BLM threatens more cattle seizures in tribal dispute in Nevada
RENO — Two Western Shoshone sisters who had 227 cattle confiscated this fall continue to defy federal orders to remove their livestock from public land and face seizure of up to 250 more cattle and nearly 1,000 horses, government officials said Thursday.
In an ongoing dispute over livestock grazing and tribal treaty rights, two Bureau of Land Management special agents served Mary and Carrie Dann with a notice on Tuesday that they have five days to remove the livestock accused of trespassing on BLM land in northeast Nevada.
The deadline is Dec. 24, but BLM officials said they would not consider confiscations until after Dec. 25.
“BLM will not impound those horses on Christmas Day,” BLM spokeswoman JoLynn Worley said.
The Danns maintain they have a right to graze the cattle on the land under the conditions of the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley.
The government disagrees and argues the horses and cattle are causing damage by overgrazing the range about 60 miles southeast of Elko. The BLM says the Dann’s owe back grazing fees totaling nearly $3 million over the past three decades and that the impoundments are a last resort.
“BLM is extremely concerned with the ongoing resource damage to the public lands in the allotment,” said Bob Abbey, BLM’s state director in Nevada.
“The Danns moved some horses and cattle to their private land last summer and in the fall. However, there are still more than 1,000 animals on the allotment,” he said. The area, which is shared by five ranchers who have valid grazing permits, can’t support those numbers.
“We have urged the Danns to remove the horses they claim as private livestock and put them on their private land to avoid impoundment,” Abbey said.
BLM officials seized 227 of the Dann’s cattle they said were trespassing in September and sold them at public auction in October.
Over the past year, the BLM has confiscated and auctioned hundreds of cattle belonging to three other non-Indian ranchers in Nevada and one member of the Te-Moak band of the Western Shoshone on similar trespassing violations.
BLM officials said aerial and ground surveys in November showed more than 250 cattle and 980 horses in the area.
The Danns said not all the animals belong to them and have asked the BLM for proof that the livestock are damaging the range.
Their lawyer, Deborah Schaaf, notified BLM field manager Helen Hankins in Elko on Nov. 29 that the Danns “will and are making plans to round up and sell additional horses.
“They are anxious to protect the range and stream conditions. But they need the cooperation of your office. … The Danns would like nothing more than to see a fair resolution of these issues and to move toward a cooperative relationship with the BLM,” she wrote.
Julie Fishel of the Western Shoshone Defense Project said the BLM’s removal notice came as a surprise.
“I guess this is their way of cooperating,” she said.
Fermina Stevens, who chairs the Elko Band Council and is a Te-Moak Tribal Council member, said the Western Shoshone Nation has wanted to begin discussions over the treaty and the land for many years.
“However, to date, we have received no commitment or acknowledgment of our land or treaty rights from the United States,” Stevens said.
Worley said the government has tried unsuccessfully for years to negotiate a settlement with the Dann sisters.