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October 30, 2014

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Nevada rancher relaxes after BLM showdown, but what’s next?

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STEVE MARCUS

Cliven Bundy talks with family friend Rob Miller at the family ranch near Bunkerville Sunday, April 13, 2014. The Bureau of Land Management halted their roundup of Bundy family cattle under an agreement reached Saturday. David Lory VanDerBeek, an Independent American Party candidate for governor, looks on at left.

Future Uncertain in Bundy-BLM Dispute

Cliven Bundy, right, talks with militia-type volunteers at the family ranch near Bunkerville Sunday, April 13, 2014. Volunteers include Scott Woods, left, of West Virginia, Christian Yingling, center, of Pennsylvania, and Jay LeDuc, background right, of Payson, Ariz. Launch slideshow »

BUNKERVILLE — Cliven Bundy returned home from church on Sunday to a familiar scene.

The ranch his family has owned since the 1870s was filled with generations of Bundys.

A dozen of his grandchildren munched on beef sandwiches with barbecue-stained mouths and chased each other around the front yard giggling. Inside, family members chatted and made plates of food.

A slight breeze blew like a sigh of relief. An armed militiaman remained at the front gate, but he held his post only as a precaution.

The altercation was over.

Militiamen came armed and upset from across the U.S. after hearing about the Bureau of Land Management’s efforts to seize Bundy’s cattle, which the BLM said have been trespassing on federal land without proper grazing permits for more than 20 years.

Bundy stopped paying grazing fees because he believes the land is owned by the state and that he has a right to use it for his cattle.

On Saturday, the BLM released all 400 head of Bundy’s cattle that had been rounded up after facing hundreds of states’ rights protestors and armed militia members.

The agency cited “escalating tensions” in calling off the roundup.

Bundy, 67, declined to comment for this story, instead taking the day to relax and worship.

Officials with the BLM also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bundy’s son Dave Bundy said the family was relieved that the cattle have been returned, but the fight has become about more than the cattle. It has become about states’ rights, people’s rights and federal land-use policy.

Dave Bundy said Saturday was a victory for the people.

“It’s not our battle alone,” he said. “It’s a battle for every Clark County resident, every Nevadan and every American.”

Bundy supporters and militiamen remained camped along the roadside a day after the victory. A canvas sign that read, “Has the West been won or has the fight just begun?” was hanging on a fence.

Down the road, on a flat of dirt and gravel, militiamen armed with rifles and handguns walked their campgrounds wearing flak jackets and camouflage. Another group stood guard at the Bundy home.

There was no celebration Sunday.

While supporters viewed Saturday as a historic victory for people’s rights and the impact militiamen can have against the government, they know the battle is far from over with the BLM. There are similar battles across the country.

Todd Fingel, a militiaman from Idaho, sat at his truck Sunday afternoon wearing camouflage and holding an AR-15 rifle. He drove nonstop to support the Bundys.

When the BLM released the cattle and he watched a fleet of government vehicles drive away, Fingel said, it was the most moving day of his life.

“The country has seen we can make (the government) back down,” Fingel said.

Jack Commerford, a militiaman from New Hampshire, said, “We’ve been labeled as domestic terrorists. We’re not domestic terrorists. We’re here to defend the Constitution of the U.S.”

While tensions have eased, militiaman Jeff DeLemus said militia members plan to stay until they believe the BLM no longer poses a threat. That could be a while, he said.

Dave Bundy said the family is working to return things at the ranch to normal.

There are calves that need to be paired with their mothers, water troughs to be repaired and a 10,000-gallon tank of drinking water to be restored.

Dave Bundy said has been rattled by the standoff with federal officials. He was thrown to the ground and arrested by BLM agents last week.

“I felt like I was in a communist country,” he said. “It’s disturbing that I’m an American and that this all happened.”

The family knows the dispute isn’t over and is bracing for future court battles.

“I hope the physical altercation is over, but I think there will be a lot of legal battles,” Dave Bundy said.

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