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Ranchers pay $106 willful trespass fee

Dan and Eddyann Filippini, of the Badger and Chiara ranches, paid a total of $106 for a willful trespass fee to the Bureau of Land Management for turning out 484 head of cattle June 2 on the North Buffalo Allotment, prior to a settlement agreement between the BLM and the Filippinis that was put into place June 5.

Eddyann Filippini said the fee is an attempt by the BLM to put a black mark on her family’s good name because they are law abiding citizens and have never had a willful trespass fee before.

She said her family agreed to pay the fee out of goodwill and as part of the settlement agreement that allowed her ranches to turn cattle out onto the allotment that was previous closed in 2013 by the BLM because of severe drought conditions.

Filippini said the fee was a percentage based on the cows grazing on the public AUMs which she denies happened, saying the BLM has no proof.

Rudy Evenson, deputy chief of communications for the BLM, said the BLM did not send a person to the allotment to count the cattle or to see where they were grazing. He said the public/private checkerboarded nature of the allotment led the BLM to conclude the cattle had grazed on public land. None of the areas on the allotment are fenced.

The Filippinis have 2,500 private AUMs and 158 public AUMs on the North Buffalo Allotment, according Evenson. They only had to pay the willful trespass fee on the public AUMs.

Filippini added that her ranch had permission from the BLM to turn the cattle out to the private AUMs June 2.

Evenson said the Filippinis had no permission to turn their cattle out onto the public areas of the allotment but BLM acting state Director John Ruhs called Eddyann Filippini the night before her family turned out the cattle.

According to Evenson, Ruhs told Filippini the public parts of the allotment were still closed to grazing but that he would not interfere with her turning out the cattle on the private land. Evenson said Ruhs told her that because the BLM did not want to have a confrontation over the issue.

Evenson added that this conversation did not give the Filippinis permission to graze on the private areas but he also said that there is much debate on whether or not they would even need permission from the BLM in order to graze on private land.

As far as whether or not the Filipinis had permission from the BLM to graze on the private areas, Evenson said that is a complex legal issue that was resolved in the settlement agreement.

Wildlife groups continue to protest and express outrage over what they call excessive grazing of drought-ravaged public lands.

“The lawless public lands welfare ranching taking place in Nevada right now is Exhibit number one of why sage grouse need to be listed under the ESA (Endangered Species Act),” said Katie Fite, public lands director for Wildlands Defense. “The well-to-do ranchers in Buffalo Valley, Argenta and elsewhere appear to be intent on purposefully destroying the fragile drought-impaired sage habitat with cattle herds and lethal livestock facilities, and wiping out the grouse altogether.”

She added, “Nevada BLM leadership appears AWOL, and unable to control cattlemen abuse of the American people’s public lands, waters and wildlife.”

The June 5 settlement agreement outlines guidelines the Filippinis must follow including that their cows must come off the allotment or be moved when certain drought triggers are met.

There has been talk that the BLM caved under the pressure of the ranchers in reaching the settlement agreement.

“The BLM followed the law in terms of settling the trespass that happened when they turned out the cows,” Evenson said on the issue.

When the BLM closed the allotment in 2013, the Filippinis appealed the decision and the judge denied their stay and ordered the cattle to be taken off the allotment, Evenson explained.

Then a second appeal was filed and that was still going through when the recent settlement agreement was reached. After the settlement agreement, the judge issued an order dismissing the appeal, which enable the allotment to be opened.

Eddyann Filippini said she feels it was not wrong for her family to turn cattle out onto the allotment because they have been ranching in norther Nevada for close to five generations without trashing the land. She feels the willful trespass fee is a personal attack on her family by the BLM.

A recent article in the New York Times compared the Filippinis to southern Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.

“We have no association with Cliven Bundy,” Filippini said. “We have always paid our grazing fees and we have a permit that is in good standing and the resource was not the issue as far as the drought. There was plenty of feed for the cattle. We protected our liberty, our property and our lifestyle because if we hadn’t turned our cattle out, we would have had to sell them.”

The north Buffalo Allotment is 100,000 acres and located just outside of Battle Mountain.