In the past 10 days, resolutions were issued from at least two Southern Utah counties to the Bureau of Land Management. One April 3 by the Washington County Commission urging the BLM to restrain from transporting confiscated cattle belonging to Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy through their county and into the state of Utah for distribution. The other resolution, issued by the Iron County Commission, called the BLM out for mismanaging Iron County public lands and allowing the wild horse population to grow to more than twice the legal limit.
Iron County Commissioner David Miller said that he believes what is good for the goose should also be good for the gander. He said he wanted to understand why the BLM was enforcing laws one state over, when they were breaking them in Iron County, Utah.
“To dismiss our request to manage these animals as one charged to manage them and to interfere with US citizens historical rights to graze in Nevada comes at a great alarm in Iron County,” the notice served alongside of the Iron County resolution reported. It went on to say that, the action of removing Bundy Cattle from public lands was in-and-of-itself a “direct opposition” of responses to requests made by Iron County for the BLM to get the wild horse population under control.
The two-page resolution established a plan of action carried out by county commissioners and the Iron County Sheriff’s Department to handle the wild horse population issue in Iron County themselves. It stated that the problem has become one of imminent danger to ranchers who count on that land, and have paid grazing fees associated with land use, but due to overgrowth of the wild horse population cannot support the needs of their livestock.
It went on to say that based on Utah code 11-51-102-103 Iron County has the authority to act on behalf of their citizens when the controlling agency is out of compliance to the detriment of Iron County’s people.
According to the BLM website found at www.blm.gov the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act mandates that was “necessary” to take action against any overpopulation that exists on public lands, by rounding up said animals and removing them from public lands. It went on to say this was an essential duty in order to maintain appropriate land management requirements and that the action should be immediate.
Miller said that for the past few years the BLM has refused to deal with the abundant horse population citing financial restraints due to funding cuts from above. He said he finds it fascinating, and even a little bit offensive, that the BLM cannot acquire funds to manage public lands in Utah, but can find millions of dollars to confiscate trespass cattle in Nevada.
“If we really believe that we are a country of laws, like I have heard over and over from the BLM – then number one, they better abide by their own damned laws,” he said. “And second, they had better abide by the very founding of the law of the land that give all other law any legitimacy.”
Citing both the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution, and Article 1; Section 8; phrase 17, Miller said that the BLM’s actions in the state of Nevada are not only questionable, but given their stance on the Iron County wild horse issues in conjunction with that action, they are unlawful as well.
“In response to challenges of federal ownership of the lands in Nevada – the 9th circuit held that the federal government owned all federal lands in Nevada and that those lands did not pass to the state upon statehood,” said BLM Public Affairs Specialist Kirsten Cannon.
She said that Bundy’s cattle was lawfully confiscated pursuant the issuance of two separate federal court orders asking him to remove his cattle from public lands.
Since the issuance the letter of intent and the resolution, Miller said they have met with local BLM officials, but he said he the outcome was discouraging. He said local representatives claimed they did not have any authority to gather horses without permission from superior agents from within the agency.
“They come in with a spirit of cooperation,” Miller said. “But they are completely powerless to mitigate the concerns that we’ve got.”
Cannon said that she could not comment on anything beyond what was taking place on the public lands in Nevada, because that was not her division.
Attempts by KCSG to contact Iron County BLM representatives have been unsuccessful, and the BLM has not issued a press release in response.
However, National Park Service spokesperson Christie Vanover said the NPS and BLM have taken concerns raised about transporting Bundy cattle into Utah for distribution very seriously.
Washington County’s unanimously passed resolution stated that the feral cattle that could potentially be herded along with Bundy cattle could be of strong consequence to Utah ranchers livestock, and for that reason it urged the BLM to keep the sale of confiscated cattle within the boundaries of Nevada.
Washington County Commissioner Jim Eardley said they were standing in support of Iron, Beaver and Sevier Counties, all of whom he said were opposed to the interstate exchange of the Bundy Cattle. He said that it was his understanding that auction houses in the state of Nevada had refused to sell confiscated cattle, and the closest option they could find was in Monroe, Utah.
Eardley said that the problem with feral cattle coming in to Utah’s rancher community is that they haven’t been properly cared for, or immunized, so they pose health threats to healthy animals.
Vanover said that the BLM has received letters from the Utah governor’s office, county commissions and concerned Utahans, and they have reevaluated their initial plans to transport cattle into the state.
“They have been in direct contact as well with a lot of our agency administrators here,” she said. “So, we did have initial plans in place, and we are taking into account the concerns of all of the citizens involved and they’re looking at different options.”
She said the BLM had no plans of shipping confiscated Bundy cattle anywhere at all in the immediate future, but would not disclose where the cattle was being held.