Despite threats, seized Nevada cattle hauled away peacefully

Associated Press
Published 06. 3. 02 at 18:24 Sierra Time

PALOMINO VALLEY, Nev. (AP) - Despite threats of a confrontation by American Indians and state's rights activists, a herd of cattle seized by the government was hauled away without incident to its new owners in California.

No protesters were present Sunday morning when two trucks picked up 157 head of livestock seized May 24 from Raymond Yowell and the Te-Moak Band of Western Shoshone south of Elko. They were accused of illegally grazing on public land.

The unidentified, new owners, who bought the cattle at auction for a combined amount of $27,444, did not show up themselves to claim the animals at the Bureau of Land Management's wild horse and burro center 15 miles north of Reno.

"Things went very smoothly and there were no problems," BLM ranger Jim Massey said Sunday. "It makes our job easier that no one was out here. We don't want to see people come in harm's way."

BLM officials were bracing for confrontation after about 30 protesters gathered at the Palomino Valley center Friday and threatened a blockade to prevent trucks from picking up the confiscated livestock.

Jackie Holmgren, a member of the Nevada Committee for Full Statehood, said she proposed a blockade as one option for Yowell and the tribe to protest the cattle seizure.

"Those are options Americans have used before in protests ... laying down in front of trucks," said Holmgren, whose group does not recognize federal ownership of land in Nevada.

"At some point, you have to let the owner do what he wants and he (Yowell) didn't call us or ask us. I think he's pursuing some other options," she said.

Russell Redner, a leader of the American Indian Movement of Northern California, said he had hoped for a bigger protest against what he called the BLM's "act of war" against the Nevada tribe.

"People supposed to come in from various reservations didn't show up. I don't know why that happened," Redner said. "We were taking direction from Raymond Yowell and what he wanted to do. My guess is that he didn't want to push this into a major confrontation."

Yowell, chief of the tribe's national council in Elko, did not return phone calls.

The Nevada Live Stock Association, along with Yowell and Goldfield rancher Ben Colvin, will file a lawsuit sometime this week against the state brand inspector for aiding the BLM in the latest seizure, Holmgren said.

Friday's auction of Yowell's livestock was the first since the BLM auctioned off Colvin's cattle for grazing without a permit last fall.

U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben ruled the latest auction could go forward, rejecting an argument that selling the cattle would irreparably harm the tribe. However, he ordered the federal government to hold on to any money it gets from the sale until legal issues are resolved.

The tribe's Te-Moak Livestock Association held a federal permit to graze cattle on the public land in northeast Nevada from 1940 to 1984, but quit paying the fees to the BLM in 1984, claiming tribal title to the land.

BLM officials said the tribe's livestock association owed about $2.5 million in unpaid grazing fees and fines since 1984.

BLM officials stress that 99 percent of ranchers comply with terms of federal grazing permits, and they only are cracking down on flagrant violators.

But Yowell and the tribe contend the land in question belongs to the tribe under the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley - a pact they claim gave the Western Shoshone title to 26 million acres covering roughly half of Nevada and parts of Utah, Idaho and California.

They maintain the treaty supersedes Interior Department laws.

Jackie and David Holmgren, leaders in the states' rights movement and Mineral County ranchers, said the BLM also plans to crack down on them for alleged illegal grazing.

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