A federal magistrate recommended Wednesday that officials with the Bureau of Land Management be prohibited from confiscating Western Shoshone livestock until the court rules on the merits of the Indians' case against the U.S. government.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Roger Hunt issued his recommendation in response to a motion for a preliminary injunction filed in February by the Western Shoshone National Council and Chief Raymond Yowell. Hunt recommended the denial of all other aspects of the motion. A U.S. district judge will make the final ruling.
During a hearing earlier this month, Yowell told Hunt the Western Shoshone Indians need the injunction to protect their livelihood. BLM officials have ordered them to remove 750 cattle and horses from federally managed lands in Crescent Valley, about 350 miles north of Las Vegas. The Indians want BLM efforts to take their livestock halted until they can pursue further legal options to assert their ownership of about one-third of the land in Nevada.
Despite past federal and U.S. Supreme Court decisions against them, the Indian leaders claim the lands are theirs under the Treaty of Ruby Valley of 1863. Last month, the BLM's Elko District office demanded the Western Shoshone National Council pay nearly $500,000 for past grazing violations. In February, the agency issued a notice of trespass that charged the Indians with grazing their livestock illegally on public lands. The trespass notice is a preliminary step before the government can confiscate and sell animals it thinks are trespassing on lands managed by the BLM.
According to Hunt's recommendation, the Western Shoshone Indians could suffer irreparable harm if BLM officials impound their livestock. "The livestock are fungible goods, susceptible to damage and death," the magistrate wrote. "They are the sum and substance of plaintiffs' livelihood and way of life."
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