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Know the West

Latest: Ranching family whose battles with the feds preceded the Bundys' loses in court

So ends the legal saga of Wayne Hage and Wayne Hage Jr., who argued that their historical water rights gave them grazing rights, as well.


Before Cliven Bundy, there was Wayne Hage, a Nevada rancher whose quarrel with the federal government churned through the courts for 21 years. Hage, an outspoken critic of public-land management, held water rights predating federal ownership and argued that he therefore didn’t need grazing permits. The Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service eventually sued over his trespassing cattle.  Hage died in 2006, but in 2012, District Judge Robert Jones found in favor of his estate, and cited two federal officials for contempt of court (“One Sagebrush Rebellion flickers out — or does it?HCN, 9/12/12).

In mid-January, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the 2012 victory, ruling that grazing permits are required whether or not a rancher owns water rights. The three-judge panel also harshly criticized the judge who ruled in favor of Hage, for harboring “animus toward the federal agencies.” Hage’s son, Wayne Jr., told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “It looks to me like the 9th Circuit just swelled the ranks of the militias.”