Fed's Attempt to Sell Ranchers' Cattle is Thwarted

By Pat Taylor | July 7, 2008 | 8:19 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - The federal government was thwarted in its attempt Tuesday to sell cattle seized from two southwestern Nevada ranches in a property rights dispute.

A state district judge blocked the sale of the cattle from one ranch, and bidders refused to make offers on cattle from the other ranch.

Rancher Ben Colvin obtained a temporary restraining order from Judge Robert Estes just moments before the U.S. Bureau of Land Management was to begin auctioning off 62 head of cattle confiscated from his ranch late last month.

The BLM says they impounded cattle from the ranches of Colvin and Jack Vogt because the cattle have been "trespassing" on federally owned land since the ranchers stopped paying grazing fees five years ago.

The ranchers say the BLM's actions are illegal, and that this is just another example of the government trying to destroy the livelihood of cattle ranchers, farmers, and others whose livelihood depends on the land.

Judge Estes said in his order that "there is some evidence that, in attempting to dispose of the cattle, the [BLM] may not have followed administrative procedure."

The judge set a hearing date on the issue for August 21.

According to Colvin's attorney, David Horton, the primary purpose of the hearing is to decide whether Colvin or the BLM will retain possession of the cattle while the "underlying issues" are resolved.

BLM Field Station Manager Craig MacKinnon said that at this point he has "no idea" what the BLM will do next.

"We are looking at our alternatives," he said.

Tuesday's auction of 78 head of cattle seized from Vogt's ranch proceeded as scheduled, but not one person bid on any of the animals.

MacKinnon said the BLM will probably decide within the next few days how to dispose of Vogt's cattle.

"As far as we're concerned, we have fulfilled our obligation by offering them for sale," he said.

MacKinnon said that according to the bureau's regulations, the cattle can be "condemned and destroyed or otherwise disposed of." He did not elaborate on what the "otherwise" might entail.

MacKinnon said another option would be to re-offer the cattle for sale. But he said that is not likely, since the next scheduled auction is not until next Tuesday.

An additional 92 head of cattle seized from the Vogt ranch are in the possession of the State of Nevada, because they had not been branded or the brand was illegible, according to State Brand Inspector Jim Conley.

Conley said the state won't put those 92 head up for auction until at least August 21, unless somebody comes forward to claim ownership of them.

See Earlier Story:
Ranchers Hope to Halt Federal Cattle Sale