Sunday, January 27, 2008

First BLM cattle seizures for trespassing Nevada since 2002

By Scott Sonner

RENO, Nev. – Federal agents seized more than 100 cattle and jailed a 66-year-old woman who owns some of them in the first U.S. criminal or civil enforcement action in five years against Nevada ranchers accused of trespassing livestock on public land.

Bureau of Land Management rangers began impounding the cattle across a 10-mile stretch of the high desert rangeland in north central Nevada on Monday. They said Inger Casey and Larry “Dudley” Hiibel had been grazing cattle on BLM land without a permit for more than three years and failed to comply with federal court orders this fall demanding they keep them off U.S. land.

“They've never had permits or authorization to have their cattle on public lands,” said BLM spokesman Doran Sanchez, who counted 107 cattle that have been impounded.

Long at odds with the BLM, the two ranchers maintain the U.S. government has no legal jurisdiction over rangeland in Nevada, although federal courts have ruled otherwise.

“They are arresting people for doing nothing but trying to drive their cattle,” Hiibel told The Associated Press.

Hiibel, 63, took an unrelated case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004 before he lost his argument he did not have to give his name to law officers who stopped him and his daughter on a rural road near his ranch outside Winnemucca four years before.

On Thursday, he was working with his daughter and brother in a snowstorm to try to move some of his remaining cattle off BLM land and onto a neighbor's field.

“I'm behind about 150 cows in a blizzard with icicles on my whiskers,” Hiibel said from near the Pershing-Humboldt county line about 165 miles northeast of Reno. “We're trying to get them out of the way of the BLM as a temporary thing. They didn't get them all.”

Casey went before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert McQuaid on Tuesday on the criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office alleging she “knowingly did forcibly assault, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate and interfere” with BLM law officers.

The judge released her on her own recognizance and set her arraignment for Jan. 30.

BLM special agent Zachary Oper said in an affidavit that Casey drove her pickup toward five BLM employees at a high rate of speed and that one perceived she was trying to run them over. She later allegedly hit one of the BLM ranger's ATVs before agents stopped her truck, “pulled her out of her vehicle and arrested her,” he said.

Casey's version is different. She said she slammed on her brakes when a ranger stopped in front of her and an ATV ran into the side of her truck.

“I was going straight and he hit me on the side,” Casey said. “I was going to get out, but they told me to get out, really rough and mean. So I said, 'No, I'm not getting out.'

“They jerked me out so hard they ripped my clothes in the front, my heavy T-shirt and sweatshirt zipper,” she said. “I'm a 66-year-old woman who will soon be 67 and they threw me on the ground.”

The last time the BLM seized trespassing cattle in Nevada was in 2002 – about 150 animals that the Te-Moak Band Western Shoshone tribe was grazing south of Elko. In 2001, the agency impounded 62 cattle from Goldfield rancher Ben Colvin.

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