New BLM auction of seized cattle near Reno drawing protests

RENO, Nev. (AP) - States' rights advocates plan to demonstrate outside a Bureau of Land Management wild horse facility Tuesday as the federal agency again attempts to auction off 62 head of cattle confiscated in a grazing dispute with a Nevada rancher.

No one bid and protesters jeered when the BLM tried to sell cattle seized from Goldfield rancher Ben Colvin at a Fallon auction yard Aug. 7.

This time, the BLM hopes to have more success by conducting the sale through confidential, written bids.

``We want to see if we can keep the tone down and give people who want to bid an opportunity to do it without any kind of harassment, that kind of thing,'' BLM spokeswoman JoLynn Worley said last week.

Opponents of the sale plan to demonstrate outside the BLM's National Wild Horse and Burro Center at Palomino Valley just north of Reno, where the cattle were moved earlier this month.

``We are planning to bring our own cattle trucks and demand the release of Ben Colvin's cattle immediately,'' O.Q. Chris Johnson, chairman of the Nevada Committee for Full Statehood, said in a written statement.

The group does not recognize federal control over public lands in Nevada.

The committee is ``fully behind Ben Colvin,'' said Jackie Holmgren, another committee member. ``We do not plan to let his cattle go easily.''

The BLM seized Colvin's livestock in July, saying he and rancher Jack Vogt trespassed on federal land with unauthorized grazing and owed the government more than a combined $350,000 in back fines and fees.

The agency said the two ranchers have been warned since 1995 about continued illegal grazing.

Cattle seized from Vogt were eventually turned over to Carson City lawyer Julian Smith, who had a contract with Vogt giving him ownership of the livestock once they were gathered.

Smith, who also runs a cattle operation in Elko County, is not affiliated with the states' rights group.

On auction day in August, Colvin posted a $10,000 bond and received a temporary restraining order from a state judge blocking the sale.

The case was later moved to federal court in Reno, where U.S. District Judge David Hagen earlier this month dismissed Colvin's attempt to block the sale in federal court. The same order, however, remanded a portion of the case back to state court in Fallon.

Holmgren criticized the timing of Tuesday's sale - on the heels of a three-day holiday weekend - and the BLM for proceeding before a hearing could be held in state court.

``Now the BLM is even trampling upon the rights of the state of Nevada,'' she said.

Holmgren said attempts would be made again early Tuesday to try to prevent the 42 cows, 10 heifers, seven calves, one male calf and two bulls from being sold.

Neither David Horton, Colvin's attorney, nor the BLM could be reached for comment on Monday, the Veterans Day holiday.


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