Confiscated cattle go unsold in Nevada grazing dispute
FALLON, Nev. (AP) – The Bureau of Land Management failed Tuesday in its attempt to auction off cattle confiscated in a grazing dispute after a judge blocked the sale of some and bidders refused to make offers on any of the others.
Churchill County Sheriff Bill Lawry delivered a court order to the Fallon auction yard just moments before the BLM was to begin selling 62 head of cattle confiscated from Goldfield rancher Ben Colvin.
Colvin, 63, scrambled all day to raise the $10,000 that District Judge Robert Estes said was needed to post as a bond to compensate the feedlot owner for delaying the auction. Estes set a hearing for Aug. 21.
The attempted sale of 78 other cattle taken from Lida rancher Jack Vogt continued Tuesday as scheduled, but when it was over the herd remained in the auction lot.
”There were no bidders,” said Gary Snow, owner of the auction yard. ”I don’t think people wanted the hassle.”
BLM officials said they seized the cattle because the two ranchers had grazed their herds illegally since 1995. The agency had planned to auction the cattle to pay fees and fines.
Judge Estes noted in his temporary restraining order that Colvin had filed a federal administrative appeal challenging the seizure of his cattle and that there is ”some evidence” that the BLM ”may not have followed administrative procedure.” He did not elaborate.
The other cattle were paraded through an auction barn with about 80 people on hand. Instead of bids, the BLM heard boos and shouts of ”don’t buy the cattle” from some of the state’s rights activists who demonstrated throughout the day.
BLM officials left immediately afterward and offered no comment. Snow said the cattle would be held at his feedlot over night, but didn’t know what would happen after that.
Another rancher and lawyer, Julian Smith, who earlier this week said he has a contract giving him ownership of Vogt’s cattle once they were taken off the range, wasn’t sure where that left the dispute.
”I don’t know what we’re going to do right now,” he said.
Smith didn’t contest the sale of the animals at auction, but said he wants the money after they’re sold.
”I bought those cattle and I expect to get that money when they’re sold,” he said earlier this week.
Before the auction, John Winnepenninkx, a BLM natural resource specialist in Winnemucca, said the time for talking had passed.
”We’ve been waiting six years now for resolution to this. This is a last resort for us.
”I personally have worked with Jack Vogt and Ben Colvin since 1995 to try to get them to pay grazing fees or get their cattle off.”
Winnepenninkx said the fees amount to $1.35 per cow, per month – or about 4Y cents a day.
”That is better than garage sale prices,” he said. ”If you were to give them the land, the taxes would be more than that.”
About 50 demonstrators waving Nevada state flags gathered at the livestock yard to protest the BLM auction.
Protesters handed out fliers stating that the cattle ”have been taken without warrant or due process of law.”
The flier, headlined, ”Fair Warning Notice, Buyer Beware,” said Colvin and Vogt ”could be involved in future federal litigation over this livestock theft.”
”If you bid or purchase any part of the herds, you could be subject to litigation and might have to return the cattle to their rightful owners, Ben Colvin and-or Jack Vogt,” it read.
The BLM served notices last week on Colvin and Vogt, 77, that their cattle would be sold at auction unless they paid more than $300,000 combined in fees and fines for illegally grazing their herds on federal land.
Smith said he was served Monday afternoon and told by the BLM that he owed about $54,000.
”They weren’t mine when they were out there trespassing on the range,” he said. ”The cattle didn’t belong to me until they were in the corral.”
Ninety-two other animals gathered were without brands and are considered strays. They became property of the state, which must follow a public notification procedure before they can be sold.