Even cows deserve due process
September 13, 2004
We’re with the cattle ranchers on this one, at least part of the way. The on-going dispute between the Bureau of Land Management and a Goldfield rancher, Ben Colvin, over confiscation of some of his cattle has gotten messier than the bottom of a barn stall.
For the most part, they can argue between themselves as much as they want. The BLM says Colvin’s cattle had been trespassing on federal land for the better part of a decade. Colvin says the federal government has no jurisdiction over the land, and his cattle grazed there by justification of his water right.
Colvin and others who have carried on the states’ rights issue over federal land simply aren’t going to win that round. No matter who you think owns the land, the BLM serves as landlord and you have to play by their rules.
Unfortunately, the BLM’s rules don’t include due process when it comes to confiscating cattle. There was no court order granting the BLM ownership of the cows.
That’s where the state Agriculture Department put its boots in the mess, allowing the brand inspector to certify the BLM’s ownership. Then Attorney General Brian Sandoval went to court to affirm the decision. Too late.
Acts like these help keep the spirit of the Sagebrush Rebellion alive. Not Colvin’s civil disobedience, but the power of the federal government to steamroll individuals who disagree with it.
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Federal officials don’t like to put such matters in the hands of state courts or local sheriffs, who might be sympathetic with the plight of their neighbors. Sorry, but that’s the way it’s supposed to work. Giving one bureaucracy the right to take away your property, with a stamp of approval from another bureaucracy, is a pretty significant fracture in our basic rights.
BLM officials no doubt believe they had plenty of justification to confiscate those cows. All they had to do was get a judge to agree.