By Thomas Mitchell

Nevada’s junior senator, Dean Heller, took to the floor of the Senate earlier this month to berate the sweeping abuses and arrogance of federal bureaucrats in general and specifically the federal satraps who tried to bankrupt the Hage family ranch near Tonopah.

For 22 years the Hage family has been battling the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service in federal court over grazing and water rights for their Pine Creek Ranch, which includes 7,000 acres of private land and 750,000 acres of federal public land.

In a scathing 104-page opinion a Nevada federal judge lambasted the BLM and the Forest Service for behavior that “shocks the conscience” of the court, accusing federal officials of attempting to bankrupt the Hage family ranch by entering into “a literal, intentional conspiracy to deprive the Hages not only of their permits but also of their vested water rights.”

Heller said of that court ruling: “The court found that for more than two decades, federal officials entrusted with responsibly managing public lands actively conspired to deprive Wayne Hage, and his father’s estate, of their grazing permits and their water rights. In its decision, the court ruled that ‘the government had abused its discretion through a series of actions designed to strip the estate of its grazing permits, and of the ability to use water rights.’”

Heller said there seems to be a pattern emerging, in which the federal government, which is supposed to be entrusted with protecting rights, is arbitrarily depriving citizens of those rights.

“The Framers of the Constitution believed that private property rights were sacred,” the senator noted. “The 5th and 14th Amendments specifically prohibit the government from depriving citizens of ‘life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.’ And those amendments are there for a reason.”

The rights of ranchers who use public land are no less important than other forms of property rights, he said.

“Whether it’s the IRS targeting groups for their political views, the NSA confiscating mass amounts of private data, or the federal government interfering with property rights, Americans are fed up with this laundry list of examples of the federal government blatantly disrespecting constitutional liberties,” Heller remarked.

He concluded that it is past time the nation ended this culture of government bullying and harassment.

Meanwhile, Nevada’s senior senator, Harry Reid, was pontificating on one of his favorite fantasies – climate change.

While talking to reporters about the wildfires that swept vast swaths of Nevada from Clark to Elko counties, Reid said, “Why are we having them? Because we have climate change. Things are different. The forests are drier, the winters are shorter, and we have these terrible fires all over the West. … We have climate change. It’s here. You can’t deny it. Why do you think we are having all these fires?”

Reid specifically mentioned the[FT1] nearly 30,000-acre Carpenter 1 Fire that swept through the Spring Mountains, threatening homes and costing nearly $20 million to fight.

That is equal to the state forestry division’s annual fire prevention budget, which is federally funded.

Blame it on climate change.

Pay no heed to the fact that in 1968 the Interior and Agriculture departments largely ended the decades long practice of prescribed burns to reduce the underbrush and other flammable contributors to fires or that since then the annual acreage burned in wildfires has grown exponentially.

Before 1980, less than 25,000 acres of Nevada burned in wildfires each year. The acreage has now increased to more than 600,000 acres each year. The carbon output of Western fires has increased from 9 million tons a year in the 1980s to more than 22 million.

Pay no attention to the fact there has been no appreciable global warming in 15 years despite a dramatic increase in carbon output from all sources – a phenomenon none of the global warming models can explain.

Also, pay no heed to the fact that all the “green” energy backers are huge contributors to Harry Reid.

While Reid was blaming every sniffle experienced by those living near the Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant on pollution from the burning coal, it made no difference that the smokestacks met all state and federal clean air standards and the real pollution was from blowing dust.

Reid managed to get the state Legislature to shut the plant down early and make the ratepayers pick up the tab.

Now taxpayers are paying to fight fires that should have been prevented by federal land agencies.

At least one Nevada senator is capable of correctly assessing blame.

Thomas Mitchell is a longtime Nevada newspaper columnist. You may email him at Read additional musings on his blog at

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