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November 24, 2014

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Before Cliven Bundy standoff, a collision between ranchers and tortoises

Image

Justin M. Bowen

A tortoise shell lies on the desert floor south of Primm, where a solar power plant is expected to be built on 3,400 acres.

When the U.S. government declared the Mojave desert tortoise an endangered species in 1989, it effectively marked the cattle ranchers of Nevada's Clark County for extinction.

Rancher Cliven Bundy once had neighbors on the range: when the tortoise was listed, there were about 50 cattle-ranching families in the county. Some of them fought court battles to stay, rejecting the idea their cattle posed a danger to the tortoises. But, one by one, they slowly gave up and disappeared.

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