LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3.com) --
The promised removal of "tresspass" cattle in the far northeast portion of Clark County began today, according to federal officials.
Rancher Cliven Bundy has said he will use whatever means necessary to prevent the cattle from being removed.
Bundy has allowed his cattle to remain on nearly 1,200 square miles of public land since 1994, when he stopped paying grazing fees. Two recent court orders mandated the cattle be removed.
Bundy told News 3 that federal agents removed three trailer loads or about 75 cattle from the Bunkerville Flats area earlier Saturday.
"I've done quite a bit so far to keep my cattle, but I guess it's not been enough," Bundy said. "They took about 75 of my cattle today. I have said I'd do what it takes to keep my cattle so I guess it is going to have to be more physical."
In a conference call this afternoon, BLM and National Park Service officials said a count of the area conducted April 1-3 showed 908 cattle on the 600,000 acres of public lands.
A livestock company out of Utah has been contracted to remove the cattle over the next 21 to 30 days. Officials won't disclose the estimated cost of the operation, but some estimates have ranged up to $2 million.
Officials said the rounded up cattle will be disposed of in two ways. If they are strays they will be given to the Nevada Department of Agriculture for public auction. If they belong to Bundy, they will be offered to him after he pays past grazing fees and costs of the roundup. If he declines, the cattle will go to public auction.
Cliven says his family has ranched the land since 1877. He stopped paying his grazing fees in 1993. He opposes paying fees to the federal government, but not to county or state officials.
The BLM started an effort in 2012 to remove the cattle, but stopped shortly after it started.
On Saturday, National park spokeswoman Christie Vanover said it was not fair for some 18,000 grazing permit holders to pay grazing fees, but for Bundy not to pay his fees.
Federal officials said there was a public protest on one of two designated free speech areas on Saturday and another one in Mesquite. They said both involved a dozen people or less.
Because of the cattle removal operation, much of the public land in the northeast portion of Clark County has been temporarily closed to the public.
Areas temporarily closed to public access will be posted with closure notices, and the public can also find daily updates about the removal operation and closure areas on the BLM and NPS websites: http://www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/fo/lvfo/blm_programs/more/trespass_cattle.html