Friday, September 30, 2016

Freedom fighters trash the desert

...Since the [2014]standoff at Bunkerville, Cliven Bundy’s roughly 1,000 cattle have remained at large. Nor has the rancher paid the more than $1 million he owes in grazing fees and fines. Cliven Bundy hasn’t escaped altogether, though: In February, he was arrested en route to support his sons’ armed occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon. He is now behind bars awaiting trial in 2017. 

But in other respects, Bundy got what he wanted: His cattle still graze for free on Gold Butte, just as they have done for the past two decades, despite a 1999 ban, and there was little to no federal oversight for two years...

The absence of federal workers did not go unnoticed. Friends of Gold Butte published a report in August detailing the damage inflicted on the area in the last two years, as well as documenting some historic bullet-hole damage. Graffiti and bullet holes riddle the petroglyphs and red sandstone, signs have been removed, and the area is marred by off-road tire tracks and trash. 

Twenty-two miles of illegal irrigation have been trenched through the desert, and a chopped-down Joshua tree was left to rot. The BLM is continuing to assess the situation, and so far staffers can’t say how much the illegal irrigation trenching and vehicle incursions have affected local wildlife populations. “Once this happens, it persists through time,” Moan says of the graffiti and general disregard for the area by visitors...


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