From the December 2000 Idaho Observer:

Ranchers and sheriff defy feds, take back seized herd of cattle

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a loaded story. Pay close attention to the lines that are being drawn between federal agents and locals. Reporters Israelson and Burr are to be commended for their coverage of this story. If communities of Americans would “hang together” in this manner and local presses would report events as they really happen instead of being the public relations department for lawless despots, we could have our country back faster than you can say, “New World Order.”

by Brent Israelson and Thomas Burr
of the Salt Lake Tribune

In a scene out of a Western B movie, a group of Utah and Nevada ranchers, with the blessing of the county sheriff, took back a herd of cows impounded last month by the federal government.

“I went up there and took my cattle home,” said Mary Bullock, a Kanab rancher who has locked horns in recent months with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over grazing privileges in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

The November 7, 2000 event set the stage for a legal showdown that will pit the federal government against the ranchers and the local law enforcement officers who assisted them.

The drama began in mid-October when BLM wranglers began rounding up Bullock's cows after monument manager Kate Cannon determined Bullock had failed to comply with repeated orders to remove the animals from the drought-stricken monument.

About 45 of her cattle were to be sold at auction Tuesday in the central Utah town of Salina, but Bullock, flanked by 15 sympathetic ranchers from Kane County and Nevada, persuaded local authorities there to release the cows to her.

“It was pretty Western: Police lined up on one side and us cowboys were on the other side,” said Bullock.

Bullock characterized Tuesday's events as “justice” in her ongoing battle with Cannon and the BLM, but U.S. Attorney for Utah Paul Warner was not amused.

“The U.S. attorney believes this is an utter flaunting of the rule of law,” said Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney. “We will pursue all administrative, criminal and civil remedies against the people who did this. . . What happened Nov.7, we can't let that stand.”

Rydalch said U.S. attorneys will be in court soon seeking legal action.

The U.S. attorney appears to be most disgruntled with Sevier County Sheriff Phil Barney, who made the ultimate decision in Salina to turn the cows over to Bullock and her entourage.

Barney previously said he would help the BLM with its impoundment and auction, telling the U.S. attorney it did not need to send any federal police to Salina for Tuesday's auction, Rydalch said.

“When you give your word to the U.S. attorney, that ought to stand for something,” she said.

Barney, a cattleman, could not be reached for comment and did not return phone calls from The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday.

The sheriff decided to release the cows about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7, apparently after consulting with Sevier County Attorney Don Brown, who declined comment.

With Barney, his deputies and several Utah Highway Patrol troopers looking on, Bullock and her fellow ranchers loaded her cows, along with half a dozen head of impounded cows belonging to Escalante rancher Quinn Griffin, into four cattle trucks.

The cows were being held at the time at the Producers Auction in Salina. The auction's owner had earlier refused to sell the animals, saying the BLM had failed to submit proper documentation of ownership. Bullock said several area ranchers also had pressured the auction company not to cooperate with the BLM.

Once loaded onto trucks, the animals were driven south and released at multiple locations which Bullock refused to disclose.

Meanwhile, Kane County Sheriff Lamont Smith, anticipating federal law enforcement action, dispatched his deputies Wednesday to interview Bullock and the ranchers to find out what happened in Salina.

Smith said if federal agents attempt to take back the animals from the ranchers, he will intervene to ensure the agents have proper documentation.

“I will abide by the law,” Smith said. “But I'm going to do my job.”

If the BLM manages to get the liberated cattle back, it is unclear whether the agency would be able to sell them. So far, the two Utah auction firms contacted by the BLM have refused to cooperate.

The events in Salina have attracted the attention of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, whose staff contacted the U.S. Attorney's Office, Utah Attorney General's Office and the Kane County sheriff Nov. 8, 2000.

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