(CN) – The 9th Circuit ruled that an Oregon cattle rancher who won a permit to use federal grazing lands must prove that it is not harboring someone else’s cows on the land. “The issue in this case boils down to a simple question: Where’s the beef?” Judge Richard Tallman wrote for the three-judge appeals panel before determining that cows not owned by a grazing permit holder cannot be kept on federal allotments.
Fence Creek Cattle Company challenged the U.S. Forest Service after it revoked the rancher’s grazing rights for two of its four allotments.
The forest service suspected that the rancher was grazing about 1,500 cattle it did not own on the federal land after finding cows that did not bear Fence Creek’s brand.
Fence Creek alleged in district court that the forest service’s decision violated both constitutional and statutory due process requirements.
But Fence Creek could not prove that it owned the cattle in question. The district court ruled that the service had given the rancher due process and that its decision was appropriate.
On appeal, Fence Creek argued that the service had acted in bad faith by canceling the permits when it had not acted the same under similar circumstances in the past.
The panel ruled that the forest service was not out of line in canceling the rancher’s rights to the two allotments.
“Fence Creek applied for a grazing permit because it had allegedly purchased over 1,500 head of cattle. However, it could not prove that any such transaction ever took place,” Tallman wrote for the Portland, Ore.-based panel.