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And His Lord said unto him, "Well done, good
and faithful servant."
(The following was printed in Liberty Matters, July 1998)
An American Original: Wayne Hage
Throughout American history, men of great character have risen to the cause
of liberty, sacrificing their personal safety to ensure liberty for
generations to come. After fighting a twelve year battle for his land with
the federal land management agencies and national environmental
organizations, Wayne Hage filed one of the most important cases of our time.
Few have had the courage of their convictions to place everything on the
line for our precious constitutional principles. Wayne Hage is such a man.
Liberty Matters recently met with Wayne for this personal interview.
LM: You have a long history fighting for property rights, what were some of
the first issues you worked on?
WH: When I was ranching in the state of California in the 60ís and 70ís, I
was quite heavily involved in the California State Chamber of Commerce. I
chaired a committee in the state chamber dealing with land use and taxation.
At that time we were just starting to see the environmental movement rise to
the forefront. I had the opportunity of sitting across the table with people
who later became active in the environmental movement.
One of the things that probably drove home where the environmental movement
was coming from, was Assembly Bill 10. AB 10 attempted to socialize all of
California agriculture. It was an effort to take away all private property
rights, put everything under the control of bureaucracy, and do away with
any type of mechanized agriculture putting people back to using horse and ox
power. We realized that behind this legislation was a very serious movement
that had international backing. Our own people in the California Chamber and
some of the conservative groups in California said that there was no way we
could stop this bill. We did defeat that bill, and the way we beat it was to
run another bill through the Senate which accomplished everything that the
assembly bill purported to accomplish, but we did it from a private property
Dealing with that group in California more than 20 years ago gave me a taste
of what the nation was in for. The environmental movement has nothing to do
with the so-called protection of the environment, that was the window
dressing, that was the issue used to take private property without
LM: From the moment you purchased Pine Creek Ranch, the federal government
harassment began. Why do you think you were the target of their campaign?
WH: The issue that focused the federal governmentís attack on myself came
within about two months of purchasing Pine Creek Ranch in June of 1978. I
got a call from two guys with the National Park Service who were visiting
Tonopah. I met them at a local restaurant where they informed me that they
were going to buy Pine Creek Ranch. They offered me about half of what I had
just purchased the ranch for, so obviously we didnít do business. When they
saw that I wasnít going to sell the place on their terms, the harassment
began. The agencies work together, and the environmentalists pretty well
dictate what goes on with the land management agencies such as the Forest
Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and Corps of
Engineers. After I refused to sell, the Forest Service began just common old
harassment to increase the cost of operation so much for Pine Creek Ranch,
that I would eventually be frozen out and they would get the ranch by
LM: Why did they target the Pine Creek Ranch property?
WH: Pine Creek Ranch is a very picturesque area, it has high mountains on
two sides on the northern end. The home ranch headquarters is supposed to be
one of the most remote spots in the contiguous 48 states. Also Pine Creek is
a large source of fresh water in Central Nevada. The water that we use for
stockwater and irrigation can gravity flow to Las Vegas or Los Angeles. It
has a very high dollar value if used for domestic or municipal purposes in
one of the large metropolitan areas. It has caused a lot of people to look
somewhat covetously at the property.
LM: In 1991, the Forest Service confiscated your cattle armed with
semi-automatic rifles and wearing bullet proof vests. How were you able to
keep a cool head when they were obviously trying to provoke you?
WH: Well, the basic reason is a solid Christian grounding as far as an
outlook on life. That is, make sure you keep your own house clean, obey the
law and do what is right to the best of your ability. I also spent a little
time in my earlier years working for the Forest Service and the Bureau of
Land Management. I knew that part of their unwritten procedure in dealing
with people is to provoke confrontations because one of the easiest ways,
and one of the only lawful ways for a federal agency to come after an
individual citizen, is if that citizen has in any way physically threatened
them. So, when they are trying to create a situation that is adverse to the
private citizen, they create confrontations and push people past the point
of control to where theyíll do something that could be construed to be of a
violent nature. Knowing that this is part of their practice, the strategy is
donít take the bate.
