“Drought, what drought?” exclaimed a group of rebel ranchers in Nevada who, for more than two years, have been protesting grazing restrictions on federally owned rangeland due to severe weather conditions. Funny, because since 2012, cattle and sheep ranchers in that state have collected $54 million in drought relief subsidies, $2.2 million of which went to just two families.
In June, the anti-government ranchers of Battle Mountain, Nevada, defied orders by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management by herding their cattle onto public acreage closed because of long-term environmental concerns. Their lawyers claimed in a 2014 appeal that “no drought exists” and moisture conditions on the range were normal.
In 2014, rebel leader Dan Filippini received $338,000 in drought relief funds, and another $750,000 was granted to a trust and corporation associated with the Filippini family. Peter Tomera and family also accepted a hefty handout. He, his wife and sons staged the Grass March Cowboy Express, a 21-day horseback ride to Washington, DC, to protest grazing restrictions on federally owned land. The government backed down and opened the range, as the ranchers demanded.
Lynn Tomera criticized the bureau’s environmental preservation efforts as an attack on the rancher’s way of life, and in the same breath defended her family’s claiming of subsidies.
“If the ranchers were met with a little bit more cooperation and help from the local BLM offices, we wouldn’t be in such a bad position where we needed to bring the cattle in quicker, where we needed to buy more hay… There is a drought, there is no two ways about that, but I feel the BLM is using it as one of their many tools to restrict grazing or curtail it altogether.”
Katie Fite, of WildLands Defense, responded.
“[The land in Battle Mountain] is devastated and needs significant rest from the ranchers’ activities. They truly think they are the lords of yesteryear and the public lands are their own little fiefdom.”
The Battle Mountain protest attracted the support of conservative Nevada lawmakers, states-rights advocates and backers of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who, in 2014, refused to pay federal grazing fees, which resulted in an armed standoff with authorities.
h/t: Reveal News.