Posted by Faye Higbee / April 18, 2014
Diamond Bar Ranch in NM Seized by US Forest Service
Officials say that the Laney’s can redeem their 80 cattle for $40,950 !
Southwest New Mexico – The Diamond Bar Ranch was acquired by the Laney family in 1986, and its adjacent Laney Cattle Company was allowed to utilize grazing lands since 1883. According to the US Forest Service, however, they are no longer entitled to do so, and the USFS has posted notices along the fence line of their property advising people not to attempt to enter the ranch. Lands are being seized, and the cattle removed, “one way or the other.”
Now they say that the cattle may be redeemed if the Laney’s pay for the costs of rounding up the 80 head of cattle… a hefty $40,950.
Reductions in the herds, loss of appeals, a hard life all because of a fish!
Originally, the Laney property was just 115 acres surrounded by around 144,000 acres of public lands for which Mr. Laney paid grazing rights. But after a “study” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided that the lands could not sustain his 1,188 head of cattle, the Forest Service reduced his cattle herd to a meager 300 head.
Kit’s fight for the land and the ranching lifestyle cost him dearly over the years, even to the point of a divorce, as both Kit and Sherry grew exhausted from the battle. They were barred from improvements on the “wilderness” land for several years, which required them to ride out to livestock on horseback rather than hop in a truck. That and the continual stress of appeals, took a toll, though they eventually reconciled.
Oh, and this one is over an “endangered species” called the “Gila Trout,” in case you were wondering.
The continuation of a battle
On Saturday, April 12, Kit Laney was served with a notice that his ranch would be shut down on Wednesday and his 300 head of “trespass” cattle removed from the land. This situation comes just a week after Rancher Cliven Bundy had a similar situation in Nevada.
New Mexico’s “Brand Law” states that cattle cannot be transported across state lines without permission from the State Livestock Board. According to a Tea Party Tribune article, Catron County Sheriff Cliff Snyder notified the Forest Service that he will demand that law be enforced, and that cattle “cannot be shipped and sold without being in direct violation of NM Statute.”
“I intend to enforce the state livestock laws in my county. I will not allow anyone, in violation of state law, to ship Diamond Bar Cattle out of my county.” Sheriff Cliff Snyder
Unfortunately,in the case of Mr. Bundy, the federal agents just killed some of the cattle that wouldn’t move without regard to the law or any vestige of conscience. In this case, federal agents say the cattle are being held at an undisclosed area out of the state. Apparently the feds slipped past the Sheriff.
Water rights are a significant issue in the Laney Cattle Company/Diamond Bar controversy. The courts have been siding with the Forest Service, stating that just because someone has been there a long time, doesn’t necessarily mean they have rights to use public lands or water. Laney attorneys used the Mining Act to show private rights to the water and land, but the court rejected the argument. They are currently working hard to prepare their case for court yet again, this time with references to other cases, including the Wayne Hage decision from last year in Nevada.
Background: Arrested for Assaulting a federal employee
The Denver Post wrote in 2005,
“When the Forest Service slashed the number of cattle he could run, Laney refused to sign his permit and grazed his cattle in the wilderness anyway. When the Forest Service hired contractors to remove the animals, he confronted them, charging them on horseback and whipping one man with his reins, according to an indictment.”
Mr. Laney was subsequently arrested , convicted, and spent five months in federal prison. Today, he is still a rancher, who now is facing the loss of everything he once loved. Some people believe he is a law-breaking fool. Others see him as a hero. But a man who has always been a rancher, a man who loves his cattle and the land, has fought with all his might to stop the confiscation of land and property that has been his entire life.
“There are just so many cases where the federal government comes in, waves a hand, and puts you out of business.” Country Western Singer Michael Martin Murphey