LM: When you and your wife Jean filed the takings case Hage v. United
States, you did something different and filed your case in the US Court of
Federal Claims. What convinced you to take this step?
WH: One of the biggest insights of how to properly sue the federal
government on property issues came from the environmentalists themselves.
Back in the early 1980ís, the US was attempting to install a race track MX
missile system. It was a massive project and would have included two-thirds
of the State of Nevada, and portions of Idaho, Utah and California. The
people most directly impacted were the ranchers and we happened to be right
in the middle of it. A suit was brought, I wasnít party to that suit, but I
was on the board of litigation. The environmentalists were involved in the
suit on the same side.
At a meeting in San Francisco I had an enlightening conversation with a
legal researcher for the combined environmental movement. She told me, Ďyou
ranchers can stop the MX, you have property rights on that range and if
youíd stand on that we environmentalists could paper the government to death
and they would lose.í I agreed with her and asked how she learned about
this. She explained that the environmentalists thought all they needed to do
to get rid of the ranchers was to get an Executive Order from some president
who would be favorable to the environmental movement. When Carter was
elected, they began drawing up an Executive Order and in researching the
legalities involved found that the ranchers own those grazing allotments,
that they are private property. I asked if she was afraid that we would use
that information against them later on. She said she expected us to, but
before we get that done, the environmentalists will have so many
environmental regulations and rules laid on us that weíd all be broke.
The essence of that discussion confirmed for me that they knew what they
were doing. I knew that any resolution of this issue had to be on the basis
of property. When they come in at gun point and confiscate your livestock
and tell you you canít clean your irrigation ditches, thatís pretty plain
that theyíre telling you you canít use your property. Obviously, we had a
takings issue, a Fifth Amendment issue.
LM: Why are the principles in this case so important to you?
WH: It goes right to the basic premise of what constitutes a free society.
There are no such things as civil liberties if you do not have private
property and a force of law and justice to protect that private property.
The founders of this nation knew that. The wise men over the ages who have
helped structure free governments have known that. If we are going to give
up on private property then that is another way of saying we are going to
give up on civil liberties and surrender to the tyrants. Weíre going to
subject ourselves and our offspring to a future of slavery. In other words,
a return to the same type of climate that existed throughout so much of the
world and kept people in poverty and bondage and despair prior to the
establishment of free government in the western world in recent centuries.
If youíre going to stand back and let people violate with impunity, the
basic premise of private property, then we may as well throw in the towel on
the rest of our civil liberties because itís not a matter of if, itís only a
matter of when are we going to lose the rest of them. If a personís cattle
on his own range allotment isnít safe, if his own ditches and water rights
arenít safe, if his patented private property is not safe, and if they can
take those things at gun point, well then certainly they can take anything
else they want at gun point. They can take your stock and bond portfolio,
they can take your bank account, whatever other type of property you might
LM: How have you been able to gather the support for the case?
WH: Right from the beginning there were people who jumped on board, people
who well understood what the implications were, what was going to be lost if
we didnít successfully fight it and what was going to be won if we did. Many
have stayed with us over the seven years that weíve been in court. But we
didnít get the support of the Livestock and Agricultural organizations that
you would normally think would stand behind us. All the government has to do
is suggest to one of the officials in those organizations that if they
support that Hage case then maybe theyíll find endangered species on their
range next, or maybe theyíll find a wetlands on their farm, or maybe their
crop subsidies will be jeopardized. If it hadnít been for the people at
Stewards of the Range, we would have been left high and dry with no support
for the case.
LM: Since the filing of the case, the federal government has applied a
tremendous amount of pressure on you to drop this action. What has kept you
in this fight, when it would have been much easier to walk away?
