The federal Bureau of Land Management has announced it plans to return to work, clean up and access the Gold Butte region near Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch for the first time since Bundy and his brigade led a standoff against BLM officials in 2014.
Bundy – who stopped paying federal grazing fees on the land near his ranch more than two decades ago– had become an icon for anti-government extremists with his outspoken denouncement of the federal government. His declaration against federal officials in 2014 and refusal to stop grazing his cattle on the federal land attracted armed anti-government types to face off against federal authorities in 2014.
With Bundy and his four sons behind bars and awaiting trial related to the 2014 standoff as well as the Oregon Malheur Refuge standoff from earlier this year, BLM officials will finally move in to work on Gold Butte, according to a report flagged by the Salt Lake Tribune.
“Due to safety and security concerns, BLM employees have not conducted field work in the Gold Butte area in northeastern Clark County since early 2014. With the support of the local community, BLM officials have determined that the conditions are now right to resume work,” a release from the agency stated. “BLM archaeologists, law enforcement officers, and local agency leadership have all visited the area over the past month.”
The 2014 Wild West-style standoff was a flash point in the fight between anti-government types and the BLM that had raged for decades. The standoff brought together hundreds of Bundy sympathizers after federal officials attempted to round up hundreds of Bundy’s cattle that were grazing illegally. Bundy was able to rally armed supporters and ultimately federal officials backed down.
The list of to-dos for the BLM include “assessing the damage to cultural heritage sites,” which may have been damaged after the standoff or related illegal grazing in the area. The BLM will also be “partnering with the National Park Service on critical repairs to communications infrastructure” and conducting road maintenance.
In recent days, BLM Director Neil Kornze and staff accessed a section of Gold Butte and reported some vandalism on red sandstone formations as well as the removal of “a large Joshua tree” that “had been illegally cut down and left onsite.”
“There was also evidence that cattle have trammeled and overgrazed certain areas,” the BLM director reported in the press release.
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) has made preserving the Gold Butte area a major priority, lobbying hard for the Obama administration to made the area a national landmark, which would further protect the area.