RENO, Nev. (AP) - Some of the cattle confiscated by the Bureau of Land Management in a grazing dispute have been released to a Carson City lawyer and rancher while the fate of the livestock rounded up from two other ranchers remained in legal limbo Monday.
James Connelley, head of the brands division of the Nevada Department of Agriculture, said the unbranded livestock taken from the ranch and grazing allotment of Jack Vogt were released to Julian Smith on Friday after Smith produced proof of ownership.
Previously the BLM said 90 head of cattle seized during the July roundup were without brands and considered strays. They were turned over to the state.
Smith said he took possession of the cattle on Sunday and shipped about 50 of them to the slaughterhouse.
"They're on their way to McDonald's by now," he said from his ranch near Elko. "I'm an eternal optimist. I was hoping to get my cattle back and now I got half."
The cattle were those identified by the state brand inspectors as strays.
Meanwhile, a hearing today in Fallon over a restraining order that blocked the BLM's Aug. 7 sale of 62 head owned by Goldfield rancher Ben Colvin was canceled after the Justice Department argued the issue belonged in federal court.
In a petition filed Friday in U.S. District Court here, Colvin's lawyer David Horton asked a federal judge to remand the case to state court.
Colvin contends his herd was seized illegally by the BLM, which rounded up the cattle and intended to auction them to pay for fines and fees after accusing him of grazing without a permit since 1995.
Horton said the cattle could become ill if they are kept too long in the cramped quarters at the Fallon auction yard.
''Those facilities are intended for short-term storage,'' Horton said.
''If you were to get yourself a horse from the BLM, they would insist they have room to move around,'' he said. ''You would be hammered for abusing the horse if you put the horse into the condition the cows are in for as along as they've been there.''
The BLM seized Colvin's cattle July 26 for trespassing on public lands after the agency said Colvin refused to pay grazing fees. Two days later, 72 head of cattle were seized from Vogt.
The BLM claims Vogt, of Lida, also has not paid fees that it says amount to tens of thousands of dollars.
But Smith, an Elko County rancher and Carson City lawyer, said he paid $115,000 earlier this year for Vogt's cattle in a deal that gave him ownership once they were gathered.
After the BLM rounded them up, Smith said he wanted the money when they're sold.
The branded Smith-Vogt cattle were shipped from the Fallon auction yard last week to the BLM's Palomino Valley Center north of Sparks after five of the animals died.
Another one died Friday at the Palomino center, where the BLM operates its wild horse adoption program.
BLM spokeswoman JoLynn Worley said those cattle were given antibiotics that will make them unfit for slaughter for about 28 days.