WH: We are not fighting over whether I personally end up owning Pine Creek
Ranch or I donít. Thatís not the issue. The broad issue is whether me, my
children, my friends, my acquaintances, my fellow countrymen are going to be
able to see a free society in the future. When you begin to look at it in
the broad perspective and see what the implications are if you let
government go uncontrolled, government will become a thief, government will
become a destroyer of free society and the people themselves. All we have to
do is go back to the debates on the Constitution where the founders of this
country hammered on this theme continuously, that it was essential for
whatever kind of a central government we had that we bind it with the chains
of the Constitution. What has happened in recent generations is people have
willingly loosened those chains. Now we have a monster on the loose. Some of
us are working diligently to try and get the chains back on which has been
the thrust with this litigation. But until we get government back in
control, nobodyís property is safe, nobodyís freedom is safe.
LM: Why do you think our nation is facing this Constitutional crisis and
what can people do about it?
WH: The reason weíre facing this constitutional crisis is because the people
of the nation as a whole have forgotten the basic premises upon which the
Constitution was based. This country was founded on basic Christian
principles. It was founded on the concept that under God, people are
sovereign in their own right. So, we structured the Constitutional form of
government under the common law, the common law being an expression of the
ten commandments. A person was free to do anything they wanted to doóthey
could succeed, they could fail, they could do whatever they wanted to do in
life as long as they didnít infringe the life, liberty, or pursuit of
happiness of someone else.
John Adams pointed out that the Constitution was created for a moral people.
That it would not be effective if we some day became an immoral nation. In
the beginning, we had a country that acknowledged in all of its institutions
the basic Christian background. We have gone from that point to where we
have laws on the books that purge any resemblance of Christianity from our
public institutions. We have replaced the Christian philosophy with the
philosophy of Fredrick Nietzsche which is basically situational ethics ó God
is dead. As long as you can get away with it itís not wrong, there are no
absolutes, itís simply just another shade of gray. When you really carry
situational ethics to itís ultimate, you have the classic criminal
mentality. A society which embraces this philosophy is no longer capable of
being the guardians the Constitution required to maintain that free society.
LM: What impact is the case having on the environmental agenda?
WH: As people begin to understand this case, they also begin to understand
the corruptness and the depth of criminality that exists in the
environmental movement. It demonstrates that the environmental movement has
nothing to do with the protection of the environment but has everything to
do with the destruction of private property rights. This case bears that out
so vividly that the more people are exposed to it, the more that fringe area
around the environmental movement comes back and in some cases becomes very
LM: Do you consider your cause to be anti-government?
WH: Iím not anti-government. In fact Iím one of the strongest advocates of
government there is. Thatís why I work to expose this environmental agenda,
which is anti- government. The end result of their agenda is anarchy and
chaos and the destruction of any form of effective government. The
environmental agenda flies in the face of the common law that was given to
this people when this nation was founded. The environmental movement has
worked over time to destroy and undermine the very precepts of government in
which this nation had its origins and thrived so effectively for so many
years. Iím fighting those anti government people in the environmental
LM: What advice would you give to a landowner facing the same challenges to
their property rights that you have faced?
WH: The basic advice that I would give anybody facing a challenge from
government taking, regulatory or physical, is number one, exhaust your
administrative remedies the most effective way that you can and if that
sounds complicated, let me make it simple. Do not enter into the argument
over rules and regulations. Concede up front that if the government wants to
make rules and regulations thatís their business. Your argument needs to be
what that government action is doing to your property and the value of your
property. Keep your arguments simple and keep it dealing strictly with
property and value. Refuse to get dragged into the trap about wetlands,
endangered species, or any of the other issues that they try to sidetrack
you with and eventually get you into Federal District Court. If a person
will follow that track, they can exhaust their administrative remedies most
effectively, they can do it in the most cost effective manner and it puts
them in a very strong position when they go into the U.S. Court of Claims.
* * * * * * *
Let these truths be indelibly impressed on our minds--that we cannot be
happy without being free--that we cannot be free without being secure in our
property--that we cannot be secure in our property if without our consent
others may as by right take it away. - John Dickenson
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