Monday, May 14, 2012 | 4:09 p.m.
The federal government on Monday filed a trespassing lawsuit against a Southern Nevada rancher who for years has been fighting orders that he remove his cattle from public land.
A lawsuit was filed in federal court in Las Vegas by the U.S. Justice Department, Environmental and Natural Resources Division, against Cliven Bundy of Bunkerville, a town near Mesquite.
The suit seeks a court order blocking Bundy's "unauthorized and unlawful grazing of livestock'' on land administered by the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service.
Despite a court order dating to 1998 requiring Bundy to remove cattle from federal land near Bunkerville, the government contends he has failed to do so and his cattle are now trespassing in a broad territory including the Gold Butte area and lands administered by the Park Service as part of Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
The Overton arm of Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Gold Butte contain "many sensitive and rare plant species that are directly and indirectly affected by unauthorized cattle grazing,'' the lawsuit says. The area also has archeological resources that need to be protected, the government says.
Bundy, however, has maintained he has the right to graze hundreds of head of cattle on range land where his family has been running livestock since 1877.
It's not known when the court will rule on the government's request that the court order that Bundy's cattle be removed from the unauthorized areas.
The suit was filed after the Bureau of Land Management canceled plans to round up and remove the cattle last month because of safety concerns. Those concerns related to Bundy vowing to protect his property rights, The Associated Press reported.