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Published April 12, 2014, 03:08 PM

Militia Members, Ultra-Conservatives Rally To Cause Of Nevada Rancher

April 11 (Reuters) - Self-styled militia members and ultra-conservatives rallied on Friday to the cause of a defiant rancher accused by the U.S. government of illegally grazing his cattle for decades on public lands in the southern Nevada desert.

By: Reuters Media, WDAY

April 11 (Reuters) - Self-styled militia members and ultra-conservatives rallied on Friday to the cause of a defiant rancher accused by the U.S. government of illegally grazing his cattle for decades on public lands in the southern Nevada desert.

The showdown between rancher Cliven Bundy and U.S. land managers has brought a team of armed federal rangers to Nevada to seize his 1,000 head of cattle in an unusual roundup that has become a flashpoint for anti-government groups, right-wing politicians and gun-rights activists.

Bob Diehl, head of a group calling itself the Southern Nevada Militia, based inMesquite, Nevada, estimated that as many as 1,500 supporters turned out Friday to protest the government seizure of Bundy's livestock from 600,000 acres of federal range and park lands that he has claimed as his own property.

The dispute has tapped into long-simmering anger in Nevada and other big Western states rooted in the fact that vast tracts of their land are owned and governed by federal agencies, much of it by the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management, or BLM.

"Many of us are here for the same reason. It's not about cattle, it's not about land, it's about bringing the constitution back to the people," Diehl said.

Diehl said many who believe the federal government has overreached its authority by intervening in states' rights in such areas as guns, land use and marriage laws have come to see the Bundy Ranch and the forced roundup as "the last stand for American independence."

The dispute between Bundy and federal land managers began in 1993 when he stopped paying fees of about $1.35 per cow-calf pair to graze public lands that are also home to imperiled animals such as the Mojave Desert tortoise. The BLM also claims Bundy has ignored cancellation of his grazing leases and defied federal court orders to remove his cattle.

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