WASHINGTON— The Justice Department today sued two ranchers and the estate of a third rancher for trespassing on federal lands in Nevada. The ranchers are alleged to have repeatedly grazed livestock without federal permits despite repeated trespass notices from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service.
The civil complaint filed today in U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada accuses ranchers Wayne N. Hage, Benjamin J. Colvin, and the estate of E. Wayne Hage of intentionally grazing cattle on multiple occasions on federally managed lands in Esmeralda and Nye Counties. In addition, the defendants are accused of receiving monetary compensation for unlawfully “leasing” lands owned by the United States to other ranchers for grazing purposes, despite having no property interest in these lands.
On 38 different occasions since 2004, BLM and Forest Service officers observed cattle owned by Colvin and the Hages unlawfully grazing on federal property. Since then BLM and the Forest Service have sent multiple notices to the defendants notifying them of their unauthorized use of federal land. The defendants have returned each of those notices to BLM and the Forest Service and contended that the federal government has no authority to regulate federal property. In addition, the defendants have refused to pay for their unauthorized use of federal property.
The Bureau of Land Management has the authority to manage, administer, and protect federal lands including regulating grazing under the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976. The Forest Service regulates federally owned national forests under the Organic Administration Act of 1897.
The federal government is seeking to prohibit the continued unlawful grazing on federal property and to obtain reimbursement for that unauthorized use.