Well-wishers bid farewell to Hage


June 16, 2006


By Mark Waite

Pahrump Valley Times

2160 East Calvada Boulevard

Pahrump, Nevada 89048


Fax: 775-727-5309


To submit a Letter to the Editor: dmcmurdo@pahrumpvalleytimes.com


About 300 ranchers and other well-wishers converged on the Pine Creek Ranch for the funeral of Wayne Hage Saturday, to pay respects to the humble man eulogized as a hero in the fight for property rights in the American West.

Hage, 68, died at the ranch June 5, after a bout with cancer.

People came from hundreds of miles to pay their respects, and conversations about cattle and rainfall were intermingled with talk about topics like resource management plans by the federal government and elk overgrazing.

Signs on the fence read: "Has the West Been Won or Has the Fight Just Begun!" Another sign read: "Save the Stockmen from BLM and Forest Service."

John Johnson said he drove all night from his ranch east of Payson, Arizona.

"He was a modern-day John Wayne. He had a lot of answers for a lot of questions ranchers had. He spearheaded the fight for our rights on forest service allotments," Johnson said. "He's one of the last of the real patriots."

Clark said she has been involved in Hage's case against the U.S. Forest Service since he filed it in 1991.

"I had five kids and I had to spend pennies out of my pockets," she said. "We were dealing with the Forest Service with our hunting business when we heard about this. We wanted to learn all we could about the case."

Former Elko County Commissioner Tony Lesperance, now living in Paradise Valley, said he's part of a group that's continuing the lawsuit.

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims in San Francisco in 2002 ruled Hage had vested water rights. The next stage, which Hage didn't live to realize, was the compensation he would receive through the federal court system.

C.J. Hadley, publisher of Range magazine, eulogized Hage as the David vs. the federal bureaucracy Goliath.

"Wayne grew up with ranching. And for 68 years he was adored, tolerated, despised, admired and feared," she said.

Hage, wrote in 2002: "I paid for and own the surface water, ground water and grazing rights on my allotments. In the arid expanses of the West it takes a lot of acres to feed a cow and water is as precious as gold. Without those water and grazing rights, my family's ranch and all others like it will cease to exist.

"For many years now, federal agencies and their environmental allies have been pretending that these genuine property rights are nonexistent ... This represents a major assault on the very concept of property rights."

Hage, author of the book "Storm Over Rangelands," said property was being seized by the government under the guise of protecting endangered species, habitat, wild rivers, old timber, clean water, clean air and "other frauds."

In conclusion, Hadley, choking back tears, said, "Wayne Hage is the only one who could have done it, or would have tried."

His son, also named Wayne Hage, said, "It's very fitting the body laid on the land he fought for."

"He was a meek man, not a weak man," Pastor Ken Wilde said. "In our culture today, we don't have many heroes. Wayne was a real hero."


Copyright 2006, Pahrump Valley Times.