The federal government has given up on its roundup of Cliven Bundy’s cattle on public land in Nevada, ending a tense standoff between the family and hundreds of armed officials who surrounded the ranch.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) cited safety concerns in a statement released Saturday, deciding to call off the operation after only gathering 384 of the total 908 cattle they said were "trespassing."
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"Based on information about conditions on the ground, and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public," said BLM Director Neil Kornze.
The Washington Free Beacon was the first to speak to Cliven Bundy’s cousin, Lorena Hafen, who was in the middle of putting her laundry on the line while taking care of Cliven’s mother, Bodel Bundy, when she heard the news.
"This is the first I’ve heard the impoundment being pulled," she said, from a separate house some miles from the Bundy ranch. "We haven’t got that call yet."
"They are going to pull completely out? And their going to let my uncle do his ranching that he’s been doing?"
She told Bodel the BLM is leaving.
"Grandma, this news lady from the Washington Free Beacon is on the line right now and the report that she’s gotten is that the BLM is pulling out, and they’re not going to close off our land anymore. They’re gonna cut their losses and they’re gonna go wherever they came from."
Bodel was pleased by the news.
"Grandma says, ‘Oh, wonderful. Thank you,’" Hafen relayed.
Bundy’s son Dave was arrested for taking pictures along a state highway and the BLM brought in rangers from out of state to deal with protesters in "First Amendment Areas" the agency had set up, restricting access for citizens to peacefully protest the removal. The agency had received harsh criticism from Gov. Brian Sandoval (R.), members of Congress, and the media for its handling of the operation.
During a heated confrontation on Wednesday between rangers, members of the Bundy family, and other protesters, Ammon Bundy, one of Cliven’s sons, was tasered. A 57-year-old cancer survivor was also pushed to the ground, drawing concern from lawmakers who said the BLM was using "brutal physical force."
The family was also concerned about the treatment of their cattle, and the BLM refused to say if they had euthanized any cows during the removal.
"As we have said from the beginning of the gather to remove illegal cattle from federal land consistent with court orders, a safe and peaceful operation is our number one priority," Kornze said. "After one week, we have made progress in enforcing two recent court orders to remove the trespass cattle from public lands that belong to all Americans."
"We ask that all parties in the area remain peaceful and law-abiding as the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service work to end the operation in an orderly manner," he added.
The BLM said they "remain disappointed that Cliven Bundy continues to not comply" with two court orders for him to remove his cattle from the land. The majority of Clark County, Nev. was set aside for the desert tortoise in 1998.
The government attests that Bundy still owes over $1 million in grazing fees, and said they would "continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially." Bundy argues he owes roughly $300,000.
Additional requests for comment on the status of the impounded cattle, and the future of the operation from the BLM were not immediately returned.