UPDATE: NEVADA, (AP) - A day after blinking in a showdown on the range, federal land managers pledged to pursue efforts to resolve a conflict with a southern Nevada rancher who has refused to pay grazing fees for 20 years.
Bureau of Land Management spokesman Craig Leff said Sunday that the agency would continue to try to resolve the matter involving rancher Cliven Bundy "administratively and judicially."
He declined to comment on possible options.
On Saturday, the bureau released about 400 head of cattle it had seized from Bundy back to the range only hours after announcing a premature halt to the court-authorized roundup due to safety concerns.
The cattle were freed after hundreds of states' rights protesters, some of them armed, showed up at corrals outside Mesquite to demand the animals' release.
NEVADA - Federal land managers abruptly ended the roundup of cattle on public land in southern Nevada owned by a rancher who has refused to recognize their authority, citing a "serious concern" for the safety of employees and the public.Bureau of Land Management chief Neil Kornze made the announcement Saturday morning.
The fight has widened into a debate about states' rights and federal land-use policy. The agency revoked Cliven Bundy's grazing rights after he stopped paying grazing fees and disregarded court orders to remove his animals.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports the BLM will also release 100 of the seized cattle. The BLM did not immediately return calls to The Associated Press.
Also on Saturday, armed militia members and others gathered near the roundup site to protest the removal of hundreds of Bundy's cattle.
Republican U.S. Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada issued a statement asking the crowd to leave.
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(NBC News)- Hundreds of supporters, many of them armed showed up to protest the federal government’s decision to round up cattle from land in Nevada a rancher says he owns, prompting the feds to surrender the animals, for now."Get off our land, period. Give us back our property," said Ammon Bundy, whose father, Cliven Bundy claims his family has the right to allow more than 400 head of cattle to graze on acres of ranch he says are his.
The Bureau of Land Management began corralling the livestock outside Mesquite, Nev., last week, but agents were met by resistance by hundreds of protesters, fighting for what they consider states’ rights.
“I’m willing to lay my life down,” said one man who declined to be named, but showed up with an AK-47 hanging by his side.
One protester was shot at at by law enforcement officials with stun gun. Ammon Bundy said the federal agents were the “aggressors.”
“They had the Tasers, they had the weapons, they had the dogs, and we had nothing but us,” he said.
But the federal Bureau of Land Management said the protesters blocked the streets and threatened their agents. In a statement, Director of the Bureau of Land Management Neil Kornze said authorities decided to release the cattle "because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public."
Eric Parker from central Idaho stands watch on a bridge with his weapon as protesters gather by the Bureau of Land Management's base camp, where cattle that were seized from rancher Cliven Bundy are being held, near Bunkerville, Nevada April 12, 2014. The dispute over the land spans generations — “My grandpa fought for this. I'm going to fight for this,” said Cliven Bundy’s sister, Margaret Houston — and it’s not over yet.
"The courts have ruled that his cattle are in trespass, the courts have demanded that he remove his livestock," State Director of the Nevada Bureau of Land Management, Amy Lueders, told NBC News.
The dispute comes from the fact that the Bureau of Land Management claims the land belongs to the government because Bundy stopped paying grazing fees.
“Mr. Bundy owes the American taxpayers in excess of $1 million,” the statement said.