(USA TODAY) The Bureau of Land Management on Saturday pulled back from its high-profile confrontation with a Nevada rancher whose cattle were grazing on public lands.
Rancher Cliven Bundy and his cattle garnered headlines — and vocal supporters — after the BLM shut down a 1,200-square-mile area to round up hundreds of his cattle. The BLM said the cattle were trespassing.
"We have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public," BLM director Neil Kornze said in a statement Saturday.
This is the latest in a long-standing battle between Bundy and the BLM. They've been feuding since 1993, when he refused to pay fees for the right to graze on an area called Gold Butte around his farm..
Bundy says he has the right to graze his livestock on open range. But the government says the cattle are trespassing on the habitat of the endangered desert tortoise, which they control.
Some 400 cows were gathered during the roundup that began a week ago, short of the BLM's goal of 900.
"This is a matter of fairness and equity, and we remain disappointed that Cliven Bundy continues to not comply with the same laws that 16,000 public lands ranchers do every year," Kornze said in the statement. "After 20 years and multiple court orders to remove the trespass cattle, Mr. Bundy owes the American taxpayers in excess of $1 million. The BLM will continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially."
In his statement, Kornze also said that the BLM "made progress in enforcing two recent court orders to remove the trespass cattle from public lands that belong to all Americans."
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval released a statement on Saturday saying that "given the circumstances, today's outcome is the best we could have hoped for."