Skip to comments.Feds confiscate rancher's cattle
Posted on 03/12/2004 10:28:47 PM PST by farmfriend
Feds confiscate rancher's cattle Family's multigenerational livelihood threatened by government's action
By Henry Lamb
© 2004 WorldNetDaily.com
Picture this opening scene in a modern Western tragedy: Panning slowly across the southwestern New Mexico landscape, snow-capped mountains on the horizon, the Gila National Forest sprawling in the foreground, the camera begins to zoom in slowly on the ribbon of road that slices through the 147,000-acre Diamond Bar Ranch. A small cluster of horses comes into view. Two cowboys are leading-herding a few horses from one work center on the ranch to another, some 15 miles away.
The sounds of hooves and the forest, along with an occasional word between Dale Laney and his 14-year old son, Albert, are interrupted when a Forest Service law-enforcement vehicle bursts into the scene blue lights flashing. Thus begins a modern drama that is being written daily by real-life characters fighting a range war that will either rein in federal power, or unleash that power to put an end to ranching in the West.
Forest Service law-enforcement officers demanded that the Laneys get off their horses and display a permit.
"A permit for what?" Dale asked.
Dale was told the road and the entire Diamond Bar Ranch had been closed by a Feb. 29 order from the Forest Service, and that he needed a permit to be on it.
Dale didn't have a permit. He had never needed a permit to move stock on a public road through his family's ranch. He told Albert to keep moving the horses.
Another Forest Service law-enforcement vehicle appeared, and then another, blue lights flashing, sirens wailing, bull-horns blasting, horses running in different directions until the Laneys rounded them up and led them through a canyon to their destination.
According to Patrol Capt. Mike Reamer, 14 law-enforcement officers have been deployed to the Diamond Bar Ranch, armed with semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and sidearms.
Why did these officers feel the need to chase two cowboys on horseback with three law-enforcement vehicles?
Reamer said the officers were new to the area and didn't recognize the Laneys.
Why is the road closed in the first place?
Catron County Sheriff Cliff Snyder asked Forest Service official Steve Libby this question. He was told that the Forest Service was "concerned that outside people would come into the area and cause problems."
In a March 4 letter to District Ranger Annette Chavez, Snyder demanded written evidence of "any possible threats, hostile or adverse action of any kind to the Laneys, the Forest Service or any other citizen of Catron County."
The sheriff also said that he and the public at large are "beginning to believe that the law-enforcement officers' only reason for being in the area is for the purpose of harassing the Laneys."
The patrol captain told WorldNetDaily on Monday that there had been no evidence of outside agitators, nor any sign of interference from the Laneys, nor from any other local people.
There are about 400 head of cattle on the Diamond Bar Ranch and several horses used to tend the cattle. Kit Laney, owner of record, owns outright only 100 acres of the 147,000-acre ranch where the cattle graze. After the ranch was closed, Kit asked for a permit to go tend the livestock. The permit was denied. He is confined to the 100 acres he owns.
Four days after the closure, Kit attended a meeting of the New Mexico Livestock Board, which was discussing a Memorandum of Understanding between the Forest Service and the Livestock Board regarding the confiscation and sale of the Laneys' cattle. On the way home, he was followed by law-enforcement officers, and once home, he was issued a citation for traveling on federal land without a permit.
According to Kit, a law-enforcement officer approached young Albert Laney, a passenger in Kit's vehicle, pointed his finger at Albert and said, "I'm a law-enforcement officer, and we're going to get you, too."
The patrol captain denied that this event occurred. "It was not in the report," he said.
As of Tuesday, the area was still closed, and Forest Service contractors had confiscated 12 head of cattle and moved them to a holding corral at another location in Catron County.
Before the cattle can be sold, the New Mexico Livestock Board will have to certify that the cattle are, in fact, the property of the seller and are being sold with the approval of the owner. This is the function of the Livestock Board, also known as the "Brand Board."
Kit Laney is the owner of the cattle, and he certainly has not given anyone permission to confiscate and sell his cattle. The MOU with the Forest Service is supposed to relieve the Livestock Board from its legal responsibility and hold the Forest Service harmless for what Kit believes to be cattle rustling by the contractor, at the behest of the Forest Service.
The legality of the MOU is being challenged by a broad coalition of individuals and organizations, led by Paragon Foundation of Alamogordo, N.M., on the grounds that it was executed by the executive director of the Livestock Board without authorization by the board, that the action was taken in violation of the "open meetings" law, and on a variety of other thorny legal issues.
Michael White, president of New Mexico's 17,000-member Farm Bureau has urged the Livestock Board to adhere to state law and not bow to political pressure or to federal agencies.
"The New Mexico Livestock Board is facing monumental decisions in this case, and our statewide organization will be watching very carefully (for) any possible precedent-setting actions of this panel as these cattle are gathered by a private contractor hired by the Forest Service," White said.
Kit's attorney has prepared a "Constructive Notice" for the contractor, which spells out precisely the action the contractor and the Forest Service can expect the Laneys to take. Kit contends the MOU between the Livestock Board and the Forest Service is illegal, that removal of his cattle is an act of theft under state law, and that the contractor will be held personally liable for his actions, including damages for any losses caused by the confiscations.
Since some cattle have already been confiscated, Kit expects to file formal charges in the state judicial system as quickly as the paper work can be prepared.
In the movies, range wars are fought when the big guys want to overrun the little guys. In this modern-day range war, the only difference is that the big guys are not big ranchers, but big government, big environmental organizations and big politicians who are convinced that the cowboy era should be relegated to history books.
