After a long battle the late Wayne Hage has won in the U.S. Court of Claims. Judge Loren A. Smith awarded $4.2 million to Hage’s estate. The defendant was the U.S. Forest Service.
Rancher Hage was a “sagebrush rebel” with a ranch in a remote Nevada Valley. He eventually married Helen Chenoweth, a controversial far right-wing Idaho congresswoman. Chenoweth-Hage was killed in an auto accident not long after Hage died.
The case was a high priority for right wing property rights advocates. I haven’t heard much of an analysis from conservationists as to what the decision really means. I do think it makes it more necessary, and could add momentum, to the proposal to have a voluntary paid retirement of the grazing leases on U.S. public lands — the national grazing buyout.
Hage had a grazing lease to 700,000 acres of your public land on the basis of his 7000 acres of private property. The Forest Service confiscated his cattle after repeated tresspass and bad management. The judge did not rule in Hage’s favor by saying that a grazing lease is a property right. The case revolved the meaning of the 1866 Ditch Act and property rights in water.
Nevada rancher wins property rights award. Forest Service took his water rights, judge says. LA Times from Associated Press.