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October 2, 2014

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Sandoval: Federal cattle roundup has created ‘atmosphere of intimidation’

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Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Rancher Cliven Bundy, left, and his son, Arden, stand on land the family has worked since the 1880s on August 20, 2013, in Bunkerville, Nevada. Bundy is battling the Bureau of Land Management over grazing rights.

Brian Sandoval

Brian Sandoval

Gov. Brian Sandoval says a government roundup of cattle from federally controlled range land has created an “atmosphere of intimidation” and is trampling on Nevadans’ free-speech rights.

The cattle is being rounded up from Bureau of Land Management land where a Southern Nevada rancher claims a long-standing right to graze his herd.

The BLM says the cattle have trespassed for decades and that Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy has racked up more than $1.1 million in unpaid grazing fees while losing federal court cases.

Bundy claims to own at least 500 of more than 900 animals that rangers say are treading on protected habitat of the endangered desert tortoise.

On Tuesday, Sandoval issued a statement saying his office had received numerous complaints about BLM conduct, road closures and other disturbances.

Sandoval said he was most disturbed by BLM’s establishment of a “First Amendment Area” for protesters. He said confining protesters to the area “tramples upon Nevadans’ fundamental rights under the U.S. Constitution.”

“To that end, I have advised the BLM that such conduct is offensive to me and countless others and that the ‘First Amendment Area’ should be dismantled immediately,” Sandoval said.

“No cow justifies the atmosphere of intimidation which currently exists nor the limitation of constitutional rights that are sacred to all Nevadans,” he said. “The BLM needs to reconsider its approach to this matter and act accordingly.”

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service said Tuesday that 234 cows have been corralled since Saturday from a 1,200-square-mile area closed to the public for the operation about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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