By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The federal Bureau of Land Management has impounded nine head of cattle it said were grazing on public land in southern Blaine County without a permit.
Craig Flentie, spokesman in the BLM Lewistown office, said the bureau believes the cattle belong to Harry and Carolyn Liddle, who ranch in Blaine County.
"There's little doubt, but we want to confirm that," he said today.
Flentie said a state livestock inspector will confirm who the cattle belong to. The cattle this morning were in Chinook in the possession of the livestock inspector.
The Liddles could not be reached for comment this morning.
The cattle were seized as a last resort because of past violations of public lands grazing regulations committed by the Liddles, Flentie said.
"That's been the result of a long list of difficulties," he said.
The Liddles in 2002 lost the permit they had to graze cattle on BLM land because of a documented history of violations going back to 1997, Flentie said.
He said those violations included leaving cattle on the land outside of the allowed season, allowing cattle to enter land leased by other ranchers, and not making required improvements to the land in a timely fashion. Those improvements generally include fencing areas to keep the cattle where they are supposed to be, he added.
"The cattle have been apparently grazing and wandering at will," he said. "It's just been a long history of trespasses and other (problems.)"
The cattle were grazing on the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. Flentie said the monument status of the public land is not an issue in the seizure.
Flentie said that if the cattle are confirmed to belong to the Liddles, they could redeem the cattle by paying grazing trespass fees and costs of seizure of the cattle.
That cost would include nearly $3,000 in trespass fees and, depending on the cost of seizing and storing the cattle, could go up to the market value of the cattle, he said. The exact administrative cost will not be known for several days, he added.
If the cattle are not redeemed, they will be sold at auction and the proceeds applied to the fees and costs.