It was a battle that lasted three centuries. The conflict was seeded in the 18th century. The courts closed the case in 2016. In between, armed ranchers held off government forces in a deadly standoff, a judge was reprimanded for bias, a principal died in 2006, and the court declared a break in 2016.
How long the break lasts, no one knows.
It was an unusually warm April day when Wayne Hage, Jr., and a few men rolled up in front of the circuit court in Las Vegas. They had one mission and were intent on seeing it through to completion.
Completion, at least temporary, would come in a couple of hours when Hage was ordered to pay over a half-million to the government and remove any livestock he had on federal lands before the month ended.
Wayne Hage, Jr.,, the son of cattleman and Sagebrush Rebellion figure, Wayne Hage, Sr., was disappointed by the judge, Gloria Navarro. Hage, Jr., told the judge he didn’t have any livestock on the range and he declined to say if he would pay the judgment and connected penalties.
The Hage family battle came before the more infamous fight involving federal agents and rancher Cliven Bundy in April 2014.
One of the earliest acts signed after America declared independence was the Land Ordinance Act of 1785. The legislation gave lands in areas created by newly formed states to the federal government.
To encourage settlement, Congress then passed the first Homestead Act in 1862 and granted parcels in 40-acre blocks to persons would maintain a home on the land. A variety of railroads were given land by Congress to help in the completion of the transcontinental rail system.
Many of the grants included mineral and timber-rich lands, and the theory was the railroads would sell off the property to collect needed cash as the ‘Iron Horses’ made their way westward.
It turned out much of the land was not ecologically suited for homesteading for a variety of reasons. Poor soil, lack of accessible water and other barriers stopped any significant settlement.
Various bills meant to transfer federal public lands to western states were proposed and all failed. A principal objection was the increasing value of mineral leases. The U.S. National Parks decided the states could not adequately manage the land. A few ‘crown jewels,’ such as Yellowstone and Yosemite, were viewed as national treasures and legislators couldn’t see turning them over to the states.
By the time the early 1900s came, the federal government had held sizeable parts of western states. Land that was not used could now be utilized by the government for any reason.
Concerned conservationists prevailed on then-President Teddy Roosevelt to set lands aside for conservation or their scientific or natural history interest.
The Department of the Interior managed millions of acres, and then-President Hoover proposed to deed surface rights to the states in 1932. The jurisdictions didn’t want it. The Bureau of Land Management was formed to manage the hundreds-of-thousands of acres.
The Sagebrush Rebellion was a series of actions in the 1970s and 1980s. The activists looked for significant changes to federal land control in 13 western states where the national government held, on average, 55% of a state’s area.
The movement’s supporters wanted more state and local control over the lands, and since the ground was sagebrush steppe, supporters called their revolt ‘The Sagebrush Rebellion.’
Grazing Rights In Nevada
America bought land from Mexico in 1848 as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo In 1861, the Nevada Territory was slicked from the Utah Territory and became a state in 1864. Since 1934, federal rangelands in Nevada have been managed by the United States Grazing Service or its successor, the Bureau of Land Management. Almost 57 million acres in Nevada are now managed by the BLM, and over 18,000 grazing permits exist.
Laws that apply to management of public land grazing are generally codified in Title 43 of the United States Code and include the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 (TGA), the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978, and the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals dictated against of the Hage family, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied to hear an appeal.
Hage, Sr., passed away in 2006 and his son inherited the fight.
The case heard in Las Vegas’ district court listened to the government claim that for four years, 2004-2008, the Hages fed cattle on federal lands without the required permits.
The decision brought an end to a long dispute which centered on the Hage family’s Pine Creek Ranch.