U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. Dean Heller (R.-Nev.) issued the following statements in response to a federal court's determination that government officials conspired to deprive E. Wayne Hage and his family of essential water rights needed to conduct cattle grazing.
"It is detestable that Bureau of Land Management staffers would conspire to take away a working family's way of business. Clearly, BLM went out of its way to trample on the Hages' water rights," said Vitter. "Water rights are property rights, and the echo of BLM's bullying tactics to shut down the Hages should trouble all Americans. This is not the first instance of abuse we have seen in recent years, so I hope that the Supreme Court will take up the Hages' important fight against federal bureaucrats who think they can get away with crushing private citizens' property rights."
"Property rights are sacred. In a state like Nevada where the federal government controls 87% of the land, water rights and grazing rights are the lifeblood of our rural communities. It is unacceptable that any federal agency would act above the law and infringe on the rights of American citizens. I am eager for the Supreme Court to hear the Hages' plea that they are entitled just compensation for the loss of their rights," said Heller.
On May 24, 2013, Judge Robert C. Jones of United States District Court for the District of Nevada ruled that government officials "entered into a literal, intentional conspiracy to deprive the Hages not only of their [grazing] permits but also of their vested water rights." The ruling stemmed from the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) pursuit of the Hages for alleged unauthorized grazing on public land. According to Judge Jones, BLM staff also abused their position to "pressure other parties not to do business with the Hages."
Judge Jones' decision comes as the Hages are seeking Supreme Court review of their compensation claim for previous government interference of the family's water rights. Although the Hages were awarded compensation in 2010, this decision was later reversed on the theory that the family had not cooperated enough with the government. The Hages have petitioned the Supreme Court to review the Federal Circuit's decision in Estate of E. Wayne Hage v. United States, and the High Court is expected to announce whether they will hear the Hages' case later this month.