I-Team: Nevada rancher stirs debate in public lands ownership

LAS VEGAS --  In April, hundreds of militia members and supporters of Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy faced off against federal agents at a Bureau of Land Management cattle roundup.

Metro officers say guns were pointed at police and there were concerns the showdown could turn bloody. Police said they feared for their lives because of the firepower and the large crowd taunting them as they formed a line between the BLM and protesters.

Bundy's supporters said they were fighting excessive federal overreach.

Interactive Special Report: Rebellion on the Range

Bundy is a states' rights advocate who doesn't acknowledge the authority of the federal government. He also owes more than $1 million in fees and penalties for letting his cattle graze on government land.

It was April 12 when more than 400 Bundy supporters and militia members made their way over the hills of Bunkerville and came within feet of an armed BLM compound, chanting for the release of rancher Cliven Bundy's cattle.

The cattle had been rounded up after Bundy allowed them to graze illegally on public lands for the past 20 years.

Under threat of the firepower in the crowds, the BLM released the cattle, and left in trucks, aided by Metro police.

Now, an FBI investigation has been opened into what happened the day of the standoff and why guns were pointed at officers and federal agents.

Months after the incident, Bundy insists it was never his intention for his supporters to try and storm the gate.

"I really wasn't expecting the people to go and face them," Bundy said.

After gaining a national spotlight with news coverage around the country, Bundy now says he has maintained a massive support base and the interview requests just keep coming. He says he gets at least one a day.

Even on the day of this interview, he says he has three radio interviews he could choose to do if he wants to.

"A station in New York, the lady says, 'Mr. Bundy, you're going to be talking to 72 nations and approximately 300 million people.' Well, that's more than an old cowboy can even imagine," Bundy said.

8 News NOW asked Bundy if he feels he is now the leader of the crusade for state's rights, but he insists he's just a rancher in a unique position.

"I'm in a position -- whether I like it or not -- of leadership and why are you out here asking me these questions if I'm not important?" Bundy asks. "I'm not seeking to be the leader, I'm not seeking to be a prophet or even governor, or anything like that. I'm a rancher, I want to be a good father and a good rancher and I want to be a good producer for the nation."

Bundy's cattle are back to grazing illegally on public lands.

The BLM says Bundy is still responsible for $1 million in grazing fees plus the cost of the roundup and they're coming after him.

"Well, you got to remember, they can't take my ranch in just one day. It's been a little time so I could have millions, or even lots of millions of people who would support me right now," Bundy said.

But Bundy says he's still keeping a watchful eye out for federal BLM snipers he believes could be targeting him.

His personal security guard "Buddah" has lived on the ranch since the standoff and says he would die protecting Bundy.

"It sort of makes a little bit of sense that at least I have a witness. If somebody is going to come and shoot me right now, a sniper, I at least have a witness and this man, is my witness. Wherever I go, he's my witness."

Bundy says he feels Sheriff Doug Gillespie and Governor Brian Sandoval "failed to protect him" and his ranch. He does say he is pleased with the recent election results and feels lawmakers are starting to reflect what "we the people" want.

The public lands debate is expected to heat up in the upcoming legislative session.

 Watch the I-Team's one-hour special "Rebellion on the Range" on Sunday at 6 p.m.


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