The Laneys, on the other hand, are the little guys, who want nothing more than to continue living where their ancestors settled in 1883, doing what their ancestors have done for more than a century. They have invested their life building their ranch to pass on to their children. The tragedy is that if the big guys succeed in taking the property and life work of several generations of Laneys, they can also take the property and life work of every other Western rancher whose livestock graze on so-called public land. If the Laneys can halt this confiscation and taking of private property, or force the government to pay for what they are taking, then, perhaps, the big guys will have to rethink whether they can afford the cost.
However, I don't understand why the rancher thinks he has rights to anything beyond his own 100 acres. Did he have some kind of special use permit?
I am very interested in this. My husband and I own a ranch in the mountains of Southern California, and we are surrounded on all sides by USFS lands.
Because, as we all know, every single event that happens must go into the report! If it isn't in the report, then it didn't happen!
"The Diamond Bar Ranch is at least 180,000...""Laney's ancestors began the "Laney Cattle Company" there in 1883 when the area was still a territory."
The crux of his argument is that he had "ownership" (of water rights)prior to the issuance of permits.
OK, whens the feed and where is it going to be located. I trust it will be funded by tax dollars as to make it free!
Where's the beef!
You always have a problem when dealing with leased lands from the Federal Government or with grazing permits IMHO...particularly in today's environment.
Just look at what damage the Clinton administration did with the Wilderness Road Initiative and EO in the 90's when they unilaterally closed all of those forest roads that provided access to lands that had been legally leased for timber operations. Those companies (like Boise Cascade at the time) still leased the land, but now they culdn't access them and their leases and operations were worthless. Lots of money and jobs lost over that...which BTW we had hoped that Bush would summarily reverse through EO like it had been implemented. He disappointed us on that one.
If in fact there were leases that the Laney's cattle company had signed (irrespective of the fact that before the forest service ever came along they simply used the land) to which they had no clear title...and if in fact those leases expired upon due notification of the government who then had title/ownership to the land, then the Laney's have placed themselves, either through negligence or through a desire to confront the government, in a bad situation.
If that is the case, then this particular set of circumstances was just waiting to happen. I am very surprised it did not happen earlier and that is why I am still looking into this, figuring there is more to the story than my own understanding as explained above.
Now, this part about the grazing and the cattle and the government's attempt to recoup what it considers losses from the broken lease are irrespective of the Lanye's access to the 100 acres they actually own. I believe there are stautes on the books (federal ones and state ones) that allow an individual access to their own land across federal ground. That is a big issue in the case with the Pilgrim family up in Alaska.
If you didn't write it down then it didn't happen.
Are we secure yet?
It pays to keep one of those disposable cameras in a vehicle for this and many other reasons.
In finding for the government over the Laney's water rights arguement, the district court stated the following:
"In entering summary judgment for the United States, the district court held plaintiffs obtained no legal right of possession or use merely because their predecessors historically grazed cattle on the land. Nor did the court find it material that plaintiffs' water rights may have long been vested under New Mexico law, stating: "[W]hether Plaintiffs own certain water rights . . . does not change the fact that such rights do not deprive the Forest Service of its statutory authority and responsibility to regulate the use and occupancy of National Forest System lands for livestock grazing through the issuance of grazing permits."
I understand that water rights and land rights were synonymous (and rightly so) at an earlier date in history. But now we have the statutory empowered agencies of the Federal Government (USFS, BLM, BOR, etc., etc.) who are "managing" the land...and we have allowed it to happen. In the case of the Klamath Ranchers, they had both the land ownership and the water rights...and it still came to a very hard fight because of the foolishness of the ESA and pwoerful lobbies and judges using bogus science to implement agendas...but at least those farmers owned the land and could not be denied access to it like is occurring here.
In this case, the ranch only has the water rights and the agency is pointing to the expired permits regarding the use of the land and monies owed by the Laney's for continuing to use the land (graze it) for 7-8 years without a permit. Water will not matter if you cannot access the land.
By signing on to the permits in the first place, the Laney's (perhaps inadvertantly) by default recognized and signed on to the government's authority and they established precedent that could then be used against them. Permit means "permission". Like I said, whenever dealing with government permits regarding land use...you place yourself in a bad situation when the time comes that the government decides to revoke the permits.
Anyhow...events like this make clear that there are still powerful forces within government that are intent on continuing to wage the war on the west and on the individual, independent farmers and ranchers regardless of which side of the aisle controls the administration. They have been empowered to do so in their minds and they will not let go of that power easily or without sacrifice on our part.
Looks like it's really been going on longer than that. From the article:
The Laneys, on the other hand, are the little guys, who want nothing more than to continue living where their ancestors settled in 1883, doing what their ancestors have done for more than a century. They have invested their life building their ranch to pass on to their children.Sounds like the Laney's could argue some kind of right-of-way by "easement by prescription." They've been doing this forever.
They have felt that because of their water rights, that they would not be denied use of the land due to the water rights.
That appears to be what they are arguing...and I happen to agree with them. But, the land ownership and stewardship issue has become cloudy in the interveneing years with the advent of so many federal agencies that have statutory power (that we have given them through our representatives...shame on us). Now, the government is in essence saying that the government owns the land and unless the Laney's keep paying for the permits and or leases, then they owe the government monies for this.
The Laney's, despite having at one time signed up for the permits, have now balked at it for 7-8 years and the government is trying to collect on the arears.
That seams to be the crux of the issue regarding the majority of the land in question and its use...and it is a difficult issue once you have established precedent by recognizing the permit authority of the government.
That is my only point.
I think that is why my dad retired from the USFS. He now drives the telecare bus. He loves it.
Very few threads on THIS subject.. talk about socialism, taxes, true, but they are actually consolidating America PHYSICALLY.. bit by bit, and chunk by chunk.. You can really see it here in Alaska... Communism <<- capitalism style, by hostile takeover..
Sounds to me like they're waging war on an American citizen.
U.S. Constitution, Article III, Section 3:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them...
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