Feds return seized cattle

Smith met Friday with the BLM and the Nevada Department of Agriculture brand office, according to rancher Jack Vogt who said Saturday the cattle had been returned.

The cattle were being held at the BLM Palomino Valley Horse Compound north of Sparks since they were seized in late July during a trespassing debate.

They were taken from Vogt in a dispute over back fees and fines for grazing on public land without a permit. The cattle had, however, already been sold to Smith, who would assume ownership at roundup.

According to Vogt, as many as 78 head of cattle were returned.

"The BLM didn't know what they were doing, though, and they lost 11 of them," he said. "The dead cattle aren't good publicity for them."

The cattle died while packed in auction yards in Sparks. They had been accustomed to free range living at about 7,000 feet altitude and were brought down to about 4,000 feet at seizure and cramped into tight stalls, according to Vogt.

"They basically died of dust pneumonia, like you or I would under similar conditions," he said. "When these cattle were seized everybody who was involved told the BLM, 'You do not seize fat cattle in the middle of summer time without having a wreck,'" he said, referring to the deaths.

"The cattle were illegally stolen from a private allotment," said Vogt. "The BLM finally admitted that they did wrong."

Vogt was paid $300 for each animal that died during the confiscation. He in turn paid the BLM for the feed they consumed. He is being allowed to leave the herd at the Palomino Valley Horse Compound for another week until they are well enough to be shipped.

The BLM was not available for comment.

Vogt said Smith contacted Congressman Jim Gibbon's office on Thursday and a Gibbons aide spoke to BLM director Bob Abbey.

According to Vogt, the aide said Abbey refused to release the cattle to Smith.

"What transpired to change Abbey's mind, we don't know. Julian (Smith) went in there to the meeting ready for bear and was greeted like a homecoming queen," Vogt said.

The BLM is still holding 62 cattle seized from rancher Ben Colvin, despite continued opposition from anti-federal activists. No one bid on the cattle seized from Colvin when they were put up for auction by the BLM in the second week of August.

The BLM seized the cattle from Vogt and Colvin in late July, accusing them of trespassing and owing the government a total of $350,000 in back fines and fees. BLM officials say Vogt and Colvin have been trespassing on public land without grazing permits despite repeated warnings since 1995.


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