10.01.2008 0

Take That, Pilgrim

  • On: 10/13/2008 10:22:26
  • In: Property Rights

  • “I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do those things to other people and I require the same of them.”—John Wayne, The Shootist

    A tenacious group of patriotic ranchers way out West has just won a major victory for property owners nationwide. In Hage v. United States, a Claims Court ruled that the federal government may not use environmentalist regulations and bullying tactics to refuse citizens use of their own land without providing them with just compensation. And it’s a story as inspiring as it is instructive.

    The Hage family, which had grown up on ranching and was very successful at it, thank you, found itself relentlessly hounded by federal officials, who attacked the family for alleged regulatory violations. Elk released into the region led to the government blocking off sources of water to which the Hage family had rights. And as they say out West, water is gold.

    The federal government refused to allow Mr. Hage to maintain irrigation ditches to which he had rights, threatening him with trespassing if he set foot anywhere near them. The Hage’s cattle were impounded and sold – with the government keeping all the proceeds – for the “violation” of allowing cattle to graze on land the Hage’s had leased, and the government subsequently decided was “overgrazed.”

    After years of this harassment, the Hage family was forced to leave their land. But as so often happens, the federal government underestimated the tenacity of this western family.

    Together with a group called “Stewards of the Range,” the Hage family launched a lawsuit against the federal government for compensation (as directed by the 5th Amendment in the Bill of Rights) for the land from which they were forced to move. Immediately, prominent environmentalist organizations such as the Sierra Club and National Wildlife Federation attempted to inject themselves into the case, putting barren land above people’s rights. But they had to content themselves with writing an amicus brief after the court rejected their appeals.

    The federal government attempted to force the case into federal court by filing felony charges against the Hage family. But the tactic failed, and the claims court continued to hear the case. In 2002, the court ruled that, while the lease which allowed “grazing rights” on the government land could be revoked, the government violated the right of the Hage’s to use water that belonged to them and maintain the ditches and other areas to which they had legal access.

    In 2004, the last phase of the case began, with the court determining what (if anything) was owed the Hage family in compensation for what the government had taken from them. Just last week, the court ruled that the government owed the Hage family over $4.2 million, plus interest and attorney’s fees and costs.

    John Wayne would be proud.

    ALG Perspective: This case not only signals a victory for the Hage family, but for all Americans. As the Stewards of the Range organization states on its website, this case is a “great victory for private property rights in America!”

    The Hage family’s victory should also serve as a wake-up call to all Americans, to cause them to be more vigilant of the Green assault on their rights. It is unconscionable for the government to use environmental regulations to force law-abiding citizens into giving up land to which they have rights. Americans must not allow the environmentalists to force them to “save the planet” by losing their freedom.

    The radical anti-private property zealots of the so-called “environmental movement” will truly stop at nothing as they work towards their goal: The eventual elimination of private property.

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