LAS VEGAS, April 14 (UPI) -- To avoid violence, the Bureau of Land Management released nearly 400 head of cattle rounded up earlier in the week on public land in southern Nevada.
The cattle were seized from Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher who refuses to recognize BLMs authority and has been in dispute with feds over grazing rights on the land since 1993.
Bundy, whose family settled the valley in the late 1800s and has been grazing cattle in the area since the days of the wild west, refuses to pay federal grazing fees. Feds were seizing his cattle in response to over $1 million in unpaid fees.
But supporters flocked to Bundy’s aid, showing up to demonstrate against the seizure of the cattle. After a video was posted to Youtube showing protesters and rangers in heated conflict with guns and tasers drawn on each other, people started coming in from out of state to stand up for Bundy.
Protesters showed up in such numbers that they shut down Interstate 15 northbound near Bundy’s ranch. Many showed up with rifles and handguns.
In a prepared statement, BLM said, “Due to escalating tensions, the cattle have been released from the enclosures in order to avoid violence and help restore order.”
According to CNN, a Las Vegas Sheriff is responsible for mediating an agreement between the Bundy family and BLM.
Sheriff Douglas C. Gillespie issued a press release late Saturday saying he got involved to prevent further conflict.
"I want to stress to all of you that as the sheriff of Clark County I cannot interfere with the Federal government when it is operating on Federal land. And because this is BLM property, it is in their jurisdiction. But when a group of protesters threaten civil unrest or violence in this county -- it is my job to step in and ensure the safety of citizens.”