United States Reaches Agreement in Livestock Trespassing Lawsuit

WASHINGTON— The United States has reached a settlement with ranchers in a longstanding dispute over livestock trespasses on public lands in Nye and Esmeralda Counties, Nev., the Justice Department and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced today.

As part of the settlement, Benjamin J. Colvin and Colvin Cattle Company acknowledged past unauthorized grazing on federal government lands and agreed to comply with federal grazing laws and regulations in the future.

The settlement partially resolves a lawsuit, filed in August 2007 in U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, that alleged the Estate of E. Wayne Hage, Wayne N. Hage, Benjamin J. Colvin and Colvin Cattle Co. intentionally grazed cattle on multiple occasions on federally managed lands and that the Estate of E. Wayne Hage and Wayne N. Hage also placed livestock "leased" from other ranchers onto lands owned by the United States for grazing purposes.

"After many years of disputes and litigation over unauthorized livestock grazing on federal lands in Nevada, we are pleased to reach a settlement that will protect the federal lands from such unauthorized uses in the future," said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

"The BLM is very pleased that a settlement was reached to resolve the government’s claims against Ben Colvin," said Jerry Smith, District Manager of the Battle Mountain BLM District.

Under the settlement Colvin also paid a fine of $34,000 to fully resolve past grazing and realty trespass damages, and agreed to remove his range improvements from the public lands. Upon Colvin’s compliance with these requirements, the federal government agreed that it will consider Mr. Colvin as it would any other grazing permit applicant in the future.

As a result of the agreement, on Oct 14, 2009, the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada granted a jointly filed motion for partial dismissal, which dismisses Benjamin J. Colvin and the Colvin Cattle Company from the federal lawsuit as well as a counterclaim filed by Colvin Cattle Company. No settlement has yet been reached with the remaining defendants in this case.

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.