Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Bundy's Cows Still Trampling Critical Habitat

Cliven Bundy is in custody but his cows are still loose on public lands designated as a conservation area for threatened desert tortoises back in 1998.  BLM started rounding up Bundy's cattle two years ago.  The job is not finished and the agency said it has no plans to revisit the Gold Butte area of southern Nevada.  One Nevada official said rounding up the nearly feral cows is expensive and dangerous work calling them "nasty and smart"; somewhat similar to their owner whom the Justice Department described as "lawless and violent". The cows are left to fend for themselves year-round, fighting off predators and scrounging for meager food in arid terrain.  Yet the resilient Brahman breed survives in the harsh desert conditions [photo above].

The livestock was ordered off the desert land because cattle grazing is inconsistent with preserving the desert tortoise. (photo: Gopherus agassizii) US Fish & Wildlife determined the land around Gold Butte is critical habitat for the tortoise. Cows trample eggs and burrows increasing tortoise mortality. They grow slowly and have low reproduction rates while the cows  denude sensitive soils increasing erosion and noxious weed infestations.   Bundy has grazed his cows without a permit since 1993.  Multiple federal judges have ordered the cows removed, but Bundy and his sons have issued threats against contractors hired to corral the beasts.  Bundy's past-due fees are estimated to be more than $1 million.  If Bundy does not pay, BLM could obtain permission from the state's brand inspector to sell the cattle worth an estimated $800,000.  The BLM forfeited a $400,00 matching grant from the Walton Family Foundation for a restoration project to benefit the southwest willow flycatcher because the presence of Bundy's cattle thwarted the project.  Its time for the BLM to finish the job and put an end to Bundy's animal abuse.