to do that. That is not our job. Our job is to plan and manage lands based on whatever Congress decides to do.

In Gold Butte there is a Wilderness Study Area and an Instant Study Area. The Wilderness Study Area is called Million Hills and the Instant Study Area is Virgin Peak. Both of those were designated prior to now and in the early 90s the BLM recommended to Congress that it would be more appropriate that these two areas be released to multiple-use. Congress has not taken any action on those two areas. Currently the only designated wilderness areas in Gold Butte are Lime Canyon and Jumbo Springs.

Those two designated areas, we are currently working on management plans for both of those and we had a series of public meetings this last year. We are also currently working on a resource management plan and revision for southern Nevada. One of the things we have to do in that is to provide wilderness proposals. We have to evaluate those proposals. Again we cannot designate wilderness. We just evaluate the proposals and make recommendations to Congress based on that.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that the Gold Butte area currently is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. It is not designated but it is a very, very special area. Right now we are working with the local communities to try to establish some plans for a very simple infrastructure that would allow the area to be better used by the public and protect the amazing resources that exist there.

The kinds of things we're trying to get are areas to park, vault toilets, picnic areas, and some places where people can camp. Nothing elaborate or highly developed.

That's really all I have.

Thank you.


  • Posted Date: 05/10/2012
    Let's put this Bundy issue to rest. How much does he owe us, the taxpayer? Now pay up and get out. The courts have ruled against you time and again. Now to BLM, get off your dead butts and gather the cattle, then let Bundy fight it in court. We are paying you, the BLM, to manage the land. So get to it and do your job. Just because Bundy thinks he special doesn't mean you don't do your mandated job that you have a responsibility and an obligation to do - right now!
    By: David
  • Posted Date: 05/10/2012
    It is about time BLM took care of this. Ridiculous.
    By: Marcie
  • Posted Date: 05/10/2012
    Thank you Ms. Rugwell for claifying the Bundy issue. Bundy's behavior is no credit to the honest men and women who have raised livestock on public land and complied with the laws and regulations when doing so. It's well past time for the BLM to take action against him for his disgracfull behavior.
    By: mmcgreer
  • Posted Date: 09/15/2012
    The BLM needs to just leave Mr. Bundy alone. They claim they want to take his land to save the desert tortoises, but the Mr. Bundy is improving the land and making a better home for the tortoises. They BLM are just a bunch or control freaks hungry for power. He is the last cattle rancher in his county and we need someone to continue this for next the next generation of cattle ranchers. He is not hurting anyone or anything, so leave him and his family alone. If The BLM do end up taking over his land then their just going to set fire to it all and kill all the living things along with it. No more moo by 92, cattle free by 93.
    By: Sisalee
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