For Patrick Donnelly, the Great Basin director for the Center for Biological Diversity, the protected National Monument of South Eastern Nevada’s Gold Butte effectively belongs to local rancher and extremist Cliven Bundy and his family, who militantly oppose federal control of these lands.
“These are not safe spaces,” he says. “These public lands are not safe public lands.”
It’s easy to understand why Donnelly might be nervous. In 2014, Bundy and hundreds of militia members and protesters held a standoff with federal agents and local law enforcement.
The confrontation was an effort to stop the Bureau of Land Management from rounding up Bundy’s cattle, which have illegally grazed on these public lands for nearly three decades. The feds eventually backed down, fearing bloodshed. Intimidation, and even sporadic reports of violence, have continued ever since.