Ranchers Stage Horseback Rally Against Federal Land Policy
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[May 31, 2014]
By Jennifer Dobner
(Reuters) - About 70 cattlemen and
ranchers, half on horseback, rallied at the steps of Nevada's state
Capitol on Friday to protest against federal control of grazing lands,
complaining of cuts made in the number of cattle allowed to graze this
The ranchers want Republican Governor Brian Sandoval’s help in
ousting a regional Bureau of Land Management official whose office
in northern Nevada has reduced by 20 percent the number of cattle
allowed to graze over the next 12 months in the Battle Mountain
region east of Carson City, citing lingering drought.
The protest, following a five-day 320-mile (515-km) ride across
northern Nevada rangelands led by a county commissioner disgruntled
with the BLM, comes amid growing grumbling about federal control of
public lands in the U.S. West.
“Across the board I would like to see the land transferred to the
state of Nevada,” said Elko County Commissioner Grant Gerber, whose
family began ranching in eastern Nevada in the mid-1800s. “Then
people closer to the issue could make the decisions.”
The BLM says a 20 percent reduction in cattle allotments in the
Battle Mountain area was negotiated with grazing permit holders and
county commissioners over several months due to drought.
"These conditions have stressed all resources on the public lands,
making grazing throughout most of Nevada unsustainable at permitted
levels,” the agency said in a statement this week.
Gerber, an attorney who has represented ranchers in squabbles with
the BLM for three decades, said the reductions threaten the
livelihoods of ranching families who felt forced to accept the
reductions to avoid bigger threatened cuts.
Gerber said the multiday horseback protest, dubbed the “Grass
March,” was modeled after Gandhi’s “Salt March” across India to
protest British control of the salt supply in 1930, which he likened
to BLM control of Nevada’s public lands.
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The ride is the latest demonstration against federal control of
public land since a highly publicized April standoff between armed
backers of rancher Cliven Bundy and federal authorities who sought
to seize his herd over Bundy's failure to pay grazing fees or remove
his cattle from public land outside of Las Vegas.
The following month, all-terrain vehicle enthusiasts in Utah held an
illegal ride on a canyon trail protesting the BLM’s closure of that
area to motorized vehicles.
As of Friday, about 1,000 Nevadans had signed Gerber’s petition
seeking the removal of BLM District Manager Douglas Furtado, a copy
of which was given to Sandoval during a brief meeting.
BLM spokeswoman Erica Haspiel-Szlosek said the agency had no comment
on the rancher’s petition. Sandoval spokesman Tyler Klimas urged
cooperation on land issues in a state where over 80 percent of
public land is federally controlled.
(Additional reporting by Max Whittaker in Carson City; Editing by
Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